The Amazon Studios Inclusion Policy and Playbook released last June in the U.S. is reverberating in the streaming giant’s productions around the world.
That is the main takeaway of a panel at the European Film Market on Amazon’s diversity, equity and inclusion panel where it emerged that, though it is U.S.-specific, Amazon’s teams in Europe are starting to create their own adaptations of the Playbook, including the German unit led by head of German Originals Philip Pratt.
“We are inspired by what the U.S. has done already,” said Pratt.
“The question for me seriously is how we represent German culture and the set up that we find in Germany on screen; behind the screen; in crews and camera; in the office with us and the team. So really for us it’s specifically how we work on the German guidelines,” he added.
Margy Elliott, who is Amazon Prime’s senior strategy manager, DE&I, and has been instrumental to the Playbook that outlines specific commitments and goals, said that it’s “about how we are seeking to hire in front of the camera and behind the camera,” noting that when it comes to the behind the camera aspect the crucial change is to veer off the beaten track.
“For so long in this industry people have hired their friends, hired the people they’ve worked with,” she noted.
“How do you think outside of the networks that you’ve always worked with and kind of move beyond [that]?”
Pratt said that when it comes to crews in Germany they are working towards setting up crews with a more diverse background by starting to set up training schemes.
What’s clear is that the Playbook, which sets standards on Amazon productions in areas ranging from representation in creative roles, pay equity, casting, and on including a minimum 30% women and 30% members of an underrepresented racial/ethnic group in all productions, is seen as driving a systemic change.
“We need to make everyday decisions that are going to change the course of where are industry in moving,” said Elliott.
In terms of best practices Elliott cited Barry Jenkins’ “Underground Railroad,” the adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s novel about of a group of people escaping slavery in the 1800s, for which one of the things Jenkins did was hire an on-set therapist to help with the needs on set.
“It’s such heavy content,” said Elliott, citing “the challenges for the cast members playing an enslaved person, and also for the white cast members who are playing enslavers.”
“We’ve actually taken that best practice that Barry set up and used that in a number of other sets, which has been really really helpful,” she added.
And in Germany Pratt said Amazon Studios had “an intimacy consultant as well as a transgender consultant” on its six-part series “Luden,” set in the red light district of Hamburg in the 1970s.
“We are seeing pockets of this around the world with our originals team,” Elliott pointed out.
In Italy, though this was not mentioned on the panel, following “Transparent” Amazon is navigating gender identity with a show called “Prisma,” centered around identical adolescent twins who challenge gender norms in different ways. A transgender consultant has been with the production from the writing phase as well as on set. The project has also been discussed with GLAAD in the U.S.
“In terms of where we are headed in this work it’s global,” said Elliott, noting that the content they are making in Germany and elsewhere is going to be reaching customers around the world.
“To me that is the power of the industry that we are in is that we have exposure to lives and stories and communities that are not our own.” “And hopefully as we have that exposure and have the prism into somebody else’s world we can grow our empathy and our kindness and our love and understanding for each other,” she added.
The panel was moderated by Imran Khan, who is head of development at Fremantle-owned Big Window Productions in Germany which is making the Disney Plus drama series “Sam – A Saxon,” the real-life story of Samuel Meffire, East-Germany’s first black police officer.