Hiring for behind-the-camera positions often relies on a line producer’s network of personal contacts, particularly for department head positions. This often means that unit head positions are comprised of individuals who have worked together previously. This closed network system of assembling a team lends itself to bias. While it is easy to understand the allure of working with people who have proven over time to be trustworthy, capable, and dependable, the alternative is also important to consider. By expanding the closed circle of contacts that form a team, innovative approaches, new skills, and fresh talent might be discovered. For line producers working to hire unit heads, several approaches can be used to expand the pool of potential department supervisors.
Recruit outside your network. As noted earlier, rather than focusing on the specific person you want to hire, identify the skill set that is required for the role. This may be determined by the parameters of the production itself (e.g., costume designers with expertise on a specific time period; cinematographers with visual effects credentials). Or, skill sets could reflect a candidate’s experience using certain equipment, knowledge of different techniques, etc.
The criteria outlined earlier related to training, prior work experience, nominations and awards, leadership history, and prior history of concern can all be applied to unit head positions. Line producers should bear in mind that historical inequities may prevent individuals from underrepresented groups from having the same number of prior credits as those from majority groups. Thus, it may be important to scrutinize and clarify the baseline skills and experience required for each role. Bear in mind that there may be people who are ready to advance into a unit head role after having spent years moving up the ranks. Where possible, consider if it is feasible to provide that opportunity.
Rely on tools or colleagues to identify new candidates. Using industry databases, like the new ARRAY Crew database, can help identify people from underrepresented backgrounds who may be available to work on your production. IMDbPro may also be a useful tool for identifying people who have worked on productions that might be relevant to the film or series for which you are hiring.
There are limits to the number of tools that currently exist to identify crew members from underrepresented groups. However, relying on your network of contacts and making it clear you are specifically recruiting with inclusion in mind can be one way to find people who may be outside your network but available to work on your production.
A second issue that faces line producers in the process of recruiting new talent for unit head and second positions is the location where production takes place. The first issue may be hiring individuals who qualify for union work in the production location. In major production centers this may pose less of a problem than in areas outside the US. However, if your budget supports travel for unit heads to the production, this may expand your options for hiring more inclusively.
One aspect of international locations may require special consideration. If you are relocating unit heads to work on your production, recognize that inequity in caregiving responsibilities may be more likely to affect women than men. Is it possible for unit heads who are also parents or caregivers (regardless of gender identity) to travel to production locations with their families? Is it possible for parents or caregivers to work in the production location while maintaining their responsibilities at home? While this may require creativity in scheduling and a change in practice, addressing these constraints may allow for a more diverse set of individuals to accept work on your production.
When you begin the process of selecting a company to provide services for your production, you have the opportunity to create avenues for inclusion. Enacting supplier diversity policies is the best way to do this. As you solicit bids from different organizations, request information about their ownership. Standard practice includes requesting information on business ownership, including whether the business is woman-owned or minority-owned. You may be able to request further information about the company ownership, including whether particular racial/ethnic groups are represented. Including this information during the bid solicitation process will provide a way for you and your team to determine the best vendors to use on your production and to make diversity and inclusion part of the decision-making.
Equipment Rental and other Purchases
As with vendors, equipment rental and purchasing can be done with an eye toward diversity and inclusion. No matter the production location, consider how you will source the equipment and products needed for your shoot. If unit heads will be in charge of gathering equipment, charge them with determining whether a company is woman- or minority-owned before making purchases. This may be particularly important when tax credits or rebates are involved. If you are spending production dollars locally, have you investigated whether businesses with diverse ownership are being approached to provide equipment? As with vendors, information on ownership demographics can be solicited during the bid process. Consider creating a database or sharing and seeking information from other producers who have worked in similar locations. Doing so will expand the opportunities for new business to provide services to productions, and increase efficiency for future projects.
This section has covered a broad array of methods that are useful for diversifying hiring practices above and below the line. The strategies presented here may be enough to help you achieve the goals of the Policy. It’s more likely, however, that teams will need to pursue multiple solutions, use actions we’ve suggested in conjunction with other approaches, and think critically about how to move forward to meet the Policy goals. Intentionality will be the most important aspect of your decision-making. By specifying your intentions and being transparent with your teams, it becomes possible for the production staff to work together to achieve their goals.
Resources for Hiring Trainees. Amazon Studios has built relationships with trainee programs that are cultivating emerging talent throughout the industry. This includes the following organizations and databases: