Diversity Is The Message


There’s upheaval happening in the entertainment industry. There’s a Writer’s strike happening. The tech layoffs have caused the streaming industry to layoff their own staff as well. The movie industry scrambles to stay out of the red year after year. And they keep floundering with how to make money.

But this year’s UCLA report provides the key ingredient that studio executives willingly ignore:

Audiences want more diversity on screen.

And this week, I’d like to talk about what that actually looks like.

diverse people attending master class in studio
Photo by Matheus Bertelli on


Every year, UCLA conducts an in-depth study on how much representation there is in Movies and Television. Not only with diverse characters on screen. But also how many directors, writers and other crew that are responsible for the media we consume.

What they found is that television and streaming are doing a much better job that big, theatrical releases in creating diverse representation. Both in front of and behind the camera. While we know this, what’s surprising is how is seems studios seem to be ignoring their very customers:

The audience.

Just like the demographics of our own nation. Movie audiences recognize and prefer to see what America actually looks like on-screen. Films with diverse casts way outperform in the box office. Both here at home and also overseas. And in order to get more diverse films in the theater. This means that more diversity behind the scenes is needed. But at least for movies released in theaters. That representation is still far behind. Even though moviegoing audiences are primarily from “minority groups”.

While theatrical lags far behind, streaming is still has better opportunities for diverse representation. More than 50% of the films available on streaming platforms have diverse casts. The caveat being the majority of their films have a budget of $10M or less.

smiling diverse women sitting at desk with microphones
Photo by George Milton on


To me, this creates a divide between Big Hollywood and Little Hollywood. Big Hollywood wants to avoid risk. They want to stick their head in the sand and only bet on who and what they know. However, they are willing to spend a lot of money on what they feel is less of a risk.

Little Hollywood will take more chances on new, creative voices. But with less money. This is where you and I will most likely live. But getting our work in front of audiences might take a smaller route. We won’t get the big push of Big Hollywood from the outset. But there is a place for us and our stories in the industry.

However as time goes on. Eventually Big Hollywood won’t be able to ignore its little brother. When demand is not met, audiences will go elsewhere. In the case of movies, they will just stay home. Big Hollywood will be forced to reckon with the changing world around them. They’ll have to embrace the diversity they’ve gotten to ignore for years.

Which means the power is in our hands – the creators – to output more than we ever have. Our stories can be like a tidal wave.

Big Hollywood won’t be able to ignore us much longer.

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