HOLLYWOOD AGENTS NAVIGATE NEW COMPLEXITIES OF BALANCING THE DEMAND FOR DIVERSE VOICES AND ARTISTIC FREEDOM

As studios seek creators who can tell tales from a personal perspective, unintended consequences can arise: "Some people feel rooted in telling stories about their identity, and some people want to be seen as a filmmaker regardless of their gender and race."

As studios seek creators who can tell tales from a personal perspective, unintended consequences can arise: “Some people feel rooted in telling stories about their identity, and some people want to be seen as a filmmaker regardless of their gender and race.”

In 2020, Hollywood agents and managers who represent female and minority filmmakers are experiencing a mostly welcome, if long delayed, phenomenon — lots and lots of incoming calls.

“I have seen an increased commitment and desire for directors and writers to have something in connection with the potential project,” says ICM literary agent Ava Greenfield, who represents Black filmmakers such as Regina King, making her directorial debut this year with the Amazon Studios Muhammad Ali film One Night in Miami, and Matthew Cherry, who sold a series based on his Oscar-winning animated short Hair Love to HBO Max in July. “If, for example, the story is centered on Black woman, there is an initial commitment from buyers to find a Black female director or writer for this project. It comes from this understanding that there has to be a connection to the material by a writer or a director.”

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Studios, motivated either by a sincere desire to diversify their hiring, a sense that genuine connection to material leads to better storytelling — or the simple fear of being internet-shamed — are increasingly focusing on staffing films and TV shows about underrepresented groups with filmmakers and showrunners from those groups. Current projects that studios are hoping to populate with Black behind-the-camera talent include Marvel’s Blade movie starring Mahershala Ali, which is looking for writers, and MGM’s Sammy Davis Jr. biopic, which Lena Waithe is producing.

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