Universal Pictures announced a one-year partnership with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary’s University and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering to improve on-screen representation and casting opportunities for the Latinx community.
The program, titled Spellcheck for Bias, is being developed to analyze scripts, manuscripts and advertising briefs to identify representation of characters and percentage of dialogue by gender, race, LGBTQIA and disabilities. It will also analyze characters with several other attributes like violence, discrimination, and intelligence. Universal’s global talent development and inclusion team will work with advisers to develop the criteria to expand Spellcheck’s capabilities to include Latinx representation.
“I’m so thrilled that NBCUniversal has committed to working with us on this pilot program,” Davis said. “Their support will be extremely valuable in developing the tool to address the sparse and underdeveloped portrayals of the Latinx community which our upcoming study underscores. I believe our Spellcheck for Bias is going to be the biggest game changer of all in creating onscreen inclusion and will help NBCUniversal and other studios identify opportunities to dramatically increase Latinx representations in their content, to counteract the conscious and unconscious bias in all of us.”
The Institute’s soon-to-be published annual “See Jane 2020 report,” which looks at the top 100 films of the year, shows that Latinx underrepresentation is an ongoing challenge in the industry. Its reporting demonstrates that, while Latinx accounts for 18.3% of the U.S. population, only 4.7% of all characters were Latinx in the top 100 popular films of 2019, compared with the 66.2% who were white characters.
Once the software is complete, Universal Pictures, DreamWorks Animation, Focus Features, and NBC Entertainment will provide scripts to test the tool for its effectiveness and potential to be used to help other underrepresented groups in film and television.
The advisers include actress/producer Kate del Castillo, Blumhouse Productions’ Bea Sequeira, Brownstone Productions’ Alison Small, Lord Miller’s Aditya Sood, Will Packer Productions’ James Lopez, and NY Latino Film Festival’s Calixto Chinchilla.
“As our studio and family of filmmakers continue to make strides throughout the production process towards more inclusive storytelling for all underrepresented groups, identifying additional resources to help improve and increase Latinx portrayals onscreen is one of our top priorities,” Universal Pictures president Peter Cramer said. “With this pilot, we hope to create a reference of data points for our creative partners and industry at large to use during early stages of script development.”