Hollywood studios are hiring consultants to review their TV and movie scripts for fear of being accused of not having enough racial diversity in their shows, according to a report.
According to The New York Times, studios from Netflix and Disney to Paramount and Amazon, have been tapping firms like Culture House, a production firm and consultancy that employs women of color, to review TV or movie scripts for “any red flags particularly on race.”
As Hollywood faces increasing heat over racial diversity, firms like Culture House are not only asked to review scripts to scrutinize how characters are positioned in a story but also consulted on casting decisions and marketing plans, according to the report.
“It’s not only about what characters say, it’s also about when they don’t speak,” Culture House founding partner Carri Twigg said. “It’s like, ‘Hey, there’s not enough agency for this character, you’re using this character as an ornament, you’re going to get dinged for that.’”
Twigg told The Times that business was booming around the summer of 2020, not long after the murder of George Floyd, so much so that her company decided to open a division devoted to consulting.
Now, the firm says consulting for clients such as Paramount Pictures, MTV and Disney, accounts for 30% of its revenue.
“The frequency of the check-ins was not slowing down,” Twigg said. “It was like, oh, we need to make this a real thing that we offer consistently — and get paid for.”
Michelle K. Sugihara, the executive director of Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment, a nonprofit that’s on retainer with big Hollywood studios including Netflix, Paramount, Amazon and Sony, said her company also is actively involved in the production process.
For example, she said she told an unnamed studio that all of the actors playing the heroes in an upcoming scripted project appeared to be light-skinned East Asian people whereas the villains were portrayed by darker-skinned East Asian actors, according to the report.
“That’s a red flag,” she said. “And we should talk about how those images may be harmful.”
Sarah Kate, the president of LGBTQ group GLAAD, said her group had been doing consulting work “informally for years” with the networks and studios.
Rashad Robinson, the president of the advocacy organization Color of Change, said hiring consultants wasn’t enough.
“It’s fine to bring folks in from the outside but that in the end is insufficient to the fact that across the entertainment industry there is still a problem in terms of not enough black and brown people with power in the executive ranks,” he said.