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Black Hollywood Executives Still Lack Greenlight Power, Diversity Report Finds

The NAACP commissioned the study by UCLA’s Dr. Darnell Hunt

Few of the people of color invited to the executive table in Hollywood are in a position to greenlight projects, an NAACP-commissioned report by sociologist Dr. Darnell Hunt finds.

Hunt started with UCLA’s 2020 Hollywood Diversity Report documents, which saw film leads nearly triple for people of color and quadruple on the television side, but little growth for behind-the-camera talent. The report also found, “there were no Black CEOs or members of the senior management team at the major studios in early 2020, and only 3.9 percent of major studio unit heads were Black.”

To get more perspectives from the C-suite, Hunt, who is dean of Social Sciences and a professor of Sociology and African American Studies at UCLA, spoke to a representative sample of Black executives described as “highly accomplished, behind-the-scenes personnel” in the entertainment industry. 

“Black executives did not have final say on the fate of a project,” the report states. One interviewee explained, “The closer a project gets to being programmed, the higher up the ladder it needs to get approved. And the higher up the ladder you go, the less diverse the industry is overall.”


Another Black exec told Hunt, “There are about 12 people that get into a room, 12 to 15 people that discuss [a project]. But a greenlight decision is not arrived at yet in that room. The chairman takes all of those inputs and then the chairman makes the decision. That’s really one person deciding and 15 people opining.”

“We should really think about how we need to construct the leadership team in order to ensure that the people greenlighting the film look more representative of the people who attend the film,” another respondent stated.

Although there was an upswing in diversity hires after the May 2020 murder of George Floyd, Dr. Hunt writes it’s too soon to tell if it’s more than “another strategic, virtue-signaling performance deemed necessary to survive the times,” as Michelle Amor, Hilliard Guess and Bianca Sams, co-chairs of the Writers Guild of America’s West’s Committee of Black Writers, wrote in June 2020.

“While Hollywood’s studios and networks have worked to appease audience demand for more diverse, on-screen content in recent years, it appears as if they have done so without fundamentally altering the way the industry is structured – without also diversifying who is making the decisions behind the scenes,” Hunt writes.

He concludes, “Thus, the strong recommendation is that the entertainment industry employ the intellect, creativity, and affinity of Black executives to make meaningful contributions toward both the success and influence of Hollywood, by assuming lead roles in key functions throughout the content creation and delivery process.”

You can read the entire report at NCAAP.org.

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