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Show Business Diversity Trailing U.S. Demographics, UCLA Report Shows

Minorities and women are falling far short in making inroads into influential Hollywood positions compared with the actual demographics of the U.S. population, a new UCLA study shows.

“This disconnect does not bode well for future of the Hollywood industry,” said Darnell Hunt, directors of UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African-American Studies. “Women already constitute slightly more than half of the U.S. population and more than a third of the population is currently minority and the population continues to diversify at a dizzying rate.”

The percentages of female and minority actors, writers, directors and producers in films and TV ranges from less than 10% to 50% of their actual population percentage, according to the study.

“The report paints a picture of an industry that is woefully out of touch with an emerging America, an America that’s becoming more diverse by the day,” Hunt said.

The study, dubbed “The 2014 Hollywood Diversity Report: Making Sense of the Disconnect,” also asserts that movies with relatively diverse casts generate above average performance at the box office and that TV shows reflecting U.S. diversity excell in ratings.

“Hollywood does pretty well financially right now, but it could do a lot better if it were better reflecting the diversity of America,” said Hunt.

The UCLA analysis was based on the top 172 American-made movies from 2011 and more than 1,000 TV airing on 68 cable and broadcast networks during the 2011–12 season. The center — which has been performing similar studies for the Writers Guild of America for the past decade — said that Wednesday’s report is part of a series of analyses it will perform to track diversity in the TV-film industry along with identifying best practices for widening the pipeline for underrepresented groups.

Among the findings:

— Minority lead actors in film and TV were underrepresented by a factor of more than three-to-one — less than one-third the rate that would be expected based on their proportion of the population. In broadcast TV comedies and dramas, they were underrepresented by a factor of seven-to-one.

— Minority film directors were underrepresented by a factor of three-to-one; film writers and creators of comedies and dramas on cable TV, were underrepresented by a factor of five-to-one; in broadcast TV, minority creators of comedies and dramas were underrepresented by a factor of nine-to-one.

— Women achieved proportionate representation in broadcast TV, where they appeared as leading actors in 52% of comedies and dramas in 2011–12. But they were underrepresented by a factor of 12-to-one as film directors and by a factor of three-to-one in film writing.

The study also blasted the three top talent agencies — CAA, WME and UTA — as contributing little to promoting diversity as they represented more than two-thirds of the writers, directors and lead actors in the 172 leading films in 2011, with less than 10% of that talent being minority.

In broadcast TV, the three agencies represented more than two-thirds of show creators and more than half of the leads, and minorities accounted for only 1.4% of these creators and 5.5% of these leads during the 2011–12 broadcast season.

The report also noted that no minority-directed film from 2011 won an Oscar and no film with a minority lead actor won an Oscar; only 5% of Emmy-winning comedies and dramas on broadcast TV in 2011-12 were minority-created with “Grey’s Anatomy” accounting for that entire share.

“Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rhimes, who was honored for her diversity efforts with a Betsy Beers last month by the Directors Guild of America, said in her acceptance speech, “It’s fairly shameful that there’s a lack of diversity in Hollywood in 2014.”

The report asserted that films with a relatively high amount of minority involvement (21% to 30%)  achieved the highest median global box office receipts at $160.1 million while films with less than 10% percent achieved a median of $68.5 million.

“The situation is better than it was in the 1950s, but Hollywood is falling further and further behind,” Hunt said. “America is infinitely more diverse than it was. So the gap has gotten bigger between where America is going and where the industry is going.”

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