EDITOR’S NOTE: Ri-Karlo Handy is the co-founder of Sunwise Media, a production company based in Pasadena. Over a 25-year career in the entertainment industry, Handy has been an editor and producer for networks like BET, MTV, and OWN. Joining then start-up network Bounce TV in 2013, he became the SVP of Original Programming for the Katz Broadcasting-owned African-American focused outlet. Three years ago, Hope Village Project executive producer Handy left Bounce to form Sunwise.
On June 16, 2020 I posted on a private Facebook group ‘I NEED AN EDITOR! looking for Black Union Editors.’
While most of the group sent back names of editors they knew, some ignorant comments — complaining of racism — caused a firestorm when the screen shots of a conversation calling for a White uprising were shared on Twitter, by Attorney Nicole French. Her Tweets put the question of diversity in Hollywood, and post-production in particular, centerstage.
Since then I have had so many people of color in the entertainment industry reach out expressing their support for the post, and sharing their stories of discrimination, or about being the only (person of color) in the room.
I can relate!
Throughout my editing career, I was often the only person of color working in post-production. You must have a lot of confidence, and be really good on all levels, to thrive when you feel like the odd man out. So, when colleagues reached out looking for black editors, I did not hesitate to make the now infamous post.
It has been a whirlwind ever since to say the least.
I have received emails and calls from a host of media wanting my thoughts on how I believe this moment will impact the entertainment industry. With this overwhelming response, I have spent the last few days speaking to network executives, producers, post supervisors, editors, union officials, and organizations all wanting to help solve the problem.
The Urban League reached out; they have been involved with ongoing efforts to diversify studios, networks, and unions with a focus on below-the-line professional development and career placement. We will be announcing a comprehensive initiative to recruit, train, certify and place the next generation of industry professionals.
One of the initiatives the Union’s diversity committee has put forth is to begin collecting the demographic info of members. Currently, if you are looking for someone to diversify your project, you cannot find them. Many Union Leaders believe that information needs to be collected like the U.S. census––and for the same purpose as the census––to allocate resources more fairly.
Unlike other industries, most below-the-line jobs are never posted online; routinely post supervisors and production managers open their emails and phones and reach out to their social circle without much thought about how those projects could benefit from diversity. My Facebook post looking for Black editors was in support of industry colleagues who are struggling with the issue of diversity, and they are reaching out in an effort to effect change.
I never planned to be in this position but now that I am I feel it’s a great opportunity to help in any way I can to develop meaningful solutions.
There are individuals and organizations already doing the work of connecting talent and skilled workers from marginalized communities with entertainment opportunities. As a result of all the press coverage, I have been speaking with many of them.
One person in particular is Bree Frank, Vice President of Physical Production for Unscripted for Hello Sunshine, who founded HUE You Know in 2017 as a way to expand her passion for mentorship. HUE You Know is an online production resource group for professionals of color. The mission is to see an Inclusion Rider in Production Services Agreements so networks and production companies can confirm their commitment to change.
Elverage Allen is my Partner in Sunwise Media and has over 25 years as an Ad Sales Executive. He points out that the diversity void in entertainment is not limited to film editing, it permeates every level of the industry. From the art department to wardrobe, from advertising to public relations, content creators, brands and ad agencies have produced content or created campaigns that drew the ire of the public for being racist or culturally offensive.
Why does this KEEP happening?
There are few if any diverse voices in the room to call out mistakes. The path to truly diversifying Hollywood – in front and behind the camera – will take everyone connecting and making an effort to understand what inclusion means. It’s important to start actively prioritizing diversity, and realizing that being conscious of race should not be a burden. It’s what POC deals with every day.
This is a pivotal moment. We should be looking at diversifying Hollywood and have it more closely reflect the actual makeup of our country.
If you are currently looking for anyone specific to diversify your project and cannot find them; I have culled together a list of several hundred editors of color (click here for the list).
Industry professionals, this is more than a moment; this is a movement! It is OUR opportunity to define “the narrative” about WHO WE ARE. Let’s have our say about what it means to be American and work in Hollywood.