I’ll be honest right up at the top of this piece. I have an Indiegogo campaign running to help us produce the second season of Black Girl in a Big Dress and I hope that you’ll consider contributing to it.
I also hope that you’ll consider contributing to other crowd funding campaigns, especially if you want to see more diversity in Hollywood. Because it’s these smaller shows that will give diverse candidates the experience needed to get jobs working for major studios so that the game continues to be changed.
A Little Bit of Background
For the last 16 years, I have worked for major studios in production management, all while producing my own content independently. This dual experience has given me a really unique perspective on what it takes to work in this town.
On one hand, I know what it is to be a scrappy one-woman show, pooling together every single resource you can and hoping that you can convince enough people to turn up to your screening. I also know what it’s like to have the backing and budget of a major studio behind you, throwing money at every single problem and paying creatives top dollar for less work than you’d expect.
It would be easy to for me join the cynical chorus of people who say things like “Hollywood only makes remakes and franchises,” “Hollywood doesn’t care about real creativity,” “Executives aren’t creative at all--you have to spell everything out for them.”
I could join that chorus...if I thought that any of that were true.
Yes, Hollywood makes a lot of remakes and franchises. No, Hollywood doesn’t cast unknown actors, writers, or directors in A-list spots. And yes, if you’re pitching, you often have to walk an executive through every step of your vision.
But that’s because show business is a business and in order to be successful in that business, one has to make decisions from a business perspective. When you’ve got 80 or 100 million dollars on the line, of course you want to hedge your bets by making material that has already sold so that you’re pretty sure you can sell it again. I mean, there’s a reason all cars basically look and run the same—why take an incredibly expensive chance to reinvent something that could cost you everything?
When talking about how to help Hollywood tell stories that are more reflective of the world we live in, we have two choices. We can complain, or we can take action. I am excited to be taking action through my webseries. There’s nothing like Black Girl in a Big Dress on TV right now, and judging by the fan response, it wouldn’t be a terrible thing if that changed. I’m excited to be able to show producers and executives another slice of diverse content that speaks to so many people; and I truly believe that the more they see of shows like this, the easier it will be for them to greenlight shows like this—whether those shows are mine or other deserving projects.
Diversity Isn’t Just What You See On Camera
One of the big challenges that Hollywood has in terms of making more diverse, inclusive, and representative content is that while we are starting to see more and more inclusive faces on screen, there’s still a dearth of inclusivity behind the scenes. The decision-makers are still mostly pretty homogenous. And as good as their intentions may be, they simply may not have the life experience that would have exposed them to a wide variety of ideas and people from whom those ideas come.
And it's not just important that executives and producers become more diverse. The more diverse Art Directors, Grips, Gaffers, Prop Masters, Visual FX Artists, Wardrobe Stylists, Unit Photographers, etc. there are, the more that all parts of every production will benefit. It's not just about having diverse bodies in the stories, it's also about supporting their diversity by having their environments properly dressed, their lighting showing them off in the best way, their clothes speaking properly to their body types and backgrounds, the candid photos that publicity will use be flattering and true.
Again, it would be easy to join the chorus of voices that say that the folks doing the hiring are just giving into their biases, unconscious or otherwise; and that they’re not hiring more women, people of color, people with disabilities, etc., because they’re too happy to keep the old boy’s club going. One of the most pernicious laments of the MeToo movement is people saying that Hollywood will just keep hiring more men so that it really is an all boys’ club again so that there are no women to hold men accountable.
Having been responsible for hiring people at a few major studios, I can tell you, it’s not that simple.
Getting Behind the Camera
Here’s how hiring normally works: HR sends the person in need of an employee a bunch of resumes that they have already culled from submission, meetings, networking events, etc. The person who needs a new employee must review these resumes and cover letters, all while doing the rest of their insanely busy job. We get just a few seconds with each application and have to make a decision based on that. Production moves too quickly and there’s just no time to do a super deep dive without putting expensive deadlines at risk.
We find a few resumes we like, set up interviews, and pick the candidate who was the least awkward and hope for the best.
Or, yes, sometimes, a candidate has an existing relationship with someone at the studio and that person can shortcut through some of the above.
There have been many times when I could tell that someone would probably be a great fit, but didn’t have enough experience to justify bringing them in for an interview. Working on smaller projects, like webseries—especially if those webseries are hits—can give people much needed production experience. However, it’s hard for a lot of people to justify working on an independent project if that project cannot pay them for their time. And a LOT of independent projects do not pay people for their time. Nothing against those filmmakers, it’s a very expensive process and not everyone has the money to be able to share the wealth.
Women and people of color are less likely to be in a financial position to be able to work for free; and they are more likely to be in a position where they must financially support others—either their children (as women are still more likely to be responsible for most domestic work at home) or family members (Rates of kinship care are much higher in communities of color). This makes it extra hard for talented, but not wealthy, people to get the experience they need to be able to get themselves into a good job on a studio lot.
Here’s Where The Webseries Comes In
BGBD works very hard to pay people for their time. One of the reasons we are looking to raise this money is so that we can give people a decent paycheck for their work so that they can put great experience on their resumes so they can transition into full time jobs wherever they like.
Our core creative team is women—Writer/Producer, Director, and Editor are all women; and our production staff includes people of color, immigrants, and more women.
(And yes, we have a few white guys involved, too. Sometimes people have pushed back saying that the entire crew should be women. But I believe that a big part of advancing feminism is having more men get used to working for more women who are in charge of things J )
How You Can Help
First and foremost, if you can contribute to our Indiegogo, that would be amazing. Even a few dollars makes a big difference. The more people who donate (at whatever amount), the more we can prove that shows like this have real support, and the more likely studios are to pick up shows like ours.
If contributing isn’t for you right now, that’s totally OK! You can still help by sharing our posts and videos, and liking and commenting on the same.
You can find us:
If you are interested increasing the inclusivity you see on screen, I would also encourage you to check out other crowdfunding campaigns, especially those with a good track record and ones which are endeavoring to pay their crews. And if there's anything you think we should be watching, reply here with the link so we can all see it!
(In the interest of transparency, I am also happy to chat with anyone about budget details, just shoot me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org).
It’s a very exciting time in Hollywood. I’m excited to be a part of this change and I can’t wait to see what’s next for all of us!
If you have any questions about the show, or about working in the entertainment industry, reach out! Happy to be helpful!