Amazon Studios Releases Inclusion Policy and Playbook for Original Content Production

Amazon Studios June 16 released a comprehensive inclusion policy that it says extends its commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity for its content and productions, as well as guidelines for its collaborators in the creative community.

The recommendations come as Amazon Studios says it continues to seek out stories and storytelling that amplify voices across race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, age, religion, disability (including mental health), body size, gender, gender identity, and gender expression for the global Prime Video audience.

“We wanted to move beyond good intentions to creating mechanisms that hold us accountable to a high bar,” Latasha Gillespie, executive head of diversity, equity and inclusion at Amazon Studios, said in a statement. “This playbook adds additional depth and guidance for our internal teams and external partners to ensure we continue to advance our shared mission of amplifying the best creatives and content around the world.”

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The studio in 2017 got caught up in the #MeToo movement when its boss, Ray Price, was forced to resign following allegations of inappropriate behavior in the workplace. Price was replaced by Jennifer Salke.

Salke says the studio’s new playbook on diversity and inclusion underscores its commitment to being a “thought and action” leader in the transformation of Hollywood.

“We know how much work there is to be done to improve representation both on camera and behind the scenes, and it starts at home, with us,” Salke said. “With clear directives and a commitment to accountability, these guides provide a path toward a more equitable future, both on- and off-camera.”

Specifically, the playbook outlines production goals for each film or series with a creative team of three or more people in above-the-line roles (directors, writers, producers) should ideally include a minimum 30% women and 30% members of an underrepresented racial/ethnic group. This aspirational goal will increase to 50% by 2024.

Casting actors whose identity (gender, gender identity, nationality, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability) aligns with the character they will be playing.

Aiming to include one character from each of the following categories in speaking roles, with minimum 50% of these to be women: LGBTQIA+, person with a disability, and three regionally underrepresented race/ethnic/cultural groups. A single character can fulfill one or more of these identities.

Seeking at least three bids from vendors or suppliers on productions, one of which must be from a woman-owned business and one from a minority-owned business.

Pay equity across casting, behind the camera staff and crew, and for vendors and suppliers.

Amazon Studios said it shared the playbook with creators, including Gloria Calderón Kellett, creator and executive producer of the upcoming Amazon Original series “With Love.”

“Inclusive hiring is what makes change,” said Kellett. “Opportunity and an eye towards changing things through action is what makes change. Thrilled that Amazon has put together this playbook to start important conversations with their other creatives.”

The studio said it would provide a report template for each production to indicate whether these expectations were met, that would be submitted within one month of the completion of principal photography. This reporting exceeds the minimum standards set by the Academy of Motion Pictures, but ensures Amazon is poised to report on the diversity of their films for Academy Award contention.

The playbook puts in place intentional practices to minimize and disrupt biases, providing specific guidance that will help everyone within and working with Amazon Studios to meet expectations.

It also provides direction on how to make inclusive decisions, while telling authentic stories and hiring the best people for the job; knowledge of where to go for help, including tools to make inclusive decisions; tools to identify criteria for making creative choices, leading to balanced, consistent and informed decisions; and ways to foster curiosity and ask questions to disrupt the status quo about “how things are done.”

Amazon Studios worked with Dr. Stacy Smith and Dr. Katherine Pieper of USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, and with Brenda Robinson of the International Documentary Association and Gamechanger Films on the creation of the playbook. The studio also consulted with organizations devoted to advancing the visibility and responsible depictions of underrepresented or marginalized people, including GLAAD, Illuminative, Think Tank for Inclusion & Equity, and the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund.

Smith says current outcomes of DEI work within the entertainment industry have been disingenuous, underscoring the systemic barriers to entry that have long plagued Hollywood.

“But now, Amazon Studios has created a comprehensive new blueprint that will change Hollywood by elevating those who have historically lacked access,” she said. “I’m immensely proud of this new policy and I know it will be a gamechanger throughout an industry often resistant to real change.”

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