Kevin Tsujihara, Warner Bros. chairman and chief executive, used his Visionary Leadership award at a U.S.-China entertainment gala dinner Tuesday to make an impassioned statement in favor of diversity in the workplace.
“To maintain our relevance and creative excellence we need to work with new voices to tell new stories, stories that reflect a global perspective, from the faces we see on screen to those writing the scripts and on set, or making the magic happen in the editing room,” said Tsujihara, the first Asian American to head a major Hollywood studio.
He added: “We all must ensure that there is greater inclusion of women, people of color, LGBT+ community, those with disabilities and underrepresented groups both in front of and behind the camera. We know it is right and we know it works.”
Tsujihara received his award Tuesday evening in Los Angeles on the sidelines of the 2018 U.S.-China Entertainment Summit sponsored by the Asia Society.
Citing the box office success of U.S.-Chinese co-production “The Meg” and “Crazy Rich Asians,” with its all-Asian cast, he said that “diversity not only feels good; it is good for the bottom line.”
“Audiences are hungry for great stories,” Tsujihara said. “And it doesn’t matter if the characters are black or white, Asian or Latino, male or female, gay, straight or transgender.”
Warner Bros. is “recognizing the importance, value and power of diversity in our content and our people,” he said, noting the studio’s “production diversity policy.”
But more work needs to be done.
“Every other global entertainment medium – professional sports, social media, music, other genres – transcend race. Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Awkwafina all have appeal beyond borders and beyond labels, but somehow in movies we haven’t been able to make that leap,” Tsujihara said. “We say that certain genres of film don’t travel well, or that international audiences aren’t open to diverse leads. It is incumbent on the entire entertainment industry to stop making excuses for self-fulfilling prophecies, and instead get creative about the way we market diverse content to global audiences….We share a common humanity, especially in these perilous times.”