Latest findings published on the state of diversity in writing for TV and Film
The Writers Guild of America West’s most recent analysis of diversity in writing for television and film in the entertainment industry finds a mixture of slow, forward progress, stalls and reversals. Titled Renaissance in Reverse?, the 2016 Hollywood Writers Report (HWR) examines employment patterns of Guild members and focuses on the progress of women, minority, and older writers relative to their male, white, and younger counterparts.
“Progress has been slow at best for women and minority writers in an era of television renaissance, while film sector stagnation has witnessed either anemic advances or actual reversals of fortune for groups of writers that remain woefully underrepresented in both sectors,” said Dr. Darnell Hunt, the report’s author and Director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA.
The new report looks at data through 2014 and while women TV writers have made minor advances in terms of employment and earnings, women screenwriters lost ground in film sector earnings. For minority TV writers, advancements in employment share and relative earnings have stalled. In the film sector minority writers have experienced only slight gains in their share of employment and a small closing of the earnings gap.
Older writers age 51 to 60 have emerged as the highest paid TV writers among the age groups by 2014, while screenwriters age 41 to 50 remained the highest paid in the film sector.
Since the last HWR (released in 2014 and considering data through 2012), TV production has continued to flourish, while the number of major theatrical film releases has declined. The explosion in original, scripted programming across broadcast, cable, and digital platforms has ushered in a resurgence of television, while theatrical film production among the major studios has been reduced significantly. In this context, white males continued to maintain their dominant hold on employment and earnings in both sectors.
Key findings in the report include:
Women Writers’ TV Employment Increases
- Woman’s share of television employment increased 2 percentage points between 2012 and 2014, from 27 percent to 29 percent.
Women TV Writers Close Income Gap
- Women television writers earned approx. 93 cents for every dollar earned by white males in 2014, up slightly from 91 cents in 2012.
Gender Earnings Gap in Film Widens Again
- Women writers earned 78 cents for every dollar earned by their white male counterparts in 2012. By 2014, the relative earnings figure dropped to 68 cents.
Minority Share of Television Employment Remains Flat
- Accounting for 13 percent of television writers, minorities remain underrepresented by a factor of about 3 to 1 among writers in the sector.
Minority Share of Film Employment Increases Slightly
- The minority share of film employment increased a percentage point to 7 percent since 2012, but still has further to go before minorities catch up with their white counterparts; minorities continued to be underrepresented by a factor of about 5 to 1 among employed film writers in 2014.
Older Writers’ Employment Share Continues to Increase in Television and Film
- In 2014, television writers 51 to 60 enjoyed a 1 percentage point increase in employment share between 2012 and 2014, from 18 to 19 percent. In film, the pattern continued, as older writers aged 51 to 60 enjoyed a 1 percentage-point increase in employment share between 2012 and 20114, from 17 percent to 18 percent.
To read the 2016 Hollywood Writers Report click here.
“The Guild has watched for years as the progress made by our industry has, in essence, flatlined. Today’s report makes it emphatically clear that our Guild needs not just to mirror a broken system, but to work to change it,” said WGAW President Howard A. Rodman. “We’ve already implemented successful Access Projects, in which diverse writers in film and television who have slipped between the cracks are put forward through a competitive selection process. Additionally we’ve put in place a Staff Writer Bootcamp, to give ‘diversity slot’ writers and others strategies for succeeding in their rooms; added an emphasis on the importance of hiring diverse staffs to the already robust Showrunner Training Program; hosted a public exploration of unconscious bias; scheduled workshops for our own leadership. Going forward, we are phasing in new programs to move toward the goal we all share: to ensure that at every level our industry becomes as inclusive as the audiences it serves.”
The WGAW Diversity Department’s TV Writer Access Project (TV WAP), and the Feature Writer Access Project (Feature WAP) target five underrepresented categories – minority writers, writers with disabilities, women writers, older writers (ages 55+ for TV and 60+ for film), and LGBT writers. The aim of the programs is to increase employment opportunities for outstanding, yet underutilized talent. Through an intensive script-review process, honorees are recognized and their works are made accessible to entertainment industry decision-makers, including showrunners, producers, network and studio executives, agents, and managers.
“Our commitment to spotlight and create opportunities for our historically underrepresented members is yielding results,” said Tery Lopez, WGAW Director of Diversity. “Progress may not be as fast as we’d like, but of the 100 honorees selected since the inception of the TV and Feature Writer Access Programs more than half have gone on to secure staff positions or freelance work.”
*2016 Hollywood Writers Report author Dr. Darnell Hunt and WGAW Director of Diversity Tery Lopez will be available for media interviews today; to schedule, please contact WGAW Communications Specialist Gregg Mitchell.