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About the talk
On February 18, through her nonprofit organization ARRAY Alliance, award-winning filmmaker Ava DuVernay launched ARRAY Crew—a personnel database for Hollywood's below-the-line crew members designed to amplify women, people of color, and other underrepresented film and television professionals. Join DuVernay and The Black List Founder Franklin Leonard for a wide-ranging conversation about disrupting Hollywood's hiring practices, building a women-led tech company, and increasing equity on sets.#ARRAYCREW
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DuVernay's 2018 Disney children's fantasy film A Wrinkle in Time made her the first black woman to direct a live-action film earning $100 million at U.S. box office but had losses of up to $131 million.The film received mixed reviews, with critics taking issue "with the film's heavy use of CGI. The following year, she created, co-wrote, produced and directed the Netflix drama limited series When They See Us, based on the 1989 Central Park jogger case, which has earned critical acclaim. The series was nominated for 16 Emmy Awards including the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Limited Series and won the Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Limited Series. In 2017, DuVernay was included on the annual Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world.View the profile
Franklin Leonard is an American film executive best known for founding The Black List, a yearly publication featuring Hollywood's most popular unproduced screenplays. After working as a development executive for Overbrook Entertainment and Universal Pictures, Leonard is currently an adviser to BoomGen Studios and Plympton.Leonard serves on the board of directors for Young Storytellers.View the profile
It is a pleasure and honor to join you Ava for this conversation. For those who don't know, ask somebody Googles your friend but Ava Duvernay director of middle of nowhere. Sell a wrinkle in time when they see us founder of a ray and and I guess newly-minted Tech entrepreneur as well. And we'll talk about that as well in my running. She has a machine that stop time which allows her to be a lot more productive with the 24 hours a day that the rest of us has to borrow it at some point or at least until but
is why we can talk about and I wanted her to focus, our conversation and to production and both because of yours would have new tech Venture but also because it allows me to ask you a bunch of questions that I haven't asked you before and I'm going to start with this which I've never asked you. What was the first time that you work on a film set? Oh goodness. I thought that was as a publicist and the first film I don't know what the first film was. I don't some of the early films were like, you remember these films at Sony screen. Gems would do like the
brothers and Two Can Play That Game. These were as a small label Sony that would make us smaller budget films aimed at the black community was the publicist for a lot of those. But yeah, do. Still a lot of early early work and when you were on those sets, I've had this experience myself, so you don't see. A lot of people that look like us historically, and I'm just curious what the experience was as a publicist walking onto the set where are used to look around
whatever we want to come films like like those which were made for starring and marketed to people that look like us. Not a lot of people to look like a serious with experience was like and what your thoughts were looking around. In those early moments on a production. I'm the only one. I mean, you're aware that you're the only one, but we work in Hollywood and that's the way it is. It wasn't until I started building my own Crews and making my own films that. Oh wait, there's a choice. He
doesn't have to actually be that way because you could actually choose all kinds of people and people are just choosing not to do that and answer for me. I had to really understand why are people choosing Do it for a long time. It was me thinking of this is this is this is blatant active racism. It took me awhile in our industry and really talking to a lot of people and having my own experiences to come to the understanding that. It's it's maybe more ignorance, more lack of understanding, how to do it. Or I don't really have time to do this extra thing. There's a
lot of reasons that aren't, I don't like black brown, people in women did a lot of other reasons and so once I got past that I started say, oh well then there's a solution for that. I don't really know the solutions to change it from being a raging racist, but I do know that I can, we can come up with solutions to give tools for systems that are in balanced and that's what a recruiter. We need to rescue in a second, but I'm curious in your early fouls. Before a pre-existing. How did you do it differently of remarkable? And what about following you on Instagram is in your stories, how
you will roll up on your crew and sometimes they'll be trying to run away and your life, is your name? Tell me what you do, might not know what those people are. There also babe look like everybody and in all different kinds of rules. So you were doing that before it was a raccoon, just a little curious how you individually before he built the system to address it how you were doing it as an individual. I was doing it because I didn't want to be the only one. I didn't
want to be the only woman on my cruise and I didn't want to be the only one of two or three black people. In my cruise, I want a black people brown people, Asian people, you know, we know people you do older, people. Younger people. Just the real world people with disabilities. Kinds of people. Can we not have that? Why, why can we not? There's no reason why I accepted. It is harder to do because you can't find them. You got to go through steps. You don't really know if they can do it. Cuz no one else is right side. It's like how do we just cut through all that? And we just did it, Paul
goings, and I've been making work together since middle of nowhere. Just started to make sure that we were hiring women. Black folk Brown folk all kinds of people, older older crew members in something that would really look that. It's like, why do you just timeout? Cuz you 60, you can still Hammer the thing. You could still move the dolly, you can still do those things if you want to and follow know a little about doing it. Could you have any experience?
