SAG data sees minorities make gains

Results show 7% rise in total number of roles

HOLLYWOOD — Casting data released Monday by the Screen Actors Guild offered a mixed picture of moderate gains for racial/ethnic minorities and a partial recovery in film-TV roles last year, following the 12.4% plunge in 1999.

African-Americans, Latino/Hispanics and Asian/Pacific Islanders all saw shares hit their highest levels since SAG began tracking casting in 1992. But shares of Latino/Hispanics and Asian/Pacific Islanders continued to fall short of their actual portions of the population, and persistent shortfalls remained for performers over 40 and for women overall.

The total number of roles rose 7% to 53,134 from 49,662 in 1999. SAG spokesman Greg Krizman attributed the hike to the increased levels of production in the third and fourth quarters, as studios began stockpiling for a possible strike.

However, last year’s overall figure still falls short of the record 56,715 roles in 1998, with runaway production blamed as the key culprit in the subsequent loss of more than 7,000 roles in 1999.

More roles for people of color

SAG data showed performers of color received 22.9% of roles last year, up from 21.2% in 1999, leading SAG prexy William Daniels to declare he was encouraged by the trend.

“We’re moving slowly but steadily toward the reality of portraying the American scene,” he added. “We are delighted to see gains for all ethnicities on the large and small screen, but there’s still plenty of room for growth in diversity in the TV and film world.”

The stats also showed 62% of roles going to men and 34% of roles going to all performers over age 40, compared with 42% of the population being over 40. Women over 40 received only 26.2% of female roles and 20% of leading female roles.

SAG board member Anne-Marie Johnson, chair of the guild’s ethnic opportunity commission, said the shortfalls remain troubling. “SAG will need to continue to be aggressive,” she added.

Key contractual gains & census comparisons

Johnson noted that the recently ratified SAG/AFTRA film-TV contract includes several key contractual gains including third-party neutral arbitration for diversity complaints, a ban on “paint downs” of Caucasian performers to appear as other ethnicities, and sign-language performers being recognized as principals.

African-American actors received 14.8% of roles, up from 14.1% and slightly above their 12.9% share of the population in the 2000 census; Latino/Hispanics rose to 4.9% from 4.4%, compared with the 12.5% representation of the population in the census; Asian/Pacific Islander roles increased to 2.6% from 2.2%, compared with 3.6% in the census; and Native American roles edged up to 0.3% from 0.2%, compared with a 0.9% census share.

‘A long way to go’

The casting data report, based on production stats submitted to SAG, comes nearly two years after a multiethnic coalition issued complaints about the lack of diversity in the fall 1999 TV sked. That initiative led to threats of a viewer boycott and pledges by the four major nets to boost diversity.

The coalition announced in May that the nets had not yet made good on last year’s promises to achieve diversity in programming.

“All the efforts are starting to make a difference, but we still have a long way to go,” Johnson said.

The percentage gain for the overall number of roles reflects a slightly more upbeat picture than the guild’s earnings report for last year, which showed TV-film work rose 2% to $1.04 billion.

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