Industry Exec on Fixing Hollywood's Race Problem: This "Has to Be a Long-Term Commitment"

DeVon Franklin - H 2016
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DeVon Franklin - H 2016

"There have been times when I've been mistaken for the bathroom attendant," says Franklin Entertainment chairman DeVon Franklin.

What we have seen in the Oscar nominations is only a symptom of the larger problem. It's not like the Academy and Hollywood system are two independent entities; this is an issue of Hollywood not having enough systems in place to deal with the problems that have been generational in terms of embracing all things that are "different."

We need a multipronged approach, which involves the studio system, the agency system, the talent representation system. It is not just one. Part of the problem is that, historically, the issue of diversity ends up falling on the shoulders of the human resource departments at the majority of studios and agencies. And unfortunately, the creative initiatives that actually produce change get left untouched.

What needs to be done is that studios should identify how we can increase the number of executives of color in our executive ranks, and not just in the beginning ranks — recruit, retain and then grow them in a system where hopefully they can become senior vps and ultimately chairmen. That has to be done, but it requires resources, and it requires an effort. As it relates to the agency and the talent representation side, similar thing. When you look at the big agencies, how many people of color are agents? The numbers are deplorable.

It's initiatives, it's money and it's follow-through. We're tired of the lip service. We need to come to the table and really work toward a goal.

People say, "Where do we find those executives?" That is the No. 1 excuse. Because here's the truth: When it comes to finding new talent and new filmmakers and new writers and new producers, have you ever heard anyone say, "We don't know where to find them"? No. Because the life of the entire Hollywood system is dependent on new talent. So the same rigor has to go into finding not only executives of color but future producers of color, writers of color, directors of color.

I'm thinking my next book might be #HollywoodSoWhite because, oh my goodness, there have been times when I've been mistaken for the bathroom attendant. I've been in meetings where people have referred to me as a rapper.

They should be recruiting people when they are in middle school and high school, through to the college level. A lot of African-Americans who have professional aspirations don't even know there is a whole career possibility for them behind the camera in Hollywood. So it's a publicity thing and putting the resources there.

That is not something that can happen overnight. It is something that has to be a long-term commitment. But when you look at the NFL, they came up with a framework for how they were going to diversify the coaching ranks, and it has proved successful. Hollywood has to embrace this issue, not be afraid of it.