Early this year, award-winning filmmaker Ava DuVernay launched ARRAY Crew, a database for Hollywood's below-the-line crew members made to amplify women, BIPOC, and other underrepresented film and TV creators. This is an important step toward providing opportunities to some who might struggle to get their feet in the door of the entertainment industry.
This week, DuVernay and Black List founder Franklin Leonard got together for a SXSW 2021 panel called "Disruption Through Diversity." They discuss the need for change in Hollywood's hiring practices and how they can increase equity on sets.
Dig into the big takeaways!
DuVernay's start inspired how she helps others
Did you know DuVernay first joined a film set as a publicist on a Screen Gems project? She was part of the early work Sony was doing as a studio to target Black audiences.
Leonard asked about what it was like to walk onto a set where most of the people around her did not look like her.
"Same normal. Because that's what's been normalized. I didn't walk on thinking I was the only one," DuVernay said. "I mean, you're aware that you're the only one, but we work in Hollywood, and that's the way it is. It wasn't until I started building my own crews and making my own films that I thought, Oh, wait, there's a choice here."
She wondered why this choice was so prominent on so many sets. Was it racism? She decided that it was more an issue of ignorance and an unwillingness to find solutions.
"There are a lot of reasons that aren't, 'I don't like Black, brown people and women,'" she said. "There are a lot of other reasons. And so once I got past that, I started saying, 'Oh, well, there are solutions for that.' I don't really know the solutions to change it from being a raging racist. But I do know that we can come up with solutions, to give tools for systems that are imbalanced. And that's what ARRAY Crew is."
She said she wanted to diversify her crews in lots of ways. She didn't want to be the only woman. She wanted people of all races and ages, even "meaner people."
Credit: RL Jackson
What is ARRAY Crew?
Crewing up this way led to the formal creation of ARRAY Crew, something DuVernay called "IMDb meets LinkedIn." It is a nonprofit site that connects hiring managers with all kinds of crew members from underrepresented populations.
Users just need to be at least the age of 18, have one credit minimum, and eligible to work in the United States.
The site is free to use with no premium tiers. DuVernay promised it would always be free to the crew members.
You can add your race/age/other identifying information to your profile, but hiring managers cannot search for users by that information.
Before the formal launch, DuVernay said they already had 3,000 members on the database.
The database was built from the ground-up to better serve the entertainment industry with a proprietary UI. There will also soon be an accompanying app and an international version of the platform.
DuVernay said hiring managers don't necessarily need to come to the site with diversity and inclusion in mind—it's simply a well-built site for finding crews and getting people jobs.
ARRAY for education
Part of DuVernay's goal is to show people how many roles on film sets need to be filled. Some people might have experience that they don't even know could be useful on a film set.
"Our dream is that we eventually are able to educate people on all of the kinds of positions that are available on these sets," DuVernay said. "You know, a set is like a small town. It has a mechanic, it has a hairdresser, it has a gardener. It has a construction, hardware store. It has a parking lot. It has all the things that—"
"A restaurant," Leonard said, referring to crafty.
The point was, DuVernay said there is a place for anyone who is interested in working in film and TV.
"True success would mean that it's obsolete in a decade"
DuVernay doesn't want to normalize the need for the app.
She hopes that with increased diversity of all types on sets, it will become common practice for crews to feature people of all backgrounds. No database needed!
Hopefully, that future comes sooner rather than later.
You can check out ARRAY Crew's official website for more information.
For more, read our ongoing coverage of the 2021 SXSW Festival.