In lieu of the current unrest, protests, and calls to action being made by people of color, Hollywood, which is dominated by white people, is starting to pay attention to the outcries of marginalized groups. For decades, people of color have fought tirelessly to be heard, acknowledged, and supported within the industry with little success. Even with films like Moonlight, which won an Oscar for Best Picture, and Gina Prince-Bythewood's The Old Guard, which broke Netflix streaming history, this success is not enough. Black and brown voices still aren’t being heard and fully represented.
For decades, we have begged to tell our own stories while they often continue to be told by people who are unfamiliar with our experience. “If you look at a big majority of studio films that have come out, be they biopics or stories with primarily Black characters, a lot of times you have white screenwriters,” Oscar-winning director Matthew A. Cherry recently told Variety. We have struggled to be in positions where we can make lasting changes, and we have been overlooked, furthering our suppression.
But now, between Black women flipping media companies on their head and Black consumers fully realizing their worth and buying power, it seems as if other industries are finally starting to listen and take a turn for the better. As the workplace begins to listen and uplift Black people, it’s time for Hollywood to do the same.
The issue is that despite there being hundreds of qualified people of color willing to put in the work to fix Hollywood, it feels like the people in charge somehow can’t find them. So, to help white Hollywood no longer have any excuses of not knowing any Black and brown people to hire for jobs and creatives to support financially, we are providing them with a list of incredible organizations that have some of the best BIPOC talent in the business.
There is an amazing talent pool of Black talent above the line, below the line, and in your executive ranks that deserve a seat at the table and will deliver creatively, in ratings, in streams, downloads, and at the box office. Invest in diverse talent. Systemic change is a long-term commitment — don't just talk about it, be about it!
Hue You Know
What they do: Hue You Know is a BIPOC organization with nearly 12,000 members consisting of all media professionals in entertainment from production assistants to network executives. Their members reside in all major cities in the U.S. as well as Europe, Africa, Canada, and the Caribbean. HYK has recently partnered with Staff Me Up, the number one network for production jobs in media and entertainment, to support entertainment businesses with achieving improved equity. They are providing consultations to participating employers to introduce available services and resources that address equity, inclusion and belonging, along with educational programs and workshops.
Hue You Know was created by production executive Bree Frank in effort to develop top talent while pushing for inclusion riders in production service agreements between networks and production companies for up to 25% BIPOC staff and crew. The Hue You Know team continues to work with studios, networks and streaming services to generate jobs and advancement opportunities for all people of color.
What they do: Firelight, who is responsible for incredible films like “Miles Davis: Birth Of The Cool”, “Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities”, and “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution”, was created out of a need perceived by Marcia Smith and her partner, documentary filmmaker Stanley Nelson. Smith and her husband wanted to support other BIPOC filmmakers who were struggling to get their films seen by the world. Smith and Nelson realized there was a lack of funding, but also a lack of community and support from peers so they created a space to provide assistance in a formal capacity. Firelight’s mission is to support nonfiction filmmakers of color, and cultivate audiences for their work.
Their flagship artist support program is their Documentary Lab, which is currently in its 11th year. The Doc Lab has supported more than 100 emerging filmmakers of color with financial and artistic development support to help finish their first or second documentary film(s). Alum from the Doc Lab have gone on to premiere their films at festivals such as Sundance, and have won and been nominated for every major industry award, including Emmy, Peabody, and IDA Awards.
Firelight is calling the entire industry to action on helping Black, nonfiction filmmakers get their stories told. Firelight’s co-founder Nelson wrote an op-ed which recently appeared in the LA Times on the subject.
