From the #MeToo, Time’s Up and #RepresentationMatters movements to disrupting the industry business model, Hollywood is going through quite the transition. Since 1916 when Mary Pickford becomes the first female film star to earn a million dollar contract to 2019 when Janet Mock became the first trans woman to call her own creative shots at a major content company (Netflix), prominent figures in the industry have been blazing all sorts of trails.
In many aspects, Hollywood is still “wild country” ripe for “explorers” and “pioneers” to become groundbreakers and spearhead change. It’s no longer business as usual. Some of today’s most notable trailblazers are changing the way minorities, women and other underrepresented groups are portrayed on the big and small screen, giving voice to a generation or changing the way Hollywood conducts business.
Directors/producers Jordan Peele and Ava DuVernay are pushing Hollywood forward by proving that audiences want to see diverse stories and films that were once said wouldn’t sell to foreign audiences. Peele’s “Get Out” and “Us” redefined and expanded the horror genre while featuring a dominant African-American cast and protagonists. DuVernay also uses her works as a form of activism by telling true stories and shining a spotlight on America’s injustices in her works “13th” and “When They See Us.”
Multi-hyphenates like Phoebe Waller-Bridge (“Fleabag,” “Killing Eve” & Bond 25), Issa Rae (“Insecure”), Lena Waithe (“Master of None” & “Boomerang”), Ryan O’Connell (“Special”), Janet Mock (“Pose”) and Greta Gerwig (“Ladybird” & “Little Women”) are giving a voice to underrepresented groups like women, minority, LGTBQIA, and disabled and a generation at large. They are changing the way in which these groups are portrayed in film and TV and using laughter to open audiences eyes to valuable diversity and universal experiences.
Actors and actresses like Michael B. Jordan, Brie Larson and Frances McDormand are advocating for more inclusion and diversity in front of and behind the camera by using inclusion riders on all their projects. Tanya Saracho (“Vida”) and Eva Longoria (“Grand Hotel”) are using their platforms to change the narrative of Latinos on television.
On the business side of Hollywood, Nina Jacobson and her Color Force production company had the highest-grossing romanic comedy at the box office in 10 years and the only film to feature a cast entirely of Asian descent in 25 years with “Crazy Rich Asians.” Jacobson has built a successful career in a male-dominated field while continuing to give voice to traditionally silenced groups. And who could forget Ted Sarandos and his Netflix team who would ultimately change how movies and TV are made and upend the studio system all together.
There is always room for innovation and change in today’s entertainment industry. Diversity and inclusion are at the forefront of the current transition, leading to better stories audiences have the opportunity to see. There’s still room for more change and more trailblazers to light a match on this path into the future.