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OPEN DOORS - Gaining Momentum: Advice On Inclusive Hiring and Diversifying Your Below The Line Crew

Posted By Matthew Principe, Diane Houslin & Sasheen Artis, Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Each victory counts. That was one of the many takeaways from our conversation on diversifying crew and inclusive hiring with PGA National Board member and indie film producer Nina Yang Bongiovi and Matt Johnson, incoming Co-Chair of the PGA Power of Diversity Master Workshop and an executive producer of scripted and unscripted television. We reached out to these producers, who have made hiring diverse crews a priority, to share their words of wisdom on how they do it, what obstacles they continue to face and how those can be overcome.

A lot of attention has been focused on folks in front of the camera, but it’s also important to have diversity behind the scenes as well.

What has the value been for your projects?

Nina: Especially when you’re producing a movie that is steeped in a particular culture or history, getting a director that understands that lens is extremely crucial to the authenticity of the overall production. But everyone’s contributions will provide that extra edge.

Matt: I recently joined an established network show as an executive producer, where the same crew had been hired year after year. I encouraged my line producer and department heads to present me with a new, diverse list of potential crew. After some pushback we ultimately hired a very diverse crew, including the show’s first-ever female camera operator. The energy on set was lively and fresh.
 

Where do you find diverse talent?

Matt: Don’t be afraid to bring up the issue with your department heads and union partners. Let them know that this is a priority for your production. When they bring you a list, go over it in detail. Make sure diversity is represented in not only gender but also ethnicity. Ask questions.

Nina: Have conversations with your assistant director team, and encourage them to hire someone under them who is a person of color. Have conversations with IATSE. Find out if they have pathways for people of color. Production assistants are a good way to start, but it can’t end there on union shoots. 

How do I encourage diversity if a studio or network is adverse to change?

Matt: Assure the network that the production flow, level of work and budget won’t be interrupted by the change. Once the executives heard me clearly on those subjects, explaining to them that increasing diversity on the show was the right thing to do, they listened.

What advice would you give to your fellow producers?

Nina: Start by picking one or two positions to champion. I introduced Deirdra Elizabeth Govan, who worked with us on Roxanne, Roxanne, to Boots Riley for Sorry to Bother You. She had 18 years experience as an Assistant Costume Designer. It was important to promote Deirdra to Costume Designer and to open up our first time director’s network. Find allies and pick your battles.

With each victory, we gain momentum. For more information on how to encourage diverse hiring practices, join the PGA Diversity Committee in your area and volunteer with the Power of Diversity Master Workshop based in Los Angeles. Connect with us at pgadiversity.org and on social media.


-Matthew Principe and Diane Houslin are the new Co-Chairs for PGA East Diversity Committee. Sasheen Artis and Matt Johnson are the Co-Chairs for the PGA Power of Diversity Master Workshop

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