It can be hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel of this horror show that is 2020. The pandemic, ongoing racial injustices, political firestorms, and actual firestorms have left most of us asking“What can I do?” Well, Hollywood is asking themselves the same question, and today the ViacomCBS Entertainment & Youth (E&Y) Group—in partnership with Angela Bassett, Idris Elba, Salma Hayek, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, John Leguizamo, Eva Longoria, Courtney B. Vance, and their respective production companies—announced an initiative to develop 50 films across Paramount Network, MTV, Comedy Central and the E&Y portfolio for first time BIPOC filmmakers and women directors “to tell diverse stories through the lens of diverse storytellers.”
“We are thrilled to partner with these icons of entertainment to cultivate first-time BIPOC and first-time women directors. Together, we will give rise to multi-cultural narratives and voices that resonate with audiences around the world,” Nina L. Diaz, E&Y’s president of content and chief creative officer, says of partnering with Angela Bassett & Courtney B. Vance’s Bassett Vance Productions, Idris Elba’s Green Door Pictures, Salma Hayek’s Ventanarosa Productions, Priyanka Chopra Jonas’ Purple Pebble Pictures, John Leguizamo’s Rebel Productions and Eva Longoria’s UnbelieEVAble Entertainment.
“We Latinx are 17.5 percent of the U.S. population and 25 percent of the U.S. box office, but we’re often fewer than 4 percent of the faces in front of and behind the camera. We are also painfully absent in the decision makers’ arena with less than 1 percent of executives,” says Leguizamo, echoing statements he told The A.V. Club ahead of the launch of his recent film Critical Thinking. “So, in brief, our stories are not being told by streamers, networks, or studios. I believe that my collaboration with ViacomCBS E&Y will assure more Latinx talent, writers, directors, directors of photography, and crew will get their opportunities to create and exercise their gifts when they would otherwise be unseen and ignored.”
“It means opening doors for new and fresh voices, both in front of and behind the camera, something that has always been a top priority for us,” Basset and Vance say in a joint statement. “We look forward to being a part of a growing coalition of directors, producers, actors and writers who will be the change agents at the forefront of a new, multicultural, and more dynamic workforce in this industry.”