Black Representation in Movie Production

Goals

To locate quantitative information supporting the need for Black representation in executive film production in the United States, as well as determining how much Black Americans spend annually at the Box office and viewership rates. Additionally, to locate the number of film deals or financial commitments going to Black producers.

Early Findings

Black Representation Behind the Scenes

  • According to Mia Mask, professor of film at Vassar College, minority filmmakers are still struggling, despite some outliers, such as Spike Lee.
  • There is a lack of Black voices among Hollywood's C-suites. Of the 230 senior corporate executives at Walt Disney Co., AT&T Inc.'s WarnerMedia, Comcast Corp.'s NBCUniversal, Viacom CBS Inc., Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Netflix Inc, only 10% identify as Black.
  • Researchers at UCLA discovered that 91% of studio heads and 86% of senior executives are white.
  • Only 19% of TV executive producers are from a minority ethnic group.
  • Minority producers accounted for less than 11% of all movie producers in 2017 (9.8% men and 1.6% women producers). That number includes Hispanics, Asians, and Black Americans.
  • From 2016 to 2017, the Bunche Center "found that the percentage of minorities receiving film writing and directing credits decreased by 2.7 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively. Furthermore, talent agents, who negotiate contracts for actors, writers, directors, and producers, are 91 percent white."
  • Black writers represented only 5.6% of the top films in 2019, up only 0.4% from 2018 (5.2%).

Black Spend and Viewership at the Box Office

  • In 2018 and 2019, Black viewers accounted for 12% of all moviegoers in the United States, a 1% drop from 2017.
  • However, it is worth noting that diverse casts tend to result in better box office numbers, regardless of the audience composition. In 2019, "films with casts that were from 31 percent to 40 percent minority posted the highest median domestic box office ($44.5 million), while those with casts that were from 41 percent to 50 percent minority were released in the most theaters, on average (3,360), and had the highest mean opening weekend rank (3.4). (…) The least diverse films (those with casts less than 11 percent minority) continued to be the poorest domestic performers in 2019 — they posted the lowest median box office, were opened in the fewest theaters, and had the lowest opening weekend rank."

Overall Deals

  • In 2019, of the 105 overall deals extended to producers, only 18 were offered to minority producers, observing that eight were actors, four were directors, and one was LeBron James. Therefore, only five minority producers, according to the open letter published by "Black and Brown independent producers."

Summary

  • Our initial hour of research was spent gathering some statistics surrounding Black representation behind the scenes and assessing the availability of information for the research's next steps.
  • There is limited publicly available quantitative information regarding Black film producers, as most recent sources only explore writers and directors. Given our time constraints, it was not possible to examine every diversity report available. We suggest further research to devote more time exploring diversity reports and industry-related articles from 2017-2019 (2020 data is not likely to be available due to the pandemic and its effect on cinemas), expanding the scope to include streaming services and qualitative insights, such as declarations from prominent Hollywood figures and publications, to build a complete narrative.

Proposed next steps:

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