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WGA West Committee of Black Writers Call on Studios to Prioritize Diverse Hiring

The Writers Guild of America West has issued an open letter from its committee of black writers, the first time the guild has released a statement specifically from one of its committees, that calls on . and the studios to do more than just issue statements of support and actually prioritize the hiring of black writers.

The three-page letter penned by WGAW Committee of Black Writers co-chairs Michelle Amor, Hilliard Guess and vice chair of the committee Bianca Sams invokes “The Birth of a Nation” as a symbol of generations of oppression in . and cites a 2020 UCLA . Diversity Report that says black writers received only 5.6% of all the writing jobs among 2019 films.

“Some have tried to blame this on a shortage of Black writers, yet there are at least 808 self-identified Black writers in the Guild; we have been here, ready to work,” the letter reads. “We need to revolutionize the way our industry hires writers. When companies and studios claim to champion diversity but refuse to prioritize hiring Black writers for a writers’ room or to contribute to Black narratives, you are perpetuating a system that either exploits or excludes Black experience and perspective.”

The letter demands that studios adhere to their statements of support for black voices and abolish the practice of hiring writers from very exclusive lists, saying that too often black writers are considered unable to write for the mainstream, but white writers are all too frequently called upon to tell black narratives.

“If you only hire other white people you know, you are enabling the spread of unconscious bias and racial inequity in .. If you don’t know any Black writers, expand your circle,” the letter says. “Your unwillingness to know and work with Black people is part of your unwillingness to humanize us as your equals. This mentality may be subtle in one context, and have the potential to be fatal for us in the next.”

The letter name drops the many studios that have put out statements of support for the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the protests surrounding George Floyd’s death, but the committee says they’ll be watching closely at the actions . takes beyond their statements.

“., what you do next is paramount. As the most powerful entertainment industry in the world, we challenge you, the powers that be, those individuals with unmistakable privilege, the elite executives who gave the ok on those statements, to begin instituting real systemic change,” the letter concludes. “Basically, either you commit to a new, institutionalized system of accountability with and to Black writers, or you prove that you’re putting on just another strategic, virtue-signaling performance deemed necessary to survive the times. But you won’t be able to survive without the radical inclusion of Black writers and artists on your sets and in your studios.”

The full text of the letter is attached here.

Every Black Director Nominated for an Oscar, From John Singleton to Spike Lee (Photos)

Spike Lee became only the sixth black director to receive an Oscar nomination in the Academy’s history for his work on « BlackKklansman. » But so far, no black filmmaker has won in that category.

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John Singleton, « Boyz N the Hood » (1991) • Two years after Spike Lee was passed over for a nomination for « Do the Right Thing, » John Singleton became the first African American to earn a Best Director nomination for his star-studded drama set in South Central L.A. That year, Jonathan Demme won the award for « The Silence of the Lambs. »

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Lee Daniels, « Precious » (2009) • Eighteen years passed before a second African American filmmaker was recognized: Lee Daniels, for his gritty portrait of a young woman seeking to overcome a childhood of poverty and abuse. In another Oscar first, Kathryn Bigelow became the first female director to win the Oscar, for « The Hurt Locker. »

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Steve McQueen, « 12 Years a Slave » (2013) • British director Steve McQueen gritty drama about American slavery picked up nine nominations, including one for his directing. While the film won Best Picture (and McQueen earned a statuette as a producer), he lost the directing prize to « Gravity » filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón.

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Barry Jenkins, « Moonlight » (2016) • Jenkins’ underdog indie pulled off a major upset, beating front-runner « La La Land » for Best Picture. But Damien Chazelle claimed the directing prize for the modern-day musical. (Jenkins did take home the statuette for Best Adapted Screenplay.)

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Jordan Peele, « Get Out » (2017) • Peele became the latest actor-turned-filmmaker to earn a Best Director nod, for his feature filmmaking debut. Peele won an Oscar for his original screenplay but Guillermo del Toro won Best Director for « The Shape of Water. »

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Spike Lee, « BlackKklansman » (2018) • Despite wide acclaim for such films as 1989’s « Do the Right Thing » and 1992’s « Malcolm X, » the pioneering filmmaker earned his first nomination decades into his career for this fact-based tale of a black undercover cop who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan.

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Spike Lee finally makes the cut for “BlackKklansman”

Spike Lee became only the sixth black director to receive an Oscar nomination in the Academy’s history for his work on « BlackKklansman. » But so far, no black filmmaker has won in that category.

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