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While many organizations in Hollywood and beyond seem to have moved on from their commitments to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility, Amazon MGM Studios’ Customer and Content DEIA team is continuing to push forward.

The company has published a progress report on its film and TV productions since implementing in 2021 its Inclusion Policy and Playbook, a best-practices resource for writing, casting and hiring inclusively and creating an equitable and accessible working environment on set. To measure the impact of its guidelines (and create accountability), Amazon MGM Studios is sharing gender and race/ethnicity data for cast and creative leadership for all 195 of its scripted and unscripted U.S. Originals released between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2023 (119 series and 76 movies).

Over the past three years, the share of female or non-binary representation onscreen got closer to parity, increasing from 46 percent in 2020 to 49 percent in 2022. Meanwhile, onscreen representation of non-Hispanic white characters has actually been proportionate or just below proportionate with the real-life U.S. population share of 59 percent. However, this does not mean that all people of color are proportionately represented — for example, Amazon’s report acknowledges that the percentage of Hispanic/Latino cast members continuously falls below the 19 percent U.S. share, while there is an overindex of performers who identify as multiracial.

Amazon MGM Studios’ “Progress on Inclusion” report, 2023 COURTESY OF AMAZON STUDIOS

Amazon MGM Studios’ “Progress on Inclusion” report, 2023 COURTESY OF AMAZON STUDIOS

Diversification is happening very slowly behind the scenes, with the greatest increase being women as writers, rising from 40 percent in 2020 to 54 percent two years later. But men continue to make up the majority of creators, directors, producers and showrunners. White hegemony is even more pronounced, maintaining 76 percent of top creative roles last year (down from 81 percent the year before the Inclusion Policy was introduced).

Diverse staffing was achieved in part through working with nonprofits like Streetlights and platforms and services including Array Crew, Brooklyn Workforce Innovations, Crewvie, Free the Work and Staff Me Up. And for personnel with disabilities, such as aspiring producer Harold Foxx, an alumnus of RespectAbility’s 2021 Entertainment Lab who was hired as a post-production intern on the 2022 original movie Something from Tiffany’s, cc:DEIA worked with to make sure they were provided with the necessary resources to do their job. For Foxx, who is deaf, that meant making sure the post supervisor had productivity tools such as captioning on early movie cuts and video conferences as well as interpreters available virtually on-demand through contracts with third-party ASL interpretation services. “I learned so much from being able to sit in on creative meetings and would not have understood the intricacies that go into editing a film had the team not supplied me with virtual ASL interpreters,” Foxx says in the report.

The report also rounded up the various partnerships that indicate Amazon MGM Studios’ investment in pipelines for historically excluded individuals, such as its work with the Latino Film Institute (which includes a $50,000 finishing fund for a U.S.-based Latino filmmaker), with Howard University (via the work and study Howard Entertainment Program) and with the Savannah Film Festival (via an LGBTQ+ short film contest).

Qualitatively, the report explained how the cc:DEIA team reviews every project for tropes, harmful dialogue and lack of multidimensionality or inauthenticity before it receives a green light, tapping their consultancy partners including Anti-Defamation League, Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment, Color of Change, Define American, Disability Media Alliance Project, GenderCool, GLAAD, Pillars Fund, RespectAbility, Storyline partners and Think Tank for Inclusion and Equity if needed. In the past two years, the team has conducted 146 green light assessments and consulted on content 181 times across 126 projects.

During production, the studio also considered the side effects of diverse casting, such as actors experiencing harassment. Anticipating such issues with its high-profile genre title The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Amazon MGM Studios provided an on-set “emotional wellness professional” for the cast and crew, such as Ismael Cruz Córdova, who is the first person of color to play an elf in Middle-earth.

These emotional wellness resources have so far been offered on a production-by-production basis, but the company’s next steps include expanding that offering to more productions next year, as well as continuing to improve its demographic data collection methodology (particularly for below-the-line crew) and localizing its DEIA strategy for territories outside of the U.S. And given that the company recently canceled POC-centered series including With Love and The Horror of Dolores Roach, both from Gloria Calderón Kellett, it will be worth keeping an eye on the longevity of future series featuring the historically excluded on Amazon’s slate.

Women Represented Majority of Amazon Originals Writers in 2022

Rebecca Sun

December 14, 2023

Amazon MGM Studios has provided a progress report on DEIA behind and in front of the camera since it implemented its Inclusion Policy and Playbook two years ago.

'The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power' and 'Something from Tiffany's'

'The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power' and 'Something from Tiffany's'

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