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WME-GLAAD Panel Focuses on LGBTQ Inclusion in Film, Endeavor Pledges to Boost Representation

Director Kay Cannon, whose feature debut in R-rated comedy “Blockers” featured a lesbian romance, said the original script did not include a gay character.

But after considering that teenage girls may be grappling with their sexuality, Cannon said she decided to write the character into the film and was later surprised there was no push back from the studio, Universal.

“I didn’t get a note,” Cannon said. “They were incredibly progressive.”

Despite the inclusion of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) characters in recent major releases like “Blockers” and “Love, Simon,” 2017 was not a good year for LGBTQ characters in film, according to a GLAAD report released Tuesday showing fewer films featuring LGBTQ characters compared with 2016.

The report was the subject of conversation Tuesday at WME, where the agency partnered with GLAAD to host a panel. Cannon was one of several participating in the discussion on the state of LGBTQ inclusiveness in Hollywood films. Also participating were Ben Cory Jones, a producer and writer on HBO’s “Insecure,” producer and longtime film executive Nina Jacobson, “Superstore” actor Nico Santos as well as GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. Los Angeles Times film reporter Tre’vell Anderson moderated the discussion.

Jacobson, a former Disney film executive, said the growing list of films featuring diverse story lines and characters has shown that inclusiveness can help a studio’s bottom line. That’s a shift from purely altruistic reasons for writing female and minority characters.

“For a while, inclusion was seen as a good deed, the right thing to do,” Jacobson said, saying that the shift has been “reinforced in the success of more inclusive stories.”

Jones, whose work has primarily been in television, said TV has been able to more quickly diversify because of the rise in female and minority writers who bring their own experiences to their work. Film has seemed to be a tougher industry to crack, he quipped. “I still don’t know how one gets a film made today,” he said. “As a queer storyteller, I automatically have an agenda that when I go into a writer’s room, I’m going to bring my perspective. Television might be ahead of the curve because there are more of us in the trenches trying to tell those stories.”

Ellis, a former media executive, said that as the film business moves toward superhero franchises, Hollywood should not write out queer characters present in the source material. “There are queer characters in those comics that were written out when it goes out to the big screen. That’s something that we’re really focused on, is keeping us in the story.”

GLAAD’s report, the Studio Responsibility Index, set a goal for studios that calls for at least 20% of major studio releases to include LGBTQ characters by 2021 and 50% by 2024. Endeavor Content on Tuesday said it would rise to the challenge.

At the conclusion of the panel, Endeavor Content announced the company’s commitment to the goal of ensuring that 20% of Hollywood films include LGBTQ characters by 2021, becoming the first major content player to make the pledge. WME/Endeavor Content have previously stated their commitment to inclusion riders, saying they would work with their clients to implement the contractually-mandated effort to improve diversity in film and television production.

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