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Editorial Comment - Elspeth Tavares
The Collaborative Art of Filmmaking
In Reality Is Never About Black or White

The Straight Outta Compton screenplay by Caucasians Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff received a nod at the Oscars because it was simply good. The brilliant music score brought rap music into the mainstream, and together with the dialogue, acting, editing, and cast of characters created those memorable occasions on the screen - when the entirety of the collaborators and the collaboration on a film makes it a winner.
 
The recent controversy revolving around the Oscars and the question of the lack of diversity is in reality primarily based on POWER and the perception of POWER and its relationship to money in a trillion dollar international business.

Every member of any establishment intended to bring together a group of individuals in their chosen spheres has the right to vote how he/she wants, according to their individual agenda and ambition in life.

Once we question or attempt to take away that fundamental right, we are treading on perilous ground – that of lack of freedom in every aspect of the human spirit.

The make-up of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences celebrating its 86th year comprises and represents many Branches, each with its own agenda and interests. There is a logical reason (of which we are all aware) why the percentage of the male gender dominates the Academy.

Should it be looked at 86 years on? By all means, but not at the expense of the liberty of all its members – in the majority or not.

How can there be the opportunity to develop diversity, when the entry foundations of the Studio system of filmmaking is in the hands of few, and based on the all too often reality that as a producer within that system, you are only as good as your last movie?

The independent business is more open and accessible but similar: to work in this sector, unless you know someone who will give you a break or create your own independent company, you cannot get the experience in a chosen ambition.

Being a member of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is not an entitlement; it is, and should be, an earned right.

The system in Hollywood is engineered and driven by nepotism. Nothing wrong with nepotism; in every sector of our society it prevails. In the film industry how does one break the chain? 'One' can't … but a group of individuals with fiscal wealth can, if they are prepared to come together and create a company where they are the masters of their universe and commanders of their fate.

If every Artist/Talent who is a Champion of diversity, through their individual POWER and accumulation of fiscal wealth, insists upon and chooses as many individuals as possible which are available amongst the diversity pool, and employs them, this will grow the pool of diversity – giving opportunity, experience and longevity to diversity within a craft, thereby enabling entry to the POOL in the respective Oscar Branches.

Will it take time? Yes - Rome was not built in a day.

We all tend to gravitate towards and work with people who are friends, and have the skills we require to do the job. Those skills are accumulated through the work experience, our personality, and our ability to get along in the collaborative environment that is the art of filmmaking. How often is personal recommendation given status above that of a CV, in the film business in Hollywood? To hazard a guess – 85% of the time.

Individuals of color across America have untold wealth – perhaps it's time to address the issue from a different perspective, and help build the foundations across the crafts within filmmaking.

Placing more diversity in The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will not see more diversity in the selection of the nominees at Oscar time. Television is a completely different animal – there are many more opportunities. The success of Talent in TV lies with the general public, and is more accessible but still based largely on nepotism, and who you know – not what you know.

Oscar nominations are based on performance – performance is based on opportunity. Will the Champions of diversity 'grow' the opportunities and help build the pool? The future is in their hands – as it was back when the three major Hollywood studios were established.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences aims to put into action amendments to change the diversity pool. Perhaps over time these amendments will have the effect of creating diversity within the Academy. However, if such measures translates to 'Diversity' being 'inserted' because of color in any of the branches, that will make a sham of the whole process – and be an insult to the many members who have 'earned' the right to be a member based on longevity in the business.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as professionals in their chosen craft MUST be given the freedom to make their own choices. He or she should make that, based on viewing the work of the Talent – not because of peer pressure.

Peer pressure abounds throughout society, but in the end, it is about the individual, their agenda, and ambitions at every step of the process as 'diversity' tries to break the chain.

Least not the complexity of the greenlighting of a film, the choice of the director, the producer, the scriptwriter the affiliated individuals who make up the team, the crew, the publicity machine leading up to Oscar time, and the end result of the film itself.

In the interest of all individual artists and talent worldwide, the issue of the controversy, that of Black or White, should not be allowed to prevail at any level - including the new amendment to the rules of inclusion for membership to The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The roots of discontent are valid. However, as individuals we have the right to exercise our own individual thoughts which translate into OUR agendas as we interact and communicate with our peers. As the Bill of Rights states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" - that objective should not be lost sight of, regardless of our color or religion and/or 'the perception of POWER,' based on a monetary equation.

 
 



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