Writers Guild of America West Blasts Industry on Diversity

The Writers Guild of America West’s top elected officer has called on Hollywood to increase the numbers of women and minorities writing scripts to address the industry’s diversity problem.

“We need to change a broken industry, not simply mirror it,” said WGA West President Howard A. Rodman in a statement issued Wednesday.

Rodman issued the comments in the wake of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ steps to double the numbers of minorities in the Academy by 2020. The diversity issue has been at the forefront of Hollywood since the Jan. 14 announcement of Oscar nominations, which didn’t include any non-white actors.

“Straight Outta Compton” received the film’s only nomination for an Oscar in the original screenplay category. The script, credited to Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff, S. Leigh Savidge and Alan Wenkus, has also been nominated for a WGA Award.

“Late last year, Canada’s newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled his cabinet: 15 men, 15 women,” Rodman said. “When asked why, his response was brief: ‘Because it’s 2015.’”

“But in our industry it’s not even 2015 yet. In terms of gender the world is everywhere 50/50 male/female, but you wouldn’t know that by looking at the writing credits on films or television. America is 36% minority, but the pool of people of color employed as writers is a small fraction of that. The WGAW understands that we need to change a broken industry, not simply mirror it.”

Rodman pointed out that TV producer Shonda Rhimes had addressed the diversity issue in her acceptance speech for the Norman Lear career achievement award from the Producers Guild of America.

“Shonda Rhimes, speaking last weekend, defined the task simply and beautifully: ‘to write the world as it actually is,’” Rodman said. “Because it’s 2016.”

The WGA West response is the third from a Hollywood labor union on the issue. SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director David White recently criticized the industry for its slow response on diversity by saying, “We do not have enough people of color in the pipeline of decision making.”

On Monday, Directors Guild of America President Paris Barclay blasted Hollywood executives for failing to take enough action to address the lack of employment for women and minorities.

Here’s Rhimes’ comment from Saturday:

 

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