BE Conference 2020: “Until the executive leadership of this industry and the board seats are filled with what America looks like, we will not see the change that we need,” LA Collab co-founder Ivette Rodriguez says
Hollywood has made some strides in recent years toward sharing the stories and featuring the talent of underrepresented creatives — but until longstanding gatekeepers are willing to cede power, the industry writ large is “never going to move forward,” said Ivette Rodriguez, the co-founder of LA Collab, an impact group advancing Latino access and representations in the entertainment industry.
Speaking at TheWrap’s 2020 BE Conference on Wednesday alongside Color of Change Vice President Arisha Michelle Hatch and “Pose” star Hailie Sahar, Rodriguez didn’t mince words when evaluating Hollywood’s progress toward diversifying the entertainment and media industry.
“There’s been a lot of talk about diversity and inclusion in Hollywood. There are divisions that are responsible for this. And at the end of the day, nothing has happened. We continue to talk about it,” Rodriguez said. “Until we actually have a seat at every single table, we’re never going to move forward because anyone that has any kind of power in Hollywood — whether it’s hiring power, whatever division you’re in, whether it’s greenlighting power — it’s power. It doesn’t matter who you are. It’s power. And you say, ‘I want to make change, but as long as you don’t take my power away, as long as it doesn’t change my pocketbook, as long as I don’t have to change, then I’m all for this.'”
“Until the executive leadership of this industry and the board seats are filled with what America looks like,” Rodriguez continued, “we will not see the change that we need.”
Hatch said that amid the ongoing reckoning over racial injustice and inequity in this country, she said the “change” that did happen didn’t seem to come from a “genuine” place.
“People tend to make changes in response to crisis and only in a PR way. They’re not doing it from this genuine gut [feeling], like, ‘I want to do it.’ Something happens in the world and they want to not be on the wrong side of public history,” Hatch said. “I think that’s really hard to sustain.”
Meanwhile, when it comes to representation in films and other entertainment, Hatch said gatekeepers were still using “deeply racist and sexist” excuses to exclude underrepresented talent.
“There’s a lot of excuses about whether marginalized communities, marginalized creatives are creative enough, talented enough, whether there’s enough of us, which is just ridiculous to me. Creativity comes from being an outsider,” Hatch said. She also pointed to how research has found that it’s profitable for studios to release movies featuring a diverse cast.
Sahar said that at the end of the day, people need to remember to have a basic, human level of respect for one another.
“At what point in our lives of adulthood do we forget that lesson when you were taught as child? Don’t hit that person, don’t be mean to that person. At what point do you age and you lose that information? I think we have to get back to the simplicity … of remembering we are human beings, all of us, no one is going to be here forever,” Sahar said. “We need to get back to humanizing each other.”
The BE Conference, presented by WrapWomen, is Hollywood’s leading mentorship conference. The event is designed to provide opportunities for the next generation of women in media and entertainment, with a focus on underrepresented voices. This year’s programming and mentorship is dedicated to breaking barriers, inspiring action and creating inclusive opportunities for all.