Diversity and inclusion is not just a buzzword term anymore as organizations are implementing actual change. What’s up with Time’s Up? Its co-founder Roberta Kaplan resigns. Progress may be here regarding depictions of deaf performers, but will it last? These and other news stories of the week.
PBS, the public broadcasting network, introduced several new diversity initiatives and producing partners criteria at its Television Critics Association (TCA) summer presentation on Tuesday, August 10 -- IndieWire reports.
Cecilia Loving, former New York City Fire Department (FDNY) Deputy Commissioner, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, has been named the new SVP of Diversity Equity and Inclusion at PBS, reporting directly to President and CEO Paula Kerger.
“Cecilia is an accomplished leader who has extensive experience driving inclusive and equitable strategies,” Kerger said in a statement. “As a system that serves every person in every community, reflecting the full range of the American experience is central to the mission of public television, and Cecilia will play an integral role in deepening our longstanding commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.”
Loving will work with producing partners and follow criteria to encourage the telling of inclusive stories and voices through its programming.
“PBS works closely with producing partners, station producers and individual creators to distribute educational and thought-provoking content to millions of viewers each year,” said Sylvia Bugg, PBS Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, General Audience Programming. “Our updated criteria and reporting standards will ensure that the content distributed across PBS platforms continues to reflect the diversity of the audiences we serve.”
These efforts come after PBS faced questions during the network’s previous TCA panel in March over an open letter from documentary filmmakers that cited a “systemic failure to fulfill (its) mandate for a diversity of voices.” The letter questioned PBS’s dependence on “one white male filmmaker”-- Ken Burns-- who has an exclusive relationship with PBS and has created more than 211 hours of programming spanning 40 years.
The letter asks PBS to build a path forward for BIPOC filmmakers.
The Wrap reported The Recording Academy announced an inclusion rider for production on the 2022 Grammy Awards telecast, an effort to ensure that the production staff on the ceremony will be diverse at all levels of the show’s production.
The inclusion rider offers provisions to ensure that a film or TV production’s hiring of cast and crew will be equal and diverse and draw from a wider pool. The rider is in development now between the Recording Academy and the racial justice nonprofit Color of Change and is part of the Recording Academy’s larger #ChangeMusic campaign.
The Grammys will become the first major awards show to implement a rider. It will require the production company to audition, recruit, and hire from a diverse pool of both onstage and offstage talent who have been systematically excluded from the industry.
Efforts to implement a rider have been in the works since 2019, but the full details will be released to the public on September 16.
“We’re honored to work alongside Color Of Change and the Inclusion Rider’s esteemed co-authors as we take this monumental step to ensure equitable industry standards that support a more diverse and inclusive music community,” Harvey Mason Jr., CEO of the Recording Academy, said in a statement. “As the Academy continues its transformational journey, diversifying our industry is at the core of every decision we make. We’re dedicated to fostering an environment of inclusion industry-wide and hope that our efforts set an example for our peers in the music community.”
Time’s Up co-founder and prominent lawyer Roberta Kaplan has resigned from the organization after she was named in the New York Attorney General’s investigation into Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s sexual harassment allegations -- Variety reports.
Time's Up is a charity that raises money to support victims of sexual harassment, founded in 2018 by Hollywood celebrities in response to the Weinstein effect and the #MeToo movement. After the Attorney General’s investigation revealed that Gov. Cuomo sought input from Kaplan for a response to ex-aide Lindsey Boylan’s allegations of sexual harassment, many survivors began questioning the mission of Time’s Up.
Kaplan’s resignation comes after a group of former Time’s Up staffers and Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund clients published an open letter to the board, calling out the organization for “failing all survivors.”
“We write to you as a collective group of survivors and victims who believe Time’s Up is failing the survivor community. We believed in your mission and hoped that your investment in eradicating sexual assault and harassment in the workplace would change the tide to support us as we came forward, but we are disappointed,” the letter reads. “Time’s Up” has abandoned the very people it was supposed to champion. The board continues to fail to heed the outcry from survivors. Time’s Up is failing all survivors.”
The open letter said Time’s Up “should be ashamed” of its involvement with people accused of sexual abuse.
“There is a consistent pattern of behavior where the decision-makers at Time’s Up continue to align themselves with abusers at the expense of survivors. Time’s Up should be ashamed,” the letter says. “Time’s Up has prioritized its proximity to power over mission. And now that Time’s Up’s board members’ and staff’s actions have come to light, you cannot rewrite history by signing open letters to the New York State Senate and Assembly calling on them to remove Governor Cuomo from office when you actively worked to further his defense behind closed doors.”
The survivors call for Time’s Up to reassess its mission.
“If the focus is not on sexual assault survivors then that kind of begs the question … who is exclusively fighting on our behalf?” said Louise Godbold, executive director of trauma and resilience for the nonprofit Echo, who has accused disgraced mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct. “If it’s not Time’s Up — and I understand, with my own nonprofit our mission evolved, it happens — then who is working on behalf of survivors? There needs to be a reassessment, and if the de facto mission is different to the stated mission, then that needs to be realigned.”
