Hollywood Diversity Report Finds Progress, But Much Left To Gain

Feb 21, 2019
Originally published on February 21, 2019 6:35 pm

Gains have been made for women and people of color who work in movies and TV, but the numbers remain a long way from proportionately reflecting the U.S. population, according to a new study from UCLA.

The annual Hollywood Diversity Report looks at diversity both in front of and behind the camera. It also looks at box office and ratings.

The report states that evidence continues to suggest "America's increasingly diverse audiences prefer diverse film and television content," and that "diversity is essential for Hollywood's bottom line."

The report found that many top-rated, scripted broadcast TV shows have diverse casts. However, the report also notes that while people of color make up nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population, just a fraction of that number work as film writers (12.6 percent) or directors (7.8 percent).

The report also shows the number of female film directors nearly doubled from 2016 to 2017 — but only to about 12.6 percent of all directors.

Darnell Hunt is a professor of sociology and African-American studies at UCLA and co-authored the study. He notes how industry attitudes toward diversity have changed since his group's first study, published in 2014.

"When we started to study diversity ... it was kind of seen as a luxury, as something that you'd get around to but it's not what's driving day-to-day business practices," Hunt says. "Over time, as it became clear that audiences were becoming more diverse and that they were demanding diverse content, diversity itself was seen as a business imperative. Like, 'We have to figure out ways to create more diverse products because that's what today's increasingly diverse audiences are demanding.' That's a relatively new phenomenon that ... most people would not have been talking about that, you know, five, 10 years ago. Today, everyone's talking about it."

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UCLA's annual "Hollywood Diversity Report" is out today. The subheading is "Old Story, New Beginning." As NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports, more women and people of color are working in movies and TV, but they're still getting just slivers of the pie.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: The study looked at TV shows from the 2016-'17 season and films released in 2017, like the horror movie "Get Out." An African-American discovers his white girlfriend's family is part of a racist cult.


LIL REL HOWERY: (As Rod Williams) Why's he dressed like that?

DANIEL KALUUYA: (As Chris Washington) It's not that. It's everything. He came to the party with a white woman like 30 years older than him.

HOWERY: (As Rod Williams) Sex slave.

BLAIR: "Get Out" was one of the most profitable movies of 2017. It was nominated for four Oscars, and writer-director Jordan Peele won for original screenplay. A number of major releases recently have featured people of color in leading roles - "Black Panther," "BlacKkKlansman," "Crazy Rich Asians," but...

DARNELL HUNT: Those films are exceptions to the rule.

BLAIR: Darnell Hunt, who co-authored the UCLA diversity report, says while there's been a notable jump in the number of movies starring people of color, it's nowhere near 40 percent - their share of the population. Hunt says that is true in every area of filmmaking.

HUNT: What we haven't seen yet is a wholesale change in how the industry does business, how it's structured, who is in the executive suites, who's in the position to greenlight films that are likely to include new, diverse talent.

BLAIR: And yet, says Hunt, people of color matter a lot at the box office.

HUNT: Five of the top 10 films from 2017, people of color bought the majority of the tickets for five of those films.

BLAIR: Including "Wonder Woman."


GAL GADOT: (As Diana) If no one else will defend the world, then I must.

BLAIR: In its opening weekend in the U.S., "Wonder Woman" made $103 million according to Box Office Mojo, a record for a movie directed by a woman. The report found that from 2016 to 2017, the number of female film directors nearly doubled to 12.6 percent - hardly parity, since women are half the population.


MANDY MOORE: (As Rebecca Pearson) And if you have a problem, we will fix it together.

BLAIR: That's Mandy Moore from NBC's "This Is Us." Noted for its diverse cast, it's also a top-rated show. In fact, 8 of the top 10 scripted broadcast TV shows favored by 18-to-49-year-olds had diverse casts. And this is something the UCLA report underscores, that it's good business to have a strong showing of women and people of color in your content. Elizabeth Blair, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.