I need a, I need to that writers directors, gap for Scenic painters, kraftees supervisor like our incoming calls to Ray because people knew that we could up this way. Volume is so many people all the time we talked. We need to get a list together and little Lee Franklin, and I was going to be like a very fantastic list of all our people may be with the leather binder, you know what I mean? Maybe what's an array on it? How I ended up having a chief technology officer and twenty people working on it up around the clock?
I'm not sure, but this is where we are. What is a recruit just for everybody who needs to know and doesn't already know, just just pretty good people to pitch. Westland and one day you might to what a Venturi now. Have done is yet again game-changing and long-overdue which I just realized rhymed and that was not my intention. It's an instinct, really. But but but what it, what is a recruit Forever by the Dozen? It is a way to connect people who are hiring in our Industry. Department headline. Producers hiring managers people were actually responsible for the
cruise on set to make shows and connecting them with all kinds of crew members from under represented by a man, lak folks round for occasion for older folks. In order to be in crew, as I remember, you need to have one credit at minimum, be 18 years of age and eligible to work in the United States and our database. Now we have over 3,000 going to be sure. We are taking this the day before we launch. We all got on the elevator 3,000, people, crew members already that, fit all those categories over. 70 Productions. We haven't even launched. 70 Productions already hiring
from it and every Major studio and streamer in town, is the big news committed to using it. Now, this commitment is nice on a spiritual commitment, Franklin. It's not. You know what? This is a good deal. It's not the IG. Put your thing of commitment, this is invested Financial commitment to build this. Think we're nonprofit build it, so that is always free to crew members and so that all the Productions. But Netflix, a Warner Brothers to Disney, you're making shows or TV there the TV or film. There, you can use crew in a lapses. And so this was the, the idea. I can't
believe we're here, two years a woman lead tech platform by people who, look at you. You've done a lot. You're you're a film distributor, you're a filmmaker. You have you known and Empire on the east side of Los Angeles, and it's growing, but talk to me. What the process of building a tech platform was like cuz I've been very different thing than everything else you've done. And a lot of growing pains and a lot of not knowing what to do. And a lot of being able to say, we don't know this, we need to find people who know it and a lot of
thinking, you know, I don't want a bunch of Consultants. We got, we have to invest in bringing these people inside, they are a full-time team members, who are part of our ecosystem, who do tax, which is all good. You know, when you're around the right now, but you have an editor walking by screenwriter, everyone's artsy. And then we got these check people who are alike but do not, you do not text people. My understanding is because not take people in the sort of conventional Silicon Valley sensor detect people, right? Like your
CTO is not an official result from Microsoft. That's the whole thing looks completely different than most tech company teams but just really knowing what we didn't know, bring it in the people who know it early on. I figured I didn't want to use a database. Those kind of free. I wanted to create our own proprietary at it. I went this. And so we've done that with listen to the studios and what they need to listen to crew members and what they want to say. And we traded some very simple. You
seen it. There's no I think that you are actually store there in. That was almost more. What I was responding to than the notion of the sort of inclusive hiring thing. It was this is very easy to use on both sides. And I know a little bit about building a two-sided Marketplace, not an easy thing to do and the execution is exceptional. Just even on board an incredibly simple and credible effective to just saying this is the kind of person that I'm looking for this job. If I want to find an animal Wrangler for a project, I can do that very quickly Honore crew, and that's
just extraordinary ability perspective. That was my primary, praise to the other day and he said, you know, listen older white man, sweet listen, listen kid, I'm all for the inclusion in the diversity. I think it's important, okay. This is just good for hiring cuz I got two of these position. Bunker, who did I need somebody to Randall this animal tomorrow, right? It's so at the end of the day, it's about jobs about filling these jobs. We know the underlying piece of it is the DNA of it. Is everyone there?
I'm stressed about the one thing. This is a non-profit, this is free for everyone. Every crew member who wants to use it who has one credit at 18 years of age and can legally work in United States. This is available to them at no cost. Free profile and it's it's months later. You get the thing where you can have a Supra if you want to send this to your email, you paid this, it's always free for crew, no one's making money on this, the money from the studios and from our donors in the foundations and all of that goes directly into the back, the maintenance
the upkeep. Then they you know, further execution of ideas around crew, and in terms of the future of the platform, I know the website's live as best as of the day after we recorded this a month ago as if it were being Publix. There's an app on the horizon if I'm not mistaken. I have to come in and then education teaching people how to use it anymore about that too. Is that we eventually are able to educate people to all the kinds of positions that are available on a set. You know, that it's
like a small town, it has a mechanic. It has a hairdresser. It has a gardener. It has a construction hardware store. It has a parking lot. It has all the things that I was going to pass service, for whatever you do in the real world. What we haven't said enough to people in all kinds of people, there's a place for us to 9th Street and if there's their things that you can do. But so, you know, I was one of them to think. I'm so excited about when I was early on
in my career is, I met a Latina seen, it changed her and she told me. Yeah, I used to chat, I used to do graffiti and then my uncle told me that you can paint on sats and I was like, how and let her know she makes White Walls. Look like, oh, look like their crumbling He makes things exist that that aren't there before because she's an artist with the Cassini paintings are union job. If she makes great money, we just want people to know about about these possibilities. And so part of our next step is educating people.