The letter listed eight demands, among them that Time’s Up should launch a third-party investigation to detail the full extent to which its board and staff members have been “approached by, offered advice to, or are representing perpetrators of harm.” It also called on the organization to remove any board members or staffers who have supported perpetrators immediately, as well as to reject and return any donations and cut ties from individuals and corporations that have been accused of sexual harassment, assault, or are litigating in opposition to survivors.
Tina Tchen, president and CEO of Time’s Up, along with her board, said in a statement that the organization is working to address the concerns of survivors. “The events of the last week have made it clear that our process should be evaluated and we intend to do just that. We need more transparency about our vision of change-making, and we need a more inclusive process to engage the broader survivor community, many of whom have spent years doing the noble work of fighting for women,” Tchen said in a statement.
“As an entire organization, we are going to take time and evaluate how we best do this collectively or as individuals. We are working with our team on how we show up in this next phase of this work. We will seek engagement with survivor communities, allies and critics alike. And we will share our intentions.”
In better news, The Gotham Awards will replace the best actress and best actor categories with a single category for “outstanding lead performance ” -- The New York Times reports.
While the biggest award shows like the Oscars, Emmys, and Tonys have stuck with the best actor and best actress categories, a growing number of other ceremonies have moved to gender-neutral awards. The Berlin Film Festival in March handed out their first non-gendered awards. The Grammy Awards stopped separating male and female artists back in 20212. And now The Gotham Awards, the annual New York ceremony for independent film, is the latest film honor to shift to acting categories that aren’t defined by gender, starting with its November ceremony.
The Gothams will replace its best actress and best actor categories with a single category for an outstanding lead performance. For the first time, there will be a category for supporting roles: outstanding supporting performance.
“There are so many talented nonbinary individuals, and it’s not fair to force them into male and female boxes,” said Jeffrey Sharp, the executive director of the Gotham Film and Media Institute in New York. “We have a really proud history of inclusivity. It’s part of our DNA. But it was time for us to evolve, too.”
Hopefully, other award ceremonies will follow. After all, gender is a social construct.
That is the question The Wrap is exploring in its special report.
Recent films like A Quiet Place, Sound of Metal, and CODA, a Sundance phenomenon that debuts this week on the Apple TV+ streaming service, suggest that progress may be here in terms of mainstream depictions of deaf performers and themes. But will it last and what is the next step?
“The deaf community has empowered itself to believe they can do anything,” said Paul Raci, the Oscar-nominated star of Sound of Metal who is hearing but was raised by deaf parents. “Is it a watershed moment? I think so, but it’s different than other times because we’ve had this before. Someone gets something, and then it fades away.”
There is a reason to worry that the momentum may not last. Many thought Hollywood’s breakthrough would come after 1986’s Children of a Lesser God, which won Matlin the Oscar for Best Actress and earned five other nominations, or Switched at Birth, the ABC Family drama that aired from 2011-17 and broke ground with multiple deaf leads and recurring characters.
“I am warmed by the increased exposure of our community and language in Hollywood and on social media, but I am also old enough to know how quickly the pendulum can swing the other way. For that reason, the current moment does not feel like it meets all of the metrics of what we strive for,” DJ Kurs, the artistic director of Los Angeles’ Deaf West Theatre, said. “What happens after Sound of Metal? How do we compel Amazon, for example, to greenlight projects that deaf writers and creators put forth? We go back to square one all the time, and I do everything in my power to break that cycle.”
Hollywood could start by recognizing that deaf people’s stories don’t revolve strictly around the experience of being deaf. “It’s time for new creative content by us and not some uninspiring and recycled storylines about who gets fixed, like, such stories about who received cochlear implants and who gets to hear a sound,” said Jade Bryan, a Black deaf filmmaker who has been making independent films as a director, writer, producer, and financier since 1997.
“Ain’t nobody wanna be perceived as helpless and hapless people,” she said. “We need to stop writing these types of stories. We’re self-reliant superheroes who see things through our eyes and perform magical stuff! We should be saving them!”
Bryan, a vocal critic of the Netflix series Deaf U, who started the Deaf Talent Movement a decade ago to advocate for BIPOC deaf talent, also pointed out the challenges for nonwhite members of the deaf community to get their stories told.
“I’m waiting to learn whether Hollywood is ready to be open to stories written and developed by BIPOC deaf creators about Black deaf and hearing families,” Bryan told TheWrap. “Fear is the biggest factor. People fear what they don’t know. The truth is, we’re no different than they are. These are groundbreaking stories when they are told from our perspective. This is what inclusive means to me. I don’t want anyone telling my stories unless they are open to allowing us to lead because it is not their lived experience.”
More representation leads to more authentic stories. Not only would these stories help hearing people form new perspectives, but more importantly, the deaf community would be able to recognize their experiences on screen.
Curious to see what happens in the industry next week? Sign up for our weekly newsletter and the latest production jobs!
Demi Vitkute writes the weekly film industry news blog for Productions.com. She’s a journalist who has covered entertainment, fashion, and culture. Demi is a founder of The Urban Watch Magazine and has written for The Washington Post, Inside Hook, and Promo Magazine, among others. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and Emerson College.