Berlin: EFM Panel Addresses the Global Film Industry's Diversity Problem

McKinsey's Vivian Hunt - H 2018
Courtesy of Lia Darjes

The panelists acknowledged that change will take time but progress is being made.

A European Film Market panel on Saturday addressed the critical importance of film industry inclusiveness. The event, moderated by The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Roxborough at Berliner Freiheit, began with McKinsey & Company’s Dame Vivian Hunt presenting a new report whose findings on the superior performance of diverse companies, she said, should convince execs who “don’t buy the social justice argument” that the diversity push is both an ethical and financially savvy one.

Hunt added that the media sector is a uniquely powerful driver of social and corporate change due to its “scale and global reach.” Strand Releasing’s Marcus Hu and Indigo Film’s Carlotta Calori joined the frank conversation that touched on the Hollywood gender pay gap and the #OscarsSoWhite and #MeToo social media juggernauts.

Hu, an AMPAS member and proponent of increased Academy diversity, was “not naming names” when asked about pushback against the A2020 initiative, which aims to double female membership by 2020. He said that any early reluctance has since diminished. 

“The uproar was a good thing,” Hu said, adding that he considers today’s zeitgeist a “backlash against [Donald] Trump” and that he’s seen “more changes in the past two years” than in his previous 28 years in the industry. Hunt said the key to sustained film industry change lay in the “origination of stories” and on companies focusing on three or four metrics to bolster. 

There’s been EFM chatter about two films with ethnically diverse casts wilting in the marketplace for fear of limited appeal in China and other territories. Hu and Calori acknowledged the reality of tough sells, but Hu said that perceptions and “myths have to be broken.”

The panelists agreed that change would not come immediately, but ended on an optimistic note, with Hunt saying that the movie industry “puts stories into people’s hearts” that in turn shift the international discourse. Hunt, who comes from an Afro-Caribbean background, cited one movie screening well beyond the festival this week as a myth-breaker. “My [sons] are clamoring to see Black Panther so that they can see an echo of themselves.”