'Change the Lens' Pledge Calls for African American Representation in Production

How can we improve representation in film and television? 

The world is undergoing a big change and it's for the better. Representation matters. When you see people doing a job, you can suddenly imagine yourself doing it. Your future can change and more opportunities are welcomed. 

But for far too long, we haven't seen equal representation in Hollywood, and that's ended a lot of people's dreams. 

That needs to change, too. 

That's why a group of more than 100 Black filmmakers, including Park Pictures’ Savanah Leaf and Prettybird’s Calmatic, has teamed up to launch Change the Lens, a new initiative calling for 15% Black representation at all levels of production.

Change the Lens is backed by the Black Filmmakers Collective, a group that includes Park Pictures director Leaf and Alli Maxwell, executive producer at Florence. The initiative asks creative companies to commit to increasing the diversity of their department heads and crew. 

In Leaf's words, “The talent already exists and is rapidly expanding; there is no valid reason not to make and live up to the pledge.”

They want to see diversity reflected in every department. 

Leaf continued, “It’s essential this person is independent of the company so there is no conflict of interest...All production companies, regardless of size, hire hundreds, if not thousands of individuals to work on their commercial film sets every year. Yet, most production companies have never consulted with Diversity & Inclusion professionals in any substantive or sustained way before.” 

“Currently, Black directors and in-house staff are acting as informal diversity consultants,” adds Maxwell. “These individuals do not have the prerequisite qualifications, and the expectation for them to consult is in addition to their normal everyday workload. This responsibility needs to be given to an independent, experienced consultant that supports all underrepresented talent and staff and ensures long-term accountability across all production companies and film crews within the commercial film industry.”

So, who has signed so far?

Companies that have taken the pledge up to this point include Park Pictures, Luti Media, Academy Films, Somesuch, and Rattling Stick.

But surely more will come. And there's no reason this does not spread to TV and film companies as well. 

Maxwell adds, “Acknowledging racism exists and continuing with business as usual is not an acceptable option anymore when there is clear and overdue work that needs to be done regarding racial equality and equity in production. Change The Lens presents a critical mechanism for moving us forward as an industry and for holding one another accountable in the process.”

We are well on our way to this better world, but only if we continue to demand change and hold companies accountable.      

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This will fail as have all other attempts to force a specific ratio of "whatever" (directors, musicians, doctors, engineers, teachers, etc) based on "whatever" (gender, race, age, location, education, etc). This is all feel good B.S. and at the end of the day does more harm than good. Quit bitching and talking and collaborating ... and start doing something to make a difference, start a mentoring program, hire some interns, fund some scholarships, create some training courses ... I know, it's easier to do the former ... but real change takes real effort and it's a lot of work .... and therein lies the problem.

July 18, 2020 at 7:03AM


Exactly! I don't get the whole representation culture. My opinion is this: If you are good at something you will get hired. I bet every one of color who is good at what they are doing also gets the job. Maybe there is not enough potential people of color who want to work in the creative industry so that there is a high enough % off them being good or great in the field they are working in, so the % of overall people of color being hired is lower. I think skill should always be the deciding factor, not some arbitrary quotas.

Let me ask this: What if some production needs to fulfill a given quota hires someone of color and skips on someone, not the same color but the skipped person is more skillful? Isn't that then discriminating against the other person?

All I say is let the skill of the person decide, not the color. We always need to fight for our opportunities disregarding our color. May the best win, not the one whit the right color.

July 21, 2020 at 4:43AM, Edited July 21, 4:45AM

Tomaz Kovacic
Self taught: Director, VFX artist, Editor,...

I agree. The hard truth is that Film & TV operates in the arena of "dream jobs", and inherently you are massively benefitted by your priveledges in this field more than others. If the Industry cared about equity and not just PR, they would ban productions from using unpaid labor and offer a living wage to PAs. They won't though, because there's an large group of wealthy kids willing to work for free.

July 22, 2020 at 6:05PM

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