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Diversity and Inclusion in Hollywood Breakfast

Date: Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Time: 8:30 A.M. Breakfast was provided.
Location: Glendale, CA
Contact: Lauren Appelbaum, [email protected] or 202-591-0703

headshot of Jonathan Murray wearing a gray striped shirt and facing the camera color photo

Jonathan Murray

Jonathan Murray of Bunim/Murray hosted this breakfast conversation. Murray has created and executive produced some of the industry’s most diverse, innovative, unscripted, entertainment television programs including Emmy-winning Born This Way (A&E), which documents the lives of diverse young adults with Down Syndrome and their families. Murray serves on the Board of Directors for RespectAbility.

RespectAbility’s focus is on the inclusion of diverse people with disabilities within the entertainment industry. As such, we unveiled a new resource guide for disability inclusion. This toolkit is for entertainment professionals wishing to ensure they are as inclusive of people with disabilities as possible. Email [email protected] with questions or visit www.respectability.org/hollywood-inclusion to view the toolkit.

It is our view that everyone who works on any aspect of diversity in Hollywood should help everyone else as a rising tide lifts all ships. Television and films that represent ALL of us are simply better. During this event, we explored ways we can work together to pitch diversity in Hollywood to ensure a more inclusive medium. We discussed messages and strategies to fight stigma and advance opportunities for all underrepresented people in the industry.

According to a recent report by The Media, Diversity, & Social Change (MDSC) Initiative at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, only 2.7 percent of all speaking or named characters in film were shown to have a disability in 2016 (up from 2.4 percent in 2015). None of the leading characters were from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group or the LGBT community.

“The results of this analysis on characters with disabilities reveal clear discrepancies between the real world and the ‘reel world,'” the report says. “Stories that reflect the full lives of characters with disabilities and the demographic diversity of this community remain elusive in film.”

The report shows that in the last decade there has been almost no progress on diversity, equity and equality in Hollywood. Therefore, we need to find a better model to move change.

People with disabilities are the largest minority in America, with almost one-in-five Americans having a disability. Yet the disability community often is forgotten in inclusion and diversity conversations. According to GLAAD, fewer than two percent of scripted television characters (16) had disabilities in 2017. The amount of regular primetime broadcast characters counted who have a disability has slightly increased to 1.8 percent, but that number still vastly underrepresents the actualities of Americans with disabilities. Furthermore, more than 95 percent of characters with disabilities on television are played by actors without disabilities.

What does exist is misleading. Almost all portrayals of people with disabilities in media are white, despite the fact that disability impacts all. Anyone can join the disability community at any point and people with disabilities come from all communities – including the African American, Asian, Hispanic, Native American and LGBTQ communities.

Meet the Author

Lauren Appelbaum

Lauren Appelbaum is the VP, Communications and Entertainment & News Media, of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so all people with disabilities can fully participate in every aspect of community. As an individual with an acquired nonvisible disability – Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy – she works at the intersection of disability, employment, Hollywood and politics. She regularly conducts trainings on the why and how to be more inclusive and accessible for entertainment executives throughout the industry. Appelbaum partners with studios, production companies and writers’ rooms to create equitable and accessible opportunities to increase the number of people with lived disability experience throughout the overall story-telling process. These initiatives increase diverse and authentic representation of disabled people on screen, leading to systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities. She has consulted on more than 100 TV episodes and films with A&E, Bunim-Murray Productions, NBCUniversal, Netflix, ViacomCBS, and The Walt Disney Company, among others. She represents RespectAbility on the CAA Full Story Initiative Advisory Council, Disney+ Content Advisory Council, MTV Entertainment Group Culture Code and Sundance Institute’s Allied Organization Initiative. She is the author of The Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit and the creator of an innovative Lab Program for entertainment professionals with disabilities working in development, production and post-production. She is a recipient of the 2020 Roddenberry Foundation Impact Award for this Lab. To reach her, email [email protected]

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