What they do: The Blackhouse was founded in 2006 by Brickson Diamond, Carol Ann Shine, and Ryan Tarpley to help provide a space where African American filmmakers felt welcomed, celebrated their success, and had an opportunity to connect with other filmmakers of color. They have a program called Blackhouse Producers Fellowship for mid-career producers to support them in growing their production companies, aligning them with mentors, and providing them with industry access which has increased representation of diverse producers, production companies, and production executives across all platforms and genres. Blackhouse believes success in the industry is bolstered by the help of relationships which is why they developed a partnership with the Sundance Institute at the iconic Sundance Film Festival and brought other organizations along like Latino Reel and Goldhouse. Each year at Sundance, Blackhouse hosts a series of panels, roundtable discussions, and networking events focused on Black centered films and filmmakers. At Sundance they showcase the best-of-the-best in film and television and are committed to highlighting the power of Black writers, producers, directors, and executives telling Black stories like this year’s The 40-Year-Old Version from director Radha Blank. Along with Sundance, Blackhouse also does programming with Toronto Film Festival, Cannes, Comic Con, AFI, Tribeca, and formerly the LA Film Festival. Their goal is to continually change the way audiences think about Black movies and television and to keep the conversation about Black storytelling going on-screen and off for years to come.
Black Public Media
What they do: Black Public Media is committed to a fully realized expression of democracy in media, which requires developing, producing, and funding media content about the African American and global Black experience by providing training and support for Black content creators working in film and emerging media. Founded in 1979, the organization began to encourage the development and distribution of media content that reflected the Black experience, involved creative risks, and addressed the needs of unserved and underserved audiences.
Their specialty is the cultivation of Black stories, with an emphasis on the development and distribution of nonfiction, documentary, and short media content. Their primary distribution are public media channels like PBS and American Public Television. BPM-funded content has appeared on Indie Lens, POV, and in 2008, they launched their own anthology series, “AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange,” in order to showcase stories from throughout the African diaspora. Many of their funded projects can be found on streaming networks like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and Kweli-TV.
In 2018, they launched an emerging media initiative to support storytellers working with VR/AR technologies and throughout their 40-year history, BPM has invested in innovative content creators including Julie Dash, Stanley Nelson, Orlando Bagwell, Marco Williams, Byron Hurt, Michèle Stephenson, Yoruba Richen, Yvonne Welbon, and more. These are award-winning producers who now have production companies, run media arts organizations, and employ and educate hundreds of future Black mediamakers.
The Black TV & Film Collective
What they do: The Black TV & Film Collective was created to provide opportunities for Black and brown artists to achieve economically sustainable careers in TV & film. With over 1,300+ members consisting of a development and production hub for Black and Brown filmmakers and crew. Black TV & Film Collective has developed or supported over 200+ projects since their founding including OutGrown, an award-winning film that has toured both internationally and domestically on the film festival circuit in over 20 film festivals. OutGrown writer Sam Hicks has also recently landed a streaming deal on the streaming platform Up Faith & Family.
Brown Girls Doc Mafia (BGDM)
What they do: Brown Girls Doc Mafia is an initiative advocating for over 4,000 women and non-binary people of color working in the documentary film industry around the world with a mission to bolster the creative and professional success of their community, and to challenge the often marginalizing norms of the documentary field. The advocacy group’s founder & director Iyabo Boyd told me that she is motivated by the hope that she can right decades of wrongs against non-white industry creatives.
“Public outcry calls upon the film industry to ‘diversify’ yet gatekeepers often lean on excuses to maintain the status quo of an industry that is predominantly white,” she says. “Even when proven wrong, gatekeepers continue to limit their interest and investment in stories shared by filmmakers of color, or they tokenize one project or individual to check a box. The apparent excuse is they don’t have the time, resources, or know-how to genuinely do the work that would move our industry towards true diversity, equity, and inclusion. This ignorance, lack of research, and semi-conscious bias has put legions of film professionals of color at a disadvantage for generations, causing professional, psychological, and financial damage that has discouraged many of them, especially women and non-binary folks."
Through advocacy, community building, and creative and professional development, Brown Girls Doc Mafia seeks to disrupt these inequalities and invest in creatives of color. They believe women and non-binary people should be encouraged to pursue the careers they truly desire, receive support for their pursuits, and rise into positions of power in the film industry.
Other organizations and funders working to address these issues include A-Doc, Undocumented Filmmakers Collective, Nia Tero Foundation, Black Documentary Collective, New Negress Film Society, BlackStar Film Festival, Youth FX, Black Film Space, Ghetto Film School, and Mezcla Media Collective.