Amazon Studios is doing the work to make sure everyone knows that they aren’t just virtue signaling when it comes to representation and inclusion.
Today the media giant released a comprehensive Inclusion Policy that extends its commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity for its content and productions. In addition, they unveiled a whole Playbook with guidelines for its collaborators in the creative community. These guides offer detailed and actionable recommendations as Amazon Studios continues to seek out stories and storytelling that amplify voices across race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, age, religion, disability (including mental health), body size, gender, gender identity, and gender expression for the global Prime Video audience.
“Amazon Studios has long prioritized telling innovative and inclusive stories from a diverse range of creative talent, delighting our global audiences,” said Latasha Gillespie,
Executive Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Amazon Studios. We wanted to move beyond good intentions to creating mechanisms that hold us accountable to a high bar. This Inclusion Policy and Inclusion Playbook adds important, additional depth and guidance for our internal teams and external partners to ensure we continue to advance our shared mission of amplifying the best creatives and content around the world.
Jennifer Salke, Head of Amazon Studios added, “With the establishment of our Inclusion Policy and Inclusion Playbook, Amazon Studios has committed itself to being a thought and action leader in the transformation of our industry. We know how much work there is
to be done to improve representation both on camera and behind the scenes, and it starts at home, with us. With clear directives and a commitment to accountability, these guides provide a path toward a more equitable future, both on- and off-camera.”
Amazon Studios shared the Policy and Playbook with creators, including Gloria Calderón Kellett, creator and executive producer of the upcoming Amazon Original series With Love.
“I am so proud to be a part of a creative community at Amazon that understands the importance of what I’ve been doing my whole career,” she said. “Inclusive hiring is what makes change. Opportunity and an eye towards changing things through action is what makes change. Thrilled that Amazon has put together this playbook to start important conversations with their other creatives. This is real action and commitment and I’m thrilled to see it!”
Establishing expectations for Amazon Studios and its creative partners, the Inclusion Policy covers four primary areas: Developing Stories and Characters, Hiring and Production, Reporting and Documentation, and Meeting Goals. The policy ensures meaningful visibility in Amazon
Studios’ content and throughout all aspects of the production process — both in the stories being told and the people hired to tell them. The policy includes specific goals for Amazon Studios productions, including:
Each film or series with a creative team of three or more people in above-the-line roles (Directors, Writers, Producers) should ideally include a minimum 30% women and 30% members of an underrepresented racial/ethnic group. This aspirational goal will increase to 50% by 2024.
Casting actors whose identity (gender, gender identity, nationality, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability) aligns with the character they will be playing.
Aiming to include one character from each of the following categories in speaking roles, with minimum 50% of these to be women: LGBTQIA+, person with a disability, and three regionally underrepresented race/ethnic/cultural groups. A single character can fulfill one or more of these identities.
Seeking at least three bids from vendors or suppliers on productions, one of which must be from a woman-owned business and one from a minority-owned business.
Pay equity across casting, behind the camera staff and crew, and for vendors and suppliers.
It seems like the same lyrics to a different song that other legacy studios and TV networks have attempted to put into place. However, this is Amazon, a newer company in the industry that has less white supremacy to undo than the other Hollywood entities… so there is hope.
Amazon Studios will provide a report template for each production to indicate whether these expectations were met, that will be submitted within one month of the completion of principal photography. This reporting exceeds the minimum standards set by the Academy, but ensures Amazon is poised to report on the diversity of their films for Academy Award contention.
Through the setting of goals and tracking of adherence to these policies, Amazon Studios expands its commitment to increasing representation on camera and behind the scenes, contributing to efforts to move the industry forward to a more inclusive future.
The Inclusion Playbook puts in place intentional practices to minimize and disrupt biases, providing specific guidance that will help everyone within and working with Amazon Studios to meet the expectations set in the Inclusion Policy. The Playbook provides direction on how to make inclusive decisions, while telling authentic stories and hiring the best people for the job; knowledge of where to go for help, including tools to make inclusive decisions; tools to identify criteria for making creative choices, leading to balanced, consistent and informed decisions; and ways to foster curiosity and ask questions to disrupt the status quo about “how things are done.”
Amazon Studios worked closely with inclusion masterminds Dr. Stacy Smith and Dr. Katherine Pieper of USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, and with Brenda Robinson of the International Documentary Association and Gamechanger Films on the creation of the Policy and Playbook.
The studio also consulted with leading organizations devoted to advancing the visibility and responsible depictions of underrepresented or marginalized people, including GLAAD, Illuminative, Think Tank for Inclusion & Equity, and the Disability Rights Education and Defense
“Frankly, the outcomes of DEI work within the entertainment industry have not been swift or sweeping. In part, that can be attributed to disingenuous approaches to address the systemic barriers to entry that have long plagued Hollywood,” said Smith. “But now, Amazon Studios has created a comprehensive new blueprint that will change Hollywood by elevating those who have historically lacked access. I’m immensely proud of this new policy and I know it will be a gamechanger throughout an industry often resistant to real change.”
These Inclusion documents have been guided by the Amazon Studios DEI team, whose focus is to:
- Ensure diverse representation of talent (in front of and behind the camera, above and below the line).
- Dismantle longstanding barriers to success in the Industry and inspect our processes so we do not create or perpetuate inequities.
- And tell inclusive narratives to reach a globally diverse audience.