American Horror Story co-creator Ryan Murphy is creating a foundation and commits to having half of all director slots on his shows filled by women, people of color, or members of the LGBTQ community.
The Oscars were hit hard earlier this year – again – with criticism about the lack of diversity in their nominees. #OscarsSoWhite started trending across social media platforms because for the second year in a row, every best actor nominee in all categories was white. Many people, including actress Jada Pinkett Smith and filmmaker Spike Lee, even called for a boycott of the awards show.
Now, screenwriter, director, and producer, Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story, American Crime Story), has announced that he wants to address the issue by tackling the root of the problem: the lack of opportunities for minorities in Hollywood.
Last summer, USC Annenberg completed a comprehensive analysis of diversity in recent popular films and the results painted a complete picture of Hollywood’s undeniable bias against featuring women, people of color, and LGBT characters on screen. Here’s what the study showed:
- Only 17 of the 100 top films of 2014 featured a lead or co lead actor from an underrepresented racial and/or ethnic group.
- Twenty-eight women have worked as directors across the 700 top films from 2007 to 2014. Only three were African American.
- In the 100 top-grossing films from 2014, less than one-third of all speaking characters were female, 26.9 percent were from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group, and less than .5 percent (yes, point five percent) were LGB-identified. No transgender characters appeared in the 100 top grossing films of 2014.
"I personally can do better," Murphy told the Hollywood Reporter. He recalled former publicist Nanci Ryder's speech at The Hollywood Reporter's Women in Entertainment breakfast. "Nanci said, 'People in power, you have a position and responsibility to change the industry,' and I thought, 'She's right.'"
Murphy announced that he’ll be launching a foundation called Half and has worked with bosses Dana Walden and Gary Newman to create the infrastructure. While his initial focus was on providing more opportunities to female directors, he has since widened his ambitions to include all minority candidates, and by the end of this year, he is committed to having 50 percent of all director slots on his shows filled by either women, people of color, or members of the LGBTQ community.
Murphy and his team have come up with a detailed plan for how they are going to diversify Hollywood and increase opportunities for minorities in the industry. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Half will be doing the following:
- Creating a database of names and contact information to share with other show runners who are also looking to challenge the status quo
- Begin extensive outreach efforts at colleges and universities
- Align candidates with mentors within Ryan Murphy Productions, as well as with internships and shadowing opportunities around Hollywood
Dede Gardner, Nina Jacobson, Supergirl's Ali Adler and American Crime Story director Anthony Hemingway have already committed to assisting in Half's outreach.