Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has called for Hollywood to do far more in the wake of the push for more minority and female members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
“The demographic complexity of this country should be reflected not only at the end of the chain, but since the beginning, in order that more of these people can be excited and integrated,” he said Saturday in response to a question at the Producers Guild of America’s breakfast panel at the Ricardo Montalban Theater in Hollywood.
Inarritu was one of 10 producers from each of the films nominated for the PGA’s Darryl F. Zanuck Award to honor the top feature film of the year. He won the award last year for “Birdman” and is a nominee this year for “The Revenant.” The winner will be announced Saturday night.
“These changes the Academy has made are a great step,” he added. “But the Academy is at the end of the chain. Hopefully these positive changes can start from the beginning of the chain.”
Inarritu also asserted that diversity in the U.S. is a key reason why the nation is powerful and vibrant and that movies should reflect that.
“Cinema is a mirror by which we often see ourselves,” he added. “That’s the role we play as filmmakers. If that power is not transmitted on the screens, there’s something wrong.”
Diversity issues were also highlighted by the PGA having given a Zanuck nomination to “Straight Outta Compton,” which received only a single Oscar nomination for screenplay. The film was represented by producer Scott Bernstein, subbing for director-producer F. Gary Gray who was stuck in New York by the massive snow storm.
“We never made this film to be nominated,” Bernstein said.
Instead, he said that the producers had always been driven by the fact that the origin story of the iconic rap group N.W.A had remained unknown to many people — and that the story had a strong political bent. “It’s about giving a voice to the voiceless,” he added.
He also said that the production became a part of the communities in which it was filming due to that recognition. “I never felt as if my wife were in danger,” he added.
Bernstein noted that it was essential to shoot the film, which carries a $29 million price tag, in Southern California. It received a California tax credit for doing so.
The 90-minute panel also included revelations from producers as to the intricacies of putting together films — and the fact that projects can come together with surprising speed. Dede Gardner, who won the award two years ago for “12 Years a Slave,” noted that Brad Pitt had sparked to the Michael Lewis book “The Big Short” nearly instantly.
“We gave it to Brad and the next day he came in and said, ‘I’m going to be in this,'” she recalled. “The characters were larger than life.”
Michael Schaefer, a producer on “The Martian,” said he saw a similar reaction when Ridley Scott became aware of the project. “He originally wanted to shoot on Mars,” he added.
Inarritu and Bernstein both admitted that their films had been shot in sequence to help deepen the stories. “You make discoveries in the process that make the film better,” Inarritu added.
The other panelists included Kristie Macosko Krieger from “Bridge of Spies”; Finola Dwyer, “Brooklyn”; Andrew Macdonald, “Ex Machina”; Doug Mitchell, “Mad Max: Fury Road”; and Michael Sugar, “Spotlight.”