When filmmaker Ri-Karlo Handy posted a Facebook request on Tuesday for fellow Black union editors to get in touch with him, he thought he was helping diversify productions and expand opportunities for people of color. But the storm of racist responses to the post from within the post-production community has now drawn attention throughout the entertainment industry.
“My priority has been to give people opportunities because, throughout my whole life, people gave me opportunities,” says the editor and producer, whose credits include “Floribama Shore” and “Kitchen Nightmares.”
Handy had written in the private industry Facebook group called “I NEED AN EDITOR.” The post read, ‘Looking for Black editors, please DM me your contact info?'”
Some commenters leapt to judgment, assuming Handy was looking to staff a show with only Black crew, which they called discriminatory and illegal. Even after it was explained that Handy was simply looking to assemble a list of editors in order to network and help diversify productions, a heated debate about diversity, discrimination and opportunity continued among editors and showrunners in the group.
When actor Nicole French began sharing some of the responses on Twitter, commenters started to delete their posts, saying that Handy’s request amounted to discrimination against white people. French’s tweets of screenshots from the Facebook group included comments from those including commercials editor Nathan Lee Bush, who commented, “White people, it’s time to speak up vehemently against the anti-white racism.” Other commenters wondered, “I wonder how it would go over if I asked for a white union editor” and said, “If you are looking for a Black editor or a white editor you are racist – plain and simple.” Bush did not respond to request for comment.
Nathan Lee Bush responses follow. He’s edited for @nike @budweiserusa @Facebook @CapitalOne @youtube @OldNavy @Converse @MorganStanley @Barilla @virginhotels @BubbaWallace @darkhorsewine @CarnivalCruise to list a few. He directed @CocoGauff in @newbalance & @Nike commercials. pic.twitter.com/satuQdIwex
— Nicole French (@NicoleFrenchEsq) June 16, 2020
Handy says people often contact him when they are looking to hire diverse crew members. “That’s how this all started, because studio and post-supervisors reached out to me to ask if I knew other Black editors,” he says. “The conversation was, ‘Who do you hire when you’re looking?'”
He noted there was a quick reaction to seeing who revealed themselves in the comments. “People were listening to those nasty comments and people did start saying, ‘Don’t hire these people’ (the commenters) and there are a lot of hiring managers in that chain who had that ability.” Handy adds that as the day went on, “People started sharing the posts and so others went in to delete their comments but they were screengrabbing and sharing them across social media. Nicole took it a step further to show who these people really were.”
Handy admits he wasn’t surprised by the reaction coming from people who work on top network shows.
“People don’t realize what the environment looks like,” he said. “You’re not really a part of the team until you know everyone. I am fortunate to work with a great group of people. But when you’re on a team of 200 people and you are one of two black people, unfortunately, some of those people are going to have discriminating thoughts towards communities.”
He says behavior is often ignored when people are good at their job and mistakes are easily forgiven, adding, “I don’t know everyone’s background, but some of them are part of the problem. They make off-the-cuff comments and people will say, ‘It’s part of their personality.'”
Hollywood’s lack of diversity is not a new topic, says Handy. But as a filmmaker who recently launched his own production company, Sunrise Media, with the documentary “Hope Village,” he has been making the effort to hire a diverse cast and crew.
But he emphasizes that Hollywood needs to look at the networks, the showrunners and production companies when it comes to diverse hiring. “It’s from the top down, 100%. I know that because I could make the demands that a cast and crew should be diverse. The crews need to reflect on the stories being told. A lot of stories about African Americans don’t have African Americans behind the camera or behind the writing or behind the cinematography.”
In addition to that, the IATSE locals, Handy says have to start making diversity their priority. “You have to make an outreach to those other groups and track how well you’re doing. If you don’t know how well that outreach is doing, it’s not really a genuine effort until you put a diversity manager in place who is going to look at that for you.”
He points out, “There are a lot of different opportunities that a lot of different groups have to make an impact. But that’s the great thing at this time, everyone is motivated in different ways. If everyone makes an effort, yes, we can get there.” But the Facebook debate that quickly turned intolerant shows that not everyone is willing to make an effort.
Handy says that since the post, members of the Local 700 editors guild have reached out to him about how to address the responses. It has also highlighted the guild’s need to look at diversity, since there is currently no representative addressing the subject and the guild does not track diversity numbers.