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Nina Jacobson: There Are Too Few Opportunities for Young Executives, Minorities, Women

Nina Jacobson
Jim Spellman/WireImage

This column is part of Variety’s Broken Hollywood feature. For more execs and their opinions on the state of Hollywood, click here.

There is a shortage of opportunity for young people, and a resulting shortage of fresh blood. There are so few jobs and so few junior-level jobs. People who have jobs stay in them longer. Consequently, there aren’t as many opportunities as there used to be for people to get their foot in the door and for the business to be energized by youth.

When I got started, lots of producers had term deals at the studios. Now very few people have them. When you get the shortage of opportunities that results in a shrinkage in almost every area, the opportunity for mentorships diminishes. And the chance for people of color, people who may not have connections in the business, to reach your doors is not as likely. The result is a more homogenous workforce that isn’t in anybody’s best interest. Fewer movies made mean more aversion to risk. More aversion to risk means playing it safe in terms of people who get hired.

If you want the industry to be more diverse, you can’t sit on your laurels. The people who come to you will likely be people of privilege who know somebody. You want to bring in fresh faces and let the cream rise to the top. The people who make movies should be as diverse as the people who watch them.

The agent-training programs are the only proper apprenticeship programs around. Outreach is critical if you don’t want the business to be so white. Studios should go out to high schools and explain, “These are the opportunities available.”

And then there is the women problem, which is huge, and I consider it to be a subset of what we are talking about. If people are going to give opportunities to those who remind them of themselves, and the majority who work in Hollywood are white men, then the majority of opportunities go to white men. In order to have critical mass, you have to push harder and get out of your comfort zone. “Boys don’t identify with a female protagonist” is a common conventional wisdom. It’s just not true.

We see that with the superhero syndrome. Look how long it’s taken to get “Wonder Women” off the ground. A lot of these stories come from a previous era where there are fewer female protagonists. Because we’re in a business that values pre-existing titles, we get stuck in a backward loop.