The buzzword in Hollywood over the past few years has been diversity. Like anything in life, though, it's easier to talk about change than to effect it, and particularly so in an industry that is, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, so deeply superficialIt's one thing to treat diversity as a seasonal trend and yet quite another to bring anything like systemic change in terms of hiring practices to an industry that is still hidebound to outmoded traditions and dangerous ways of doing business. 

While the #MeToo movement brought long-overdue attention to entrenched sexual harassment (and campaigns like April Reign's #OscarSoWhite turned a spotlight on the biggest award ceremony of them all) Hollywood made "no progress in on-screen diversity" in 2017, according to a recent study from USC. Another look at the industry from UCLA found women and minorities underrepresented in many categories. 

At this year's TIFF, producer/moderator Lea Marin joined Reign, Shawn Finnie (Associate Director of Member Relations at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences), filmmaker Patricia Gomes, and Tema Steig (Women in Mediagathered for a panel called "Crewing Up and Breaking Through" that looked at the issue of representation behind the camera, with a focus on points of access for artists looking to break in and ways for industry professionals to find talent that diversifies their below-the-line crews. 

1. Lateral Networking

April Reign stressed the importance of "Networking laterally [and] horizontally, in addition to just vertically." In her opinion, a frequent mistake young people make (and this is true, arguably, for everyone trying to break into film) is not remembering to network with others on their own level. "You need to remember who and where you are and understand that sometimes the folks who are right there are struggling with you, on your level, or just slightly above are the ones that can really give you the hookups and put you on."  

2. Industry Initiatives

Finnie outlined what the Academy is doing to address issues of diversity: The Gold Program is "an initiative that fosters interns and places them strategically in different sectors of the entertainment industry" along with creating programs that connect interns with mentors. As far as advice for aspiring filmmakers, Finnie had three tips: Make impactful content, continue to strive, and "Find your community. Community is not based on gender but finding the the the tentacles that speak to where you are and being able to connect with them and engage with them." 
Steig, for her part, discussed work with the program Hollywood CPR (Cinema Production Resources), a non-profit that "offers vocational training in the trades and skills required for careers in the Artists, Crafts, and Technicians departments of the entertainment industry to primarily underserved and under-represented populations." Steig also discussed how Women in Media is working to connect crew members with producers and directors, fostering relationships and connections that have led to meaningful positions in the industry. "We have people who can hire," she said, "and people in a position to be hired." 

3. Lasting Change

In order to make change anything more than just a buzzword, there needs to be sustained attention, and although Hollywood seems to be coming around to the idea that diversity can equal box office (which, unfortunately, often seems like the only metric of value the industry has), there is still a long way to go before talented people can find parity in the industry on their merits.
In a nod to the inevitability of real-world complexity, the efforts of these panelists speak to the fact that initiatives and programs only work when young people form communities and engage in "lateral networking" so that real change, when it comes, is the result of an irresistible pool of talent meeting a (finally) amenable power structure. 

Source: TIFF