Producers play a key role in ensuring that a story moves from script to screen smoothly, and are responsible for bringing content in on time and within budget. Yet research across both film and series content has shown that women and people from underrepresented groups appear more often toward the bottom of producing credits than they do toward the top. In other words, the more prestige a title carries, the less likely it is to be attached to an individual from a historically marginalized community.
First, let’s discuss producing credits in episodic storytelling that are awarded for work as a writer. Crediting producers may depend on three factors: when in the staffing process they are hired onto your series, their prior experience, and even the negotiation process. At the start of staffing, it may be difficult to determine the precise number of executive producers, co-executive producers, etc. you are able to hire. One method to consider is how much experience you aim to have on your writing team. For example, if you are interested in hiring a team of highly experienced writers, you may recruit differently. A few things to keep in mind:
· As noted above, make sure your candidate pool reflects the population you want to represent in your staffing. Solicit applications from writers whose previous experience makes them eligible to step into a larger role. Recognize that historical inequities could mean that writers from underrepresented backgrounds may only have titles below the title you are seeking to fill.
· Use a “blind” submission process when evaluating writing samples. This eliminates the name(s) of the writers you are considering so you can read samples without making assumptions about the writer’s gender or racial/ethnic background. Eliminating the use of background information also creates pathways for writers with disabilities or from the LGBTQ+ community to have their work reviewed without their identity playing a role in the consideration process.
· Determine the criteria you will use to assign or request titles for writers at different levels. For example, what will be required to assign Co-Executive Producer credits versus Supervising Producer credits? Work with Amazon Studios’ Business Affairs team to understand how titles and credits are allocated per series. Make sure your criteria does not only account for each candidate’s prior experience, but appropriately reflects the level of oversight you want the writer/producer to have on your project. For stories that focus on underrepresented communities, your criteria should include the level of contribution you want the writer/producer to offer when it comes to the community being portrayed.
As you build your team, pay attention to where you may be missing expertise and insight into different communities you will portray onscreen. If your story incorporates characters from communities not represented on your staff, you may need to expand your staff to ensure these perspectives are represented. One way to do this is by calling in consultants or consulting producers. Make sure to evaluate how often and under what circumstances you hire consultants. If you find that you consistently rely on outside consultants to advise you about underrepresented voices, ask why you have not made space on your team for these perspectives. Consider that career trajectories for underrepresented creators may be limited by biases and impediments that have historically marginalized different communities. Then ask whether your actions may contribute to these ongoing issues by restricting episode credits or overall position on a series for writers from various backgrounds. The intent here is not to avoid the use of consultants entirely, but to think critically about whether temporary staff positions are the smartest and most effective way to incorporate the contributions of underrepresented writers.
The same consideration should also apply to non-writing producers on episodic series or non-financing producers in feature film. Establish clear criteria for awarding each type of credit (Associate, Co-, etc.) based on the responsibilities carried out by the individual in pre-production, on set, in post-production, and in any other relevant arenas. Here, it is important to recognize that individuals from groups that have historically been underrepresented (based on gender, race/ethnicity, LGBTQ+ identification, disability) may also see their contributions undervalued or dismissed as less important. By outlining clear criteria for awarding credits, you can minimize the likelihood that you will overlook important contributions made by individuals from these groups.