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Hollywood: A Look Behind The Camera

Representation of women and people of colour has been drastically improving in the past decade, with it never being better in Hollywood than it is right now. You only have to look at blockbuster successes such as Black Panther, Moonlight and Nomadland. However, this theme is only present in front of the cameras. 

Over the past decade, the film industry’s efforts to diversify leading roles and movie casts have paid off immeasurably – according to a study carried out by UCLA’s social sciences division. However, these numbers remain stagnant when looking behind the camera. Despite repeated pledges from Hollywood to improve diversity in this area, it isn’t getting any better. In fact, a study published in 2020 from the Creative Diversity Network found that diversity behind the camera has been getting worse over time. 

The study found that positions such as directors, producers, writers, camera operators and execs are being filled less and less by those who are women, black, Asian or ethnic minority, disabled, transgender or the over-50s.

In this week’s article, we will explore the growth (or lack of) that has taken place in regards to diversity behind the camera. 


The most troubling finding is the lack of progress for people of colour trying to secure directing jobs. In 2011, people of colour made up 12.2% of directors of theatrical films. While that percentage has fluctuated over the last decade, growth has remained flat. In 2019, just 14.4% of directors of theatrical films were people of colour.

In contrast, and slightly more positive news, women directors have seen growth in the past decade. In 2011 women made up 4.1% of directors, whereas in 2020 this jumped to 16% working on the 100 highest-grossing films of the year. Although this does demonstrate a shift towards gender balance in Hollywood, women of colour, however, were far less represented, as reported in a study by Ramone and Hunt. They state that black womenremained underrepresented by a factor of more than 3 to 1 in this employment arena in 2019.”

Although women and different races have made modest gains among the ranks of directors for Hollywood’s top films, both groups still have a long way to go before reaching fair and proportional representation in directing. This underscores how much more resistant Hollywood execs have been to advancing diversity behind the camera than in front of it. 


White men continue to dominate the ranks of Hollywood screenwriters – a fact that is clearly associated with the less-than-robust depictions of women and people of colour plaguing the most conventional projects, or the absence of their stories altogether.  

Ramone and Hunt highlight in their study that, both people of colour and women have posted meaningful gains since 2015, among the ranks of Hollywood screenwriters. After remaining largely stuck under 10% for most of the decade, screenwriters of colour did at least enjoy a larger uptick in the latter half of the 2010s, from 7.8% in 2017 to 13.9% in 2019. The percentage of women writers also grew over the same period, from 12.6% in 2017 to 17.4% in 2019 – but almost all of those women were white. And in both cases, screenwriters in 2020 were still considerably whiter and more male than the general population. Its difficult to conclude whether the increasing diversity within writing is part of a trend or just a momentary spike for an industry trying to prove they are becoming more diverse.

Awards Season

It feels like were asking the same question every year. Nominations are announced and all the major categories are dominated by white actors and male directors, despite widespread calls for change. And, although there have been some steps forward such as Chloe Zhao’s win for Nomadland this year, Moonlight winning Best Picture in 2017, and Daniel Kaluuya’s win for best supporting actor in 2018, the 2020 academy awards made one thing clear – that there is still a long way to go.

However, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon with the 2021 academy awards boasting the most diverse nominations since 2016. And since 2020, a new update has been announced, the academy awards are introducing eligibility requirements for the Best Picture award, to “encourage equitable representation on and off the screen to better reflect the diversity of the movie-going audience”. The requirements will only apply to films made in 2024, to be eligible for the awards ceremony the following year and going forwards. So, we will have to wait and see the impact of this decision. 


Lastly, and most obviously, the higher ranks in Hollywood continue to be dominated by white men. According to the study, 91% of studio heads are white and 82% are male. Senior management is similarly monolithic: 93% white and 80% male. And while execs who oversee core studio operations – marketing, casting, legal, etc. – are approaching gender parity, with 59% male, they are still 86% white. Hunt and Ramón note that these figures are a slight improvement” over figures from the 2015 Hollywood Diversity Report, when studio heads, for example, were 100% male.

To Conclude...

The industry has come a long way in the last decade, especially in front of the camera. Audiences desire to see a more inclusive cast and story have pushed Hollywood into rethinking how they make movies, who leads their movies and what stories they tell. 

However, the increasing — and lucrative — diversity on screen and the lack of it behind the scenes is impossible to ignore. As Ramone and Hunt argue Its as if the White men dominating Hollywood have opted to pursue a strategy of trying to appease the increasingly diverse market with more