Legacy media is dead: TIFF and Sundance’s press initiatives are what Hollywood needs
After a year in which women of Hollywood have stood up against gender disparity in the industry and announced that Time’s Up on the boy’s club of cinema, the effect appears to be trickling down to less visible parts of the industry. As revealed by Brie Larson at the Women in Film Los Angeles Crystal + Lucy Awards, both the Toronto International Film Festival and Sundance film festival plan to provide 20% of press credentials to “underrepresented journalists” – defined by both festivals as being women and people of color.
Speaking to IndieWire, TIFF’s vice president of public relations Andréa Grau commented that as Toronto “is really multicultural … it’s important to have the people who cover the films be that way, too” and explained that despite not knowing about Sundance’s own initiative, she’s happy “they’re doing the same thing. This a really important time not be competitors, to join hands. It’s important for us to increase our media core, but it’s also important for press outlets to hire more underrepresented journalists and for marketing teams to hire them. We’re one part of a larger equation and happy to do our part to move the dial.”
Meanwhile Sundance’s director of outreach and inclusion Karim Ahmad highlighted to the website that the initiative is part of a long term goal and will take some work, “We’re just gathering metrics about the demographics. Knowing that’s the area where there’s the greatest opportunity for improvement, this is the beginning of what we hope will be incremental change … This is, very much, the beginning of a multi-year project. Our goal isn’t to throw another 20% at the problem and say we’re done.”
The announcement arrived days after a USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative report suggested that women and people of color are both underrepresented in film journalism based on 19,559 reviews of the 100 top-grossing films posted to Rotten Tomatoes. There’s been some debate regarding the legitimacy of that study based on Rotten Tomatoes being “an extremely imperfect index” as one critic put it, however it’s interesting that both TIFF and Sundance appear to be acknowledging the issue and taking direct action on it.
The initiatives currently being adopted by both festivals suggest the beginning of the end for legacy media. Arguably two of the most high profile independent film festivals in the world, TIFF and Sundance’s decision is one that could influence untold amounts of incremental changes across the industry. The initiatives could be taken to suggest a certain subtle acknowledgment by both festivals that the old Hollywood systems are dead and in desperate need of replacing with some new ideas and fresh voices.
If movie studios and Hollywood institutions stand any chance of survival then they’re going to have to learn and accept these new voices and perhaps even figure out ways to make the old guard a little less elite and a little more accessible.