Fade In Magazine Talks Racism in Hollywood

by Latoya Peterson

Arturo sent me an email a few days ago, asking me to add this to the links. But when I looked at the source material, I knew I had to do a post.

In an article called Minority Report: Hollywood’s Dirty Little Secret, Fade In Magazine pulls anonymous quotes from professionals working in the film industry about their jobs. Fifty percent of Fade In’s readers are in the industry and from what I can tell, the magazine appears have the qualities of both a mainstream glossy magazine and a trade magazine. The mag has been in publication since 1994, so it appears to be credible. And if they are credible, and all the sources they quote are who they say they are, it is one of the most illuminating piece I’ve ever read on racism in Hollywood.

In addition to the graphic above, which accompanied the article, check out some of the major quotes:

Screenwriter “Hollywood’s not liberal. That is such an oxymoron; such a joke. There are so many things… I don’t even know where to begin, because it’s so pinned up, because you have to control it. One of the things that Hollywood, along with society, has successfully done is blame the victim. You’re the victim of racism, but they blame you if you say anything. You will never be able to get behind a computer again in your life.

“Hollywood is anything but liberal. I call them liberal bigots. Hollywood is filled with liberal bigots, and they use the thing of being liberal as a reason for being bigoted, for if they’d listen to themselves talk, and listen to their friends talk, they would find that they tell way too many black jokes, ethnic jokes.”

Screenwriter “I wrote a very celebrated movie. I busted my ass, worked hard. I would meet with the director from nine o’clock in the morning – to talk, not to write – until about twelve or one o’clock in the morning. Now, it took that long, because he was on the phone, all of the time, chitchatting with his friends. It should have been a shorter meeting. Then I would write until two or three o’clock in the morning. I finish the script and do all of this work, and then him and another white guy lie and say they wrote it! And white Hollywood believed them over me. I couldn’t fight it, because if I tried to fight it, if I were to scream racism, I’m done. He did something on the set that pushed me to the point as a man where I could have kicked his ass. Then what would have happened is the owners would have been on me: ‘Violent black writer loses his temper and beats up white director.’ Even though all of Hollywood knows that this guy is a jerk.

“Then I had to go through the whole shame of going to meetings where people were asking me, ‘So did you really write this? Can we see samples of other stuff you did?’ Even though this guy has never written anything that they can point to and go, ‘Oh, well, he’s written this.’ Since then, he hasn’t written anything, but because he was white… He said in the arbitration letter, ‘I didn’t want anybody to know my efforts were being done because I didn’t want to undermine Mr. [name withheld].’ Can you believe that? I literally cried when I read the arbitration letter. So he played the affirmative action card, [claiming] that I was an affirmative action writer. There are whites in this town who still to this day believe that this white man [wrote the script].”

Screenwriter “I went to a meeting at Warner Bros., with a producer and a director and an exec. I’m sitting there, and I’m a black writer going to write about this black guy. I won’t say what he did, because that’d give away who it was. So before the meeting started, the three white guys started telling towelhead jokes: ‘This towelhead this, this towelhead that.’ And I’m sitting there listening to them tell these towelhead jokes. The Warner Bros. exec started it, and then the producer and this director chimed in on it. I couldn’t believe this was taking place. I didn’t say a word; you know I’m not going to say an N-word joke or tell a towelhead joke because I’m next. So I’m listening to this. Then, afterwards, they then start talking about this black project, which I had no interest in pitching, because I thought, ‘You’re some of the most insincere sons of bitches I ever met in my life’ – motherfuckers is the better word. I had another life before I became a writer, and I’d never heard any shit like this before. I probably gave them one of the most insincere pitches I ever gave in my life because I didn’t want to be a part of [anything with] these three assholes. I couldn’t believe they were doing it. It was totally unnecessary.”

Director “An African-American executive was interested in doing a project with an African-American writer and an African-American director. She mentioned the project to her boss. She and her boss proceeded to get on a conference call with the African-American director’s agent. The agent answered the phone with such zest, she began talking prior to letting the agent know that there was somebody else on the phone, and proceeded to talk about a high-profile project at the studio, and then he went into mentioning the African-American project and said, ‘We’re not even worried about nigger films.’ Shortly thereafter, the African-American executive resigned. There’s so much racism going on that we’re just used to it. It’s hard to pick out a moment when you’re not discriminated against.”

