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.”

Barnes & Noble Reveals New Details for CEO Firing

Barnes & Noble has disclosed new details on its firing of CEO Demos Parneros in July after 16 months on the job.

The nationwide bookseller (and home entertainment retailer) in an Oct. 30 legal filing (Parneros v Barnes & Noble, 18-cv-7834, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York), outlined further details of alleged sexual harassment by Parneros against a female employee, in addition to breach of fiduciary duty after allegedly scuttling a possible sale of the fiscally-challenged company.

Parneros, who maintains his innocence, sued Barnes & Noble in August for wrongful termination and payment of severance, claiming he was abruptly dismissed by the chain’s founder Leonard Riggio for no reason.

Barnes & Noble, in the filing, claims Parneros acted inappropriately with the female staffer he had called into his office, including pinching her neck after comparing heights.

“She also reported that just a few days after this incident, Parneros again called her into his office, inappropriately showed her pictures of what he considered to be romantic Quebec City hotels, told her that he ‘would have taken’ her to those hotels if he were her husband, pulled her towards him so that their faces touched cheek-to-cheek and, as she attempted to pull away, angrily told her that he thought she seemed like someone who ‘would put out’ if he ‘wined and dined’ her,” according to the complaint.

Barnes & Noble says it has received additional complaints about Perneros from other female employees.

In addition, the company alleged the former CEO made repeated negative comments about Barnes & Noble to an unnamed potential buyer, including questioning “Why did I come here?” to the buyer’s representative.

Parneros denies he tried to quash the transaction.

“These false allegations are nothing more than an effort to tarnish my reputation and punish me for seeking justice,” Parneros said in an email statement to Bloomberg.

Barnes & Noble in September reported a first-quarter (ended July 28) net loss of $17 million, up 70% from a net loss of $10.7 million during the previous-year period. Revenue dropped 7% to $794 million from $853 million last year.

The bookseller’s Nook business, which includes digital media such as TV shows and movies, narrowed its operating loss to $330,000 from an operating loss of $2.7 million last year. Revenue dropped 14% to $25.2 million from $29.5 million last year.

 

 

 

Netflix Releases Teaser Video Clip for ‘House of Cards’ Final Season

Netflix Sept. 5 released a brief trailer (19 seconds) for the pending (Nov. 2) final season of “House of Cards” that is noteworthy for what it reveals happened to lead character President Frank Underwood, played by disgraced actor Kevin Spacey.

Frank’s wife, Claire, played by Robin Wright, assumes her husband’s role in the new season.

The critically-acclaimed Netflix original series was turned upside down when allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior by Spacey decades ago and on the “Cards” set surfaced. Netflix shut down production of the show and subsequently fired Spacey.

CBS Says It Will Investigate Sexual Misconduct Claims Against CEO Les Moonves

The board of directors at CBS Corp. July 27 said it will investigate claims of sexual misconduct by longtime CEO Les Moonves disclosed in an expose by Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker.

Farrow’s article  alleges Moonves engaged in unwanted touching and kissing of female subordinates over the past 20 years.

Read Ronan Farrow’s article in The New Yorker here.

“All allegations of personal misconduct are to be taken seriously,” the board said in a statement. “The independent directors of CBS have committed to investigating claims that violate the company’s clear policies in that regard.”

The board noted the timing of the expose coinciding with CBS’ ongoing legal battle with corporate parent National Amusements, headed by Shari Redstone and her ailing father Sumner Redstone.

“While that litigation process continues, the CBS management [which includes Moonves] has the full support of the independent board members,” said the statement.

Farrow won a Pulitzer Prize for another expose that outed Harvey Weinstein’s long history of sexual harassment. The story led to Hollywood’s #MeToo movement, and subsequent criminal indictments against Weinstein.

The Weinstein Co. Files for Bankruptcy Protection

As expected, The Weinstein Co. has filed for bankruptcy protection in Delaware – five months after allegations of improper sexual behavior by co-founder and co-chairman Harvey Weinstein derailed the venerable studio/distributor.

TWC reportedly is set to sell its assets to Dallas-based investor group Lantern Capital Partners.

“Under the agreement, Lantern will purchase substantially all of the assets of [TWC], subject to certain conditions, including approval of the bankruptcy court,” TWC said in a statement reported by NPR. “The [TWC board] selected Lantern in part due to Lantern’s commitment to maintain the assets and employees as a going concern.”

Notable to the deal: removal of non-disclosure agreements allegedly used by Harvey Weinstein to silence his female accusers.

“The company expressly releases any confidentiality provision to the extent it has prevented individuals who suffered or witnessed any form of sexual misconduct by Harvey Weinstein from telling their stories,” read the statement.

Earlier this month, an investor group led by former Small Business Administration head (under President Obama) Maria Contreras-Sweet and investor Ron Burkle, had agreed to pay $500 million for the TWC, which included assumption of $225 million in debt.

That deal fell apart reportedly after additional liabilities totaling more than $60 million were discovered.