Money Talks, but White Supremacy Screams: How Much Does It Cost Hollywood to Undervalue Black Stories? $10 Billion

image of clapper board money
image of clapper board money
Image: Gorlov Alexander (Shutterstock)

Imagine being a capitalist structure, yet fumbling the bag in the name of racism. Then again, capitalism is a system founded on white supremacy in and of itself, so I guess it tracks.

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Anyway, that’s what Hollywood keeps doing, in such a comedy of errors that even the best screenwriter couldn’t write this shit. According to Deadline, a new study by McKinsey & Company titled Black representation in film and TV: The challenges and impact of increasing diversity explores the barriers Black talent encounter across film and TV (the first of its kind to integrate data in this way) as well as the economic consequences of this type of inequity, while encouraging an increase of inclusiveness.

Deadline further reports that the study’s data is comprised of “more than 2,000 films and [researchers] interviewed dozens of industry professionals, including writers, directors, producers, agents, actors, and executives, and collaborated with the BlackLight Collective, a coalition of Black executives and talent in the industry, including Franklin Leonard of The Black List.”

Here are the study’s highlights:

Our findings, which build on and corroborate McKinsey’s recent research on the Black experience in corporate America, include the following:

By addressing the persistent racial inequities, the industry could reap an additional $10 billion in annual revenues—about 7 percent more than the assessed baseline of $148 billion. [Based on 2019 industry revenues of $148 billion, which includes US-produced global theatrical box office, US streaming services, US cable, and US broadcast; excludes sports and unscripted programming.] Fewer Black-led stories get told, and when they are, these projects have been consistently underfunded and undervalued, despite often earning higher relative returns than other properties.

The handful of Black creatives who are in prominent off-screen, “above the line” positions (that is, creator, producer, writer, or director) find themselves primarily responsible for providing opportunities for other Black off-screen talent. Unless at least one senior member of a production is Black, Black talent is largely shut out of those critical roles.

Emerging Black actors receive significantly fewer chances early in their careers to make their mark in leading roles, compared with white actors, and they have a lower margin for error.

Both film and TV still have very little minority representation among top management and boards; film in particular is less diverse than relatively homogenous sectors such as energy, finance, and transport.

A complex, interdependent value chain filled with dozens of hidden barriers and other pain points reinforces the racial status quo in the industry. Based on our research, we catalogued close to 40 specific pain points that Black professionals in film and TV regularly encounter as they attempt to build their careers.

There are four key steps that film and TV companies can take to advance racial equity in entertainment and beyond. These steps would need to be cross-cutting and, ideally, shepherded by an independent, third-party organization that the industry creates.

If you recall correctly, there was a similar study conducted by UCLA that confirmed each movie studio could gain up to $130 million if they actually gave a fuck about producing diverse projects—and lose about that much when they don’t.

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With this new McKinsey study, we know how it financially impacts the entire industry. Basically, Hollywood’s relationship with white supremacy is so codependent (we can’t forget the very subject matter of the industry’s pioneering film, after all) the system is willing to throw away money for the delight of discrimination and erasure. Plus, the same gatekeepers who uphold this system have the nerve to then lie to us about how financially-insecure Black-led films are. Funny how that works! Ha. Ha.

If you’d like to read the full report on Black representation in film and TV: The challenges and impact of increasing diversity, visit mckinsey.com.

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.

DISCUSSION

Unless at least one senior member of a production is Black, Black talent is largely shut out of those critical roles.”

To me, this is the most telling bit. There is a reason white people claim they “don’t see color”, and it’s not the reason they seem to think.