Agent “I find that minorities are usually the last hired and the first fired in TV. At the staff level, you’ll try to sell a writer, try to sell a writer, try to sell a writer, and you’ll be told as an agent, ‘Well, if we’re going to hire anyone at that level, we’re going to hire one of the diversity writers.’ So if you’re a young white guy, it’s not happening. Now, do I feel sorry for that young white guy? Well, they’ve ruled Hollywood forever. So, all right, you push, push, push, push. But the diversity writer will wind up working at a deficit most of the time because the other staff will have been hired, and the diversity hire will be the person they bring on much later. So not only do they walk in with a brown or black face, or Asian eyes, so they look different, but when they walk in three weeks later, it’s stamped all over them: You’re brought in because you’re an affirmative-action hire. It becomes a little difficult. Then, when the twenty weeks run out, many of them haven’t had the opportunity to write a script because a staff writer’s job is to provide ideas, and they don’t give a script to that person. So when their twenty weeks are out, they’re let go, and then their resume has one staff job that lasted twenty weeks, and then they can’t get rehired. As opposed to having them write a script and giving them a shot to prove themselves. It’s fucked up.

And check out this fun little bit on gender:

Producer “No female director has ever won an Academy Award. You know why? Because no female director has made a film worthy of it. I don’t feel like it’s a lack of opportunity. I feel like a female director hasn’t proven herself. Directing is hard for anybody who wants to get into it. There aren’t that many women pursuing it. In my film school, there was probably one woman for every ten guys.”

Right – no reason why that could be, is there? Perhaps moments like this?

Producer “I remember when I produced my very first movie. I was sitting in a room with a very famous director and his development staff. I was the only female in the room, and I kept making suggestions to cut different scenes, [like] one too many funerals. And I was completely ignored. Cut to this very famous director. He would say the same exact thing that I had said, not even a minute after I said it. And everyone at the meeting would be like, ‘Oh, yes. Good idea. That’s what we should do!’ It was like I never said it. I was invisible. I don’t know if that was sexism, but it sure felt like it. My opinion didn’t matter. Why was I talking?

And you know someone brought up what Tyler Perry had to go through:

Entertainment Lawyer “Fox Searchlight had Diary of a Mad Black Woman and was in line to produce it before Lionsgate. Searchlight called Perry and told him they had a bunch of changes they wanted. They didn’t get it. Perry told them, ‘Hold on for a second. I’ll be right there…I’ll be right there to pick up all my shit and leave!’ He took all his shit to Lionsgate and said, ‘Here’s my cast. I’m putting in some of my own money. Here’s my script.’ And they were in. That film was predicted to have a $3 million, bottom-of-the-barrel, you-haven’t-got-a-prayer opening; that prediction turned into a $21.7 million opening weekend. On that day, Searchlight called begging Tyler and everyone around the project not to embarrass them and disclose that they’d actually had it and messed it up. They were so embarrassed.”

The entertainment lawyer quoted above also pointed out that Tyler Perry’s business now comprises one third of Lionsgate’s revenue.

And to end, this screenwriter touches on something I’ve been thinking on for a while:

Screenwriter “‘Liberal Hollywood’ is an oxymoron. What do they fear? Revenge. Retaliation. The thing that they fail to realize is that if blacks were going to retaliate, it would have happened well before now. People are comfortable with their own stories. For example, I’m comfortable with a story about a black person, and a black hero, and a black family, and whites are comfortable with stories about themselves. Unfortunately, in their world, there’s not any room for stories about anyone else. They can read a good story about someone else and go, ‘That’s wonderful! But is there an audience for it?’ Because it’s not about them. And that is where they sell the American public short. I do think that whites outside of our industry are curious about other people. They go to zoos. So wouldn’t they go to see a movie about somebody else? It’s cold, but is that not true? They’re not closing up zoos because they’re not about white people. Why wouldn’t we think that whites would go see a movie about a culture different than theirs? Why do you keep making the same movie about yourself over and over again? Your love angst, or whatever your feelings, and what’s happening to you this year, over and over again? That’s why I have my own little thing about certain movies I won’t go see. There’s not a room that you go into when there’s a movie about black people or about any ethnic group where you don’t hear, ‘That’s a hard movie to sell.’ ‘That’s going to be tough.’

(Image Credit: Fade In Magazine)