EXCLUSIVE: Two days after Best Actress winner Frances McDormand led a handful of female Oscar nominees and winners to stand as she urged for more inclusion in Hollywood, the ReFrame initiative has generated a handbook with numerous key proposals its organizers believe will help promulgate meaningful reform and diverse hiring practices in the film and TV businesses.
A group of 50 industry leaders including studio heads, producers, network execs and top agents have come up with several initiatives to help. Organizers of ReFrame, put together by Women In Film and the Sundance Institute, feel they have cracked several important steps toward executing sustainable changes. Their initial programs include a 14-point Culture Change Toolkit that offers suggestions for more balanced hiring in all areas. The goal is to eradicate industry standards that are embarrassing: They include a gap of five to seven years between jobs for most female directors (Patty Jenkins went longer between directing Charlize Theron to the Oscar in Monster, before she returned and directed Wonder Woman).
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Netflix, Lionsgate, Showtime, TNT/TBS, Annapurna, PGA and SAG-AFTRA have stepped up to help lead the initiative, and additional meetings and conversations with companies who have expressed interest in the industry-wide effort are ongoing.
Bolstering the ReFrame effort is a sponsorship program that provides nurturing mentors for protégés, who will have multiple industry pros at companies situated across the industry. Top pros become staked in their careers, enough to put themselves on the hook as they vouch for that person when it’s hiring time.
Also in the works is the establishment of the ReFrame stamp for movies and TV projects that have demonstrated attempts to inject inclusion in the hiring process. It sounds a lot like the “mark” that the PGA developed as a stamp of validation as the organization sought several years back to tighten its designation of who actually produces a film. Here, productions are given the mark if they follow a set of guidelines designed to become more inclusive in the practice of broadening the hiring base beyond the same group who are always considered for these jobs, who are inevitably mostly white and male.
“What I like about this is that it is very well researched and thought out, with real tangible steps that over time will help,” he said.
“The sponsorship of people to provide extra validation to create more diversity hiring, well, I have seen it work. I was mentoring ine, sponsorship of directors who need that extra validation and sponsorship to the industry. I mentored Frankie Shaw, and then it was time to tell someone this person was awesome, I told David Nevins at Showtime that she was the real deal. After SMILF, the rest is history. This will take that sponsorship to a much bigger scale as people who are trusted in the industry vouch for those new voices who haven’t gotten a shot. It is a very practical thing we can do to help feed the pipeline. This issue is finally being taken seriously and in our meetings with studios we can see they are looking for these people. This program goes beyond simple mentorship.”
Feig said that means that if the protégé isn’t measuring up, he would be required to taken an active hand in fixing the problem. “With Frankie, I would have happily gone in and helped. I didn’t need to. This program is heavily vetted and these recommendations are not rubber stamped. We are putting our necks on the line to help people get a chance.”
As for the ReFrame stamp, Feig said it “initially made some places nervous because they saw it as potentially punitive,” he said. “I see it as positive. It flags for moviegovers which movies are empowering female filmmakers and diversity. It will change the default setting in the brains of people in Hollywood.”
Feig said he didn’t believe that gatekeepers were trying to exclude women, but with big money on the line and tight deadlines, there is an understandable instinct to hire those they know. That creates the closed circle that has to be broken.
“The key is to break the default setting, and take some steps to be sure you are seeing everybody beyond the same people who might be right for a job.”
Cathy Schulman, Board President of Women In Film, LA and President and CEO of Welle Entertainment, said, “The industry’s deep-rooted business practices need to flex and bend to cultivate a marketplace for content that serves diverse audiences. We are so encouraged that a first group of courageous leaders have come together as social activists to better serve the inclusive community, which will ultimately increase bottom lines across the industry.”
Here are the industry leaders whose input informed the study and the handbook:
Producer, Homegrown Pictures founder
EVP Physical Production, Marvel Studios
President, HBO Films
Senior Producer, Pixar Animation Studios
Motion Picture Agent, CAA
Motion Picture Agent, CAA
Producer, Co-President of Feature Animation, DreamWorks Animation
Partner, ICM Partners
CEO, FilmNation Entertainment
Actor, Producer and Author
Film and TV Writer
President, Burr Productions
Writer and TV Producer
Partner, Co-head of Motion Picture Literary, ICM Partners
Agent, Motion Picture Literary Department, CAA
Mike De Luca
Producer, President of Michael De Luca Productions
Producer, Founder of Elevated Entertainment
Co-President, Lionsgate Motion Picture Group
Director/Producer, Feigco Entertainment
Founding Partner/Producer of Court Five
Producer, Founder of Out of the Blue Entertainment, Former President of AMPAS
EVP, Head of Programming, Lifetime
Producer, Color Force
Founder and CEO of MACRO
Writer/Producer, Tilted Productions
Producer, Warner Bros. Pictures
Founder, Black List
Founding Partner, LGNAF
Producer, President of Red Hour Films
Executive Producer, 44 Strong Productions
President, TriStar Pictures
Executive Producer/Director, Ryan Murphy Productions
Producer, Made Up Stories
Lydia Dean Pilcher
Producer, Founder and CEO of Cine Mosaic/PGA
Founder, Madison Wells Media
Executive Director, Sundance Institute
Partner/Head, Independent Film Group, UTA
Head of Amazon
Director, Feature Film Program, Sundance Institute
Producer, President of Welle Entertainment, Board President of Women In Film, LA
Stacy L. Smith, PhD
Director, Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative at USC
Executive Producer/Director, Topple Productions
President and CEO, Radiant Films International
Founder/Owner, Chestnut Ridge Productions
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