For the first time, the Hollywood Diversity Report published by the UCLA College Division of Social Sciences was awarded state funding this week, with $250,000 earmarked in the 2021-22 California budget.
Sponsored by Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, the funds will support the overarching goals of UCLA’s Hollywood Advancement Project, which produces the Hollywood Diversity Report. It is the industry’s only longitudinal analysis that connects the relationship between the diversity of key jobs in Hollywood films and television productions with the spending power and appetites of increasingly diverse U.S. audiences.
“Numbers don’t lie,” Carrillo said. “The UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report holds the data needed to effect change for both below- and above-the-line workers, which is why it was critical to leverage our state’s budget to support it. As efforts to expand production and bring back these jobs to the state via California’s Television and Film Tax Credit continue, those efforts should be reflective of the diversity of our state.”
Above the line refers to the cast members and creative team and below-the-line workers are grips, camera crews, craft services and other production support jobs.
A new finding from UCLA’s April 2021 Hollywood Diversity Report looked at the correlation between the racial and gender diversity of film directors and overall diversity of casts. Projects helmed by women and people of color generally have more diverse casts, but also some of the smallest budgets, researchers found.
“Films directed by women and minorities are chronically underfunded,” said Ana-Christina Ramón, director of research and civic engagement for the UCLA division of social sciences and co-author of the Hollywood Diversity Report. “And audiences are smart, they can tell when a project is well funded. We believe that investing in the creative vision of women and people of color will deliver content that audiences crave and at the same time have a positive impact on the diversity of jobs both above the line and below the line for those productions.”
The funding is part of a larger investment from the state government into the Hollywood ecosystem. On July 15 the state assembly unanimously passed SB 144, which would expand California’s Television and Film Tax Credits, build more sound stages to meet production needs, include additional incentives for productions that meet below and/or above the line equity efforts and much needed data collection from the Film Tax Commission which overseas productions who benefit from tax credits.
Per recent census numbers, California’s population is nearly 40% Latino, 37% white, 16% Asian American and 6.5% Black and approximately 50% female. Meanwhile, according to estimates from the California Film Commission, the film industry workforce is 75% male and more than 50% white.
“We’re in our 10th year of data collection and every year we show that audiences gravitate to content that feature diverse casts and creators, ones that reflect the diversity of the American demographic,” Ramón said. “This new support from the state budget will be instrumental to our ongoing efforts to comprehensively track who is getting key jobs in Hollywood, and expand the ways we show how that reality has an impact not only the bottom line for studios themselves, but for the economy at large.”
In 2019, Hollywood Diversity Report researchers released a report of integrated recommendations for studios and production companies to increase the diversity of their productions. The By All M.E.A.N.S. Necessary report suggests a five-pronged approach to improving diversity in hiring.
“We’re already seeing people move in this direction,” Ramón said. “ABC Studios was the first to launch a strategic outline for hiring diversity last year. Amazon Studios recently launched its inclusion playbook and we expect more studios will follow suit as they build out mechanisms to take advantage of new tax credits.”
Funding for UCLA was championed by the Latino Film Institute, which this year named Ramón its inaugural scholar.
“Latino communities are particularly underrepresented at all levels of critical Hollywood jobs both in front of and behind the camera,” said Rafael Agustín, chief executive officer of the Latino Film Institute. “We’re grateful to collaborate closely with UCLA as we seek to reckon with this fact and work toward meaningful change.”