A new study published Thursday finds that continuing inequality is literally costing the entertainment industry billions, and that by addressing inequalities against Black talent alone, Hollywood could add as much as $10 billion to annual revenues.
The study, from consulting firm McKinsey & Company, says it arrived at that $10 billion figure “based on closing the representation deficit for Black off-screen talent, achieving production and marketing budget parity, and giving Black-led properties equal international distribution”
As things currently stand, the problem is that existing inequalities have resulted in “fewer Black-led stories” being told, and in those projects being “consistently underfunded and undervalued, despite often earning higher relative returns than other properties.”
In addition, the study says that a major problem is the lack of systemic help within the industry in ending inequality. Instead, “the handful of Black creatives who are in prominent off-screen” — which the study defines as above-the-line roles like creators, producers, writers or directors — “find themselves primarily responsible for providing opportunities for other Black off-screen talent.”
In fact, the study says, Black talent is often shut out of promising jobs completely “unless at least one senior member of a production is Black,” and Black actors at the beginning of their careers “receive significantly fewer chances… to make their mark in leading roles, compared with white actors.” Black actors also face harsher outcomes for mistakes or for unsuccessful projects than white counterparts, the study says.
These problem are exacerbated by economic factors. “Low or no pay excludes many Black Americans from Hollywood from the start. Work in the industry also tends to be temporary and contract-based, making it less accessible to those who do not have personal savings, an inheritance, or family money to fall back on,” the study says.
It is also reflected at the executive level, with “very little minority representation among top management and boards” in film and television. The film industry was said to be “in particular is less diverse than relatively homogenous sectors such as energy, finance, and transport.”
McKinsey said it identified “close to 40 specific pain points” regularly affecting Black TV and film professionals, and recommends 4 steps for combatting the problem:
1. Ensure diverse representation, especially among off-screen talent and executives
2. Increase transparency and accountability
3. Seek and financially support a wide range of Black stories
4. Create an independent organization to promote diversity