Amazon Studios’ Jennifer Salke on Finding Diverse Voices: ‘We’ve Only Touched the Tip of the Iceberg’

Power Women Summit 2019: AMC’s Sarah Barnett agreed that “bringing a lot of voices to America” is crucial

Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke said her company has only “touched the tip of the iceberg” when it comes to diversifying its TV and film slate, and both Salke and AMC Networks’ President of Entertainment Networks Sarah Barnett agree it’s important to introduce Americans to content and filmmakers from all over the world.

“There are a long list of voices that need to be represented, and we’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg of those voices,” Salke said at Wrap Women’s Power Women Summit in Los Angeles on Friday. “We’ve been in our own backyard in the U.S., and as you expand to different countries, like India and Brazil, I just love the ability to meet storytellers that come from their own cultures and giving them their reigns to tell a story that exists outside of their own culture. It should be that way. Language should no longer be a barrier on these shows’ global appeal.”

Barnett added: “For me, the purpose of what I do is telling stories that no joke can change people’s lives in meaningful ways… Bringing a lot of voices to America is something so profoundly exciting and so good for the overall holistic body of work that everyone here is informed by.”

Both Salke and Barnett are leaders in the industry and at their respective companies, but Barnett noted that it’s important for female leaders to be compassionate and understanding, but also honest and direct. “The constant examining of oneself can help women feel like they don’t have to be robotic,” she said.

When asked what progress they want to see within the next five years, both Salke and Barnett pointed to “Fleabag” creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge. I look at her and I look at the stories she tells and the freedoms she has a woman in her 30s she has that tie into how she can tell stories that are feminist, but that are also f—ed up and funny and not orthodox and playing with what it means to be a feminist,” Barnett said. “I look at that, and what I want is for that to continue and there to be women bursting out of the corners to tell extraordinary stories like Phoebe.”

Salke added, “That show is a big show for Amazon and it’s driven by the fearless vision of one person. It’s fearless.”