REPORT: Hollywood Still Needs More People of Color On and Off Screen

By Sameer Rao Feb 21, 2017

A new report says that outside of modest improvements in television, Hollywood professionals of color are still underrepresented both behind the scenes and in front of the camera.

The University of California, Los Angeles’ (UCLA) Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies released its "2017 Hollywood Diversity Report" today (February 21). The study examines 168 films released in 2015, as well as 1,206 shows that aired on television or streaming platforms during the 2014-2015 season, according to the following 11 barometers: film leads, broadcast scripted leads, broadcast reality and other leads, digital scripted leads, broadcast scripted show creators, film directors, film writers, cable scripted leads, digital scripted show creators, cable scripted show creators and cable reality and other leads. 

Here are a few of the study’s key findings: 

  • People of color (POC) remain underrepresented among all of the 11 categories; among digital scripted show creators, they are outnumbered at a ratio of nearly seven to one
  • POC accounted for only 13.6 percent of film leads, increasing only .7 percent from last year, and remained underrepresented among film leads by a factor of three to one
  • Movies whose casts are at least 10 percent POC accounted for 38.5 percent of 2015’s top 10 films, which is 4 percent more than 2014; at the same time, the percentage of films with POC-majority casts decreased from 8.6 to 7.1 percent
  • POC directed 10.1 percent of films (down from 12.9 percent) and wrote 5.3 percent of them (down from 8 percent)
  • Actors of color held more broadcast and digital scripted television lead roles, rising from 8.1 to 11.4 percent and 9.1 to 11.1 percent, respectively, while their share of cable scripted leads decreased from 16.6 to 15.8 percent
  • Show creators of color decreased slightly from 7.8 to 7.5 percent

The report also shows the profitability of projects with diverse casts. Twenty-five films whose stars were 21 to 30 percent POC earned a median of nearly $105 million, compared to the $41.9 million earned by films with 10 percent or fewer stars of color.

"This is not to say that it is enough to hastily append a few actors of color or women to a cast that is at its core White and male," reads the report’s conclusion. "No, the appeal of diversity for today’s audiences has everything to do with the storytelling, which extends beyond who’s in front of the camera to the earliest moments of the creative process, when ideas for films and television shows are first pitched to agents, studios and networks."

Given its date range, the report does not account for industry changes in 2016 and beyond, included but not limited to: the 2016 #OscarsSoWhite pushback; the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ induction of 683 new members, 41 percent of whom are people of color; a 2016-2017 television season that included new Black-helmed series like "Insecure," "Queen Sugar" and "Atlanta;" and the most diverse Oscars acting pool in history.

Read the full report here, and let us know what you think in the comments.