May 12, 2021

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How unrepresented TV writers faced greater inequality during the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic and ethnic uprisings last summer created more challenges and complications for TV writers from historically underrepresented backgrounds, and the progress was incremental at best. According to a new survey From Think Tank for Inclusion and Equity, a coalition of underrepresented TV writers.

For the third year in a row, the group conducted a large-scale survey of underrepresented television writers in Hollywood, responding to a lack of comprehensive data about the challenges they face when trying to rise in the industry. This year’s edition of the survey also aims to assess the impact of last summer’s epidemic and racial account on the work of under-represented television writers.

Overall, the survey, of 1,226 working TV writers, found that most TV writers’ rooms now house more women and BIPOC writers. But writers with disabilities, LGBTQ writers, and lower-level writers over the age of 50 remain severely underrepresented.

The survey found that underrepresented writers generally remain focused on the bottom, indicating that Hollywood may prioritize “diversity,” but has not yet prioritized “inclusion.” Most writers in the survey said that the people driving their shows didn’t come from underrepresented groups. This indicates that despite some signs of advancement in the industry, not enough writers underrepresented progress in their careers or reach positions of authority where they can shape how stories are told and change the culture of the industry.

“This is a mountain, and we’re still in base camp,” TV writer and TTIE co-founder Angela Harvey said at a virtual event Tuesday to present the poll results.

Underrepresented writers also still face discrimination, micro-assaults, and a disproportionate share of professional consequences for raising issues in the workplace, according to the survey. They were roughly twice as likely to be reprimanded or fired after speaking against problematic content in their shows, compared to overrepresented writers.

An underrepresented book was also nearly twice as likely to “come up with ideas that were rejected, only for another writer to come up with the same idea and be accepted.” More than a quarter of underrepresented writers in the survey said they were “always or often spoken to or interrupted” in the writers’ room.

The effects of the epidemic

The pandemic and the subsequent shift to telework and virtual meetings have created additional barriers for underrepresented television writers, according to the survey.

Several writers reported that they felt overwhelmed and exhausted but couldn’t talk about it. They also said they felt poorly heard in meetings and brainstorming sessions that took place via video conference.

In the entertainment industry, many job opportunities come from personal networks, which have largely ceased with the onset of the pandemic. According to the survey, “roughly 40% of underrepresented writers attribute their first jobs to spontaneous social interaction and water cooler conversations,” so a lack of personal communication opportunities may lead to setbacks for TV writers, especially those who are just starting their careers.

Finally, according to previous surveys, several underrepresented writers reported experiencing sexual harassment or bullying in the workplace. The TTIE report warns that “while public sexual harassment may be difficult to get rid of with the follow-up of #MeToo and #TimesUpHollywood, covert forms of harassment and bullying are still prevalent in the workplace, especially with the shift to virtual rooms.”

Racial reckoning last summer led to “more” but not necessarily “better” opportunities

The survey results also show that while last summer’s nationwide reckoning about race may have put renewed pressure on Hollywood leaders to build a more inclusive industry, the actual experiences of color TV writers have been much slower to change.

Harvey said she has had more meetings with executives. However, I have found that they want stories of colorful societies that “fit in a particular box” and draw on familiar narratives and metaphors. The TTIE report notes that “some writers fear that the push for inclusion over the past year has led to this. blackberries Unrepresented characters and facts, but not necessarily the most accurate and complex ones Best Agencies. “

Several survey respondents expressed caution and skepticism about the degree to which race account last summer would push the industry forward.

One respondent said, “By defending certain types of stories, in order for characters to have agency and more real estate, with directors, I received a lot of rants about telling certain stories.” “I don’t feel progressing as I would have liked. Or original. Or as if it’s going to continue. ”

“You are told those stories of racial injustice … [were] “He’s really welcome,” said one of the respondents identified as a woman of color in the survey. “But then, when these stories were brought up or put on the blackboard, they were kinda dismissed for being too racist or too scandalous.”

Another survey participant said that when they tried to write a black character for their presentation, their moderators were “trying to ask me to make him more black, which means he’s a more stereotypical black, without saying much … I wrote it as a real black kid, not a picture” Modularity “.

The TTIE founders said survey results show that employing underrepresented writers will never be sufficient if the culture around them does not change.

“Even if the numbers were improving, objectively, there was not enough work to change the culture and context, and thus, we are bringing underrepresented writers into a broken system,” said TTIE co-founder throughout Panyakocet Jr.

They said work to build a more inclusive Hollywood should be intentional and not just a performance.

“The book rooms do very intentional research when it comes to things like, if you participate in a legal program, you do a lot of research on the law. If you attend a medical presentation, you do a lot of medical research.” Said Sherine Razak, co-founder of TTIE. There has to be the same intent regarding the search for culture and societies, and that does not happen. “If we continue to perpetuate the same stereotypes that we learned from the media, nothing will change.”

Read the full TTIE report here.