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OPEN DOORS - Time To Measure Up: New Tools For Inclusivity From "Fade In" To Opening Night

Posted By Deborah Calla and Lisa Kors, Wednesday, August 7, 2019

It’s a changing world when it comes to inclusivity and the entertainment industry. As producers, we have a responsibility to make sure our projects accurately reflect the demographics of today’s society. To help with this mission, activists and organizations are coming up with new tools to facilitate the process.

We know there’s a growing awareness about unconscious bias. But how do we deal with this? How does a producer form an objective analysis about a project in terms of gender, age, disability and LGBTQ+ portrayal?

One of the first efforts to help with this came from a partnership between Google, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering Signal Analysis and Interpretation Laboratory (SAIL). Their initial effort was a face-tracking and audio analysis powered by machine learning (called GD-IQ), which was used to educate studios about how often women are seen or speak in movies. The results revealed that the idea of gender parity didn’t exist, and the number of female characters was still abysmally low. Based on this concrete evidence of how pervasive the problem was, the Institute’s mission became even more critical and timely.

Around this same time, screenwriter Christina Hodson (Bumblebee, Batgirl) posed the idea that rather than analyze a finished product, why not apply the concept of inclusion right from the start—on page one of a screenplay? Energized by this thought, she approached fellow writer John August and within weeks, a new tool called Gender Analysis was included in his free Highland 2 software. Hodson observed, “It made sense to me that we can do a lot ourselves, before (the scripts) even leave our desks.”

Building on the concept of tabulating the number of female characters and amount of their dialogue, Final Draft, along with the Geena Davis Institute, took the idea and process to the next level. They understood the very real notion of unconscious bias and how pervasive it can be. Working together, the two created an Inclusivity Analysis Feature that quickly measures ethnicity, gender, age, disability or any other definable trait of a character. This is a free add-on available to all Final Draft users. Scott McMenamin, President of Final Draft, explains, “Our goal is to give the writer, development executive, producer or anyone else involved in the filmmaking process, maximum flexibility to measure character traits without imposing our own definitions on what is measured.”

Madeline Di Nonno, CEO of the Geena Davis Institute, adds that she hopes the data and research tools become “the gold standard for measuring gender equality and intersectionality in storytelling for the entertainment industry.” 

With systems like these already available and future enhancements currently in the pipeline, we as producers now have the ability to make sure our work accurately reflects the world we live in, right from “FADE IN.”

For more information, visit the Geena Davis Institute of Gender in Media at seejane.org, Final Draft at finaldraft.com and Highland at quoteunquoteapps.com/highland-2.

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