People, you know, no train people. That's the further that's several years away. Another thing about the platform that I was really struck by is that you know you can include when you for the add your name to the crew database age gender race disability language in all this thing. The hiring managers can't search by those categories and all end. And you don't have to put any of that information. If you have a little bit about the decision to do that, like why we want everybody to be able to add it, but why we don't want
people to be able to search by Blacklist will weather challenges? Is it the law that mean? It's, it's, it's a legal issue and, and, and it was something that I'm not happy with. I I would rather everyone be known as and be able to identify, but there's some legal pieces there that make it difficult. And and so instead of dealing with those tricky things we said listen. We will know that and folks will know that the majority of people in this battle base identify as these under-represented categories that when
you're searching and they come up, the majority of the people that you're going to get our that. But you, you know, we legally go in and say, I'm looking for a black, like, you know, gets into into issues that we have our eyes on the prize. And although, I hope that one day, someone really gets into the legal matters of why, this is crazy eyes on the prize, let's get this done and use the tools that we have to do it. And right now, this is surely a u.s. reality, but if I'm not mistaken International coming soon.
One of them Kitty from hiring managers from UPS line, producer Studios is what about the UK and what about Canada. So those are we working 2 to bring those online by the by the end of this year? Top of next year, getting closer may even be sooner than that. You know, how we like to overachieve it away. But there is some other thing coming that you haven't talked about yet. But I will look like an idiot for. Not asking about in this interview in a month with you home app or
minerals are an image of what they can. You think about a year 5 years from now, what success looks like for the platform. It is 76 because someone says you have to have a website to have women on the site. Like, it's so insane that it even realize the need for it, you know, true success would mean that it's obsolete and the face and in order to get there, we got to use it. So So we're coming towards the end of time, and is one story that you tweeted about, again a month ago when this drops.
But literally yesterday, and that's Sierra story, she happens to be one of my favorite human beings at Hollywood like Loki. We don't even know each other that. Well, and I think that it sort of her story applies. Very nicely to what I think, Beyond crew hiring the potential for the long-term effect of normalizing, more people and more different kinds of people in these environments. And so could you just tell us about where he started out started a structure? How to start it was, I was at a speaking engagement at a, at a college while College in
Alabama, and it was a young woman who had great questions and afterward came up to me and said ma'am. If there's ever anything that I can do, be a PA, take out the trash at your coffee. Please calling me. I want to do it. I want to, I want to learn. She was in film school and and she was in, in, in, in Alabama. Is not allowed Productions coming through there, shortly after we were coming through with some and so I remembered and asked that she be brought onto it and she was a PA. There's different levels of paipas a production assistant. They are the people doing the work, that no one else
wants to do. But she was the PA that way out, walking down a driveway, a mile away. Making sure a car, doesn't pull out into the shop. Nowhere close to the set, the actors or anyting over the years. After Selma, she didn't go in time, for me. She did Queen sugar. She moved up and up and up, and up and up. She's the key PA with me. She's standing right there next to the right there. Next to the director is watching, blocking rehearsal, she's Manning and managing the whole cast
of. She's the one, she's the type me a most be a is tpas going to be and AD. Right? Which is the position that runs. So, but she doesn't, she wants to be a director. So I said to her, you got to stop. I always hire you cuz you're great at your job and you put in the hours and you've done, the groundwork has done it. You got to stop and make your own thing. If you want to be a director, she did she met a couple grey shorts? She just, another precious constantly, shooting her name. On Twitter is shooter, right? So, she, she's constantly hurting and she
was ready. And so we offered her a couple episodes of Queen sugar season 3 episodes of sugar and the people that she was getting coffee for 5 years ago. She was now directing the whole cast and crew rose up to support her. And she made three Beautiful episodes and she's an example of let people in the door. You know what would have been her fate? If she had not gotten on these Productions through an inclusive and exclusive hiring agenda that I have, it would be shipping out of Atlanta trying to get on a crew and hoping that that you know, the 80s would remember the
young black girl from Alabama. And so, She's a success story. She is going to Ray Cruz accessory before the present of a crew as I think about, you know, where would she be? If it weren't for the opportunity that you were able to give her? I think about like we're with the industry. Be if we didn't have access to her Talent, as a director has an industry moves when we've been the Arts or some people like her, would they be Superstars as the junior most PA to the
key PA to the director Now directions to the pilot of her. So there's a reason why the last decade has been in the history of Hollywood and it's stories like that whatever I anybody to have that debate with me, I will win every day and twice on Sunday. Well listen, I don't know if I agree with you but I love to hear you say it. And I always love to talk to you and thank you. Could you remind me of the reasons why we do the work? You have such an Institutional memory of a ray is just a pleasure to be able to talk to you because you know what,
we've done what we're trying to do, how we do it and what and so thank you for being a part of our story has been an honor to be a witness. We need it.
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