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Netflix: USC Study on Content Diversity & Creative Equity Fund Update

by Neil Bui

Two years ago (2021), Netflix partnered with Dr. Stacy L. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative to study inclusion metrics such as gender, race/ethnicity/ LGBTQ+, and disability in the streaming platform’s US commissioned films and series. As part of this partnership, Netflix will be releasing updates on its progress every two years through 2026 for the sake of accountability as well as to effect lasting change in the entertainment industry.

From the work thus far, it is known that more diversity behind the camera leads to better representation and inclusion on screen. And in order to establish more opportunities for those from underrepresented communities to have their voices heard and closing the gap with training programs, the Netflix Fund for Creative Equity was started in 2021 to invest in emerging talent, set them up for success, and ultimately become storytellers of tomorrow. The $100 million fund has been directed towards external organizations with strong track records of setting underrepresented communities up for success in TV and film, as well as in Netflix programs that will help in identifying, training, and providing job placement for emerging talent around the world.

The findings from the study looking at Netflix US films and series from 2020-2021, indicated growth year-over-year for women and people from underrepresented groups:

  • Gender equality in leading roles:
    • 55% of all Netflix films and series from 2018-2021 featured a girl or woman as the lead or co-lead
  • Increased representation for people of color in leading roles:
    • 47% of Netflix films and series from 2020-2021 featured a lead or co-lead from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group
  • More woman behind the camera:
    • In 2021, 26.9% of directors on Netflix films were women compared to 12.7% across top-grossing films of that year
    • Show creators rose to 38% in 2021 from 26.9% in 2018
  • More women of color behind the camera and on screen:
    • The amount of series directors who were women of color increased from 5.6% in 2018 to 11.8% in 2021
    • 27.7% of films and 54.75% of series in 2021 had woman of color as lead or co-leads

Gaps persist for Latinx, Middle Eastern/North African, Indigenous, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander communities, with significant room to improve for the representation of characters with disabilities. Read the executive summary here and the full report here.

For this year’s update on the Netflix Fund for Creative Equity, in just two years $29 million has been invested in 100+ programs, partnering with 80+ organizations in 35+ countries.

The Fund has supported 4,500+ creatives (directors, producers, writers, visual effects, and more) through resources and training to help in preparing them for work in local industries. 395 creatives have been placed on Netflix productions in various roles, ranging from line producers and associate editors to casting assistants and grips, working on projects around the world such as Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story in the United Kingdom, Lupin in France, Blood Sisters in Nigeria,You Are So Not Invited To My Bat Mitzvah! in Canada as well as Day Shift and Rebel Moon in the United States. Participants in the Series Director Development Program had the opportunity to direct episodes on popular series such as Ozark, Family Reunion, On My Block, and Lost in Space.

Short films from Netflix-funded programs have been screened at 40+ film festivals. Further additional program highlights are available here. New programs that have been announced include:

  • Shondaland Producers Inclusion and Ladder Initiatives (US):
    • The new iteration of the Producers Inclusion Initiative will train underrepresented line producers within the studio system. Additionally, 13 trainees are currently placed in production and technical roles on the set of The Residence, an upcoming Netflix series.
  • Gold Producers Accelerator presented by Gold House, AUM and Netflix (US):
    • Led by Nina Yang Bongiovi, this program will give Asian and Pacific Islander producers paid shadowing placements on independent films, as well as mentorship and customized masterclasses.
  • imagineNATIVE Production Mentorship Program (Canada):
    • Indigenous creatives will receive paid onset mentorship opportunities on a production in Canada.
  • Netflix x Film Companion Take Ten Program (India):
    • Five emerging filmmakers in India will create a limited series and get a chance to learn from leading industry professionals.
  • European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs (EAVE), House of Europe, the New York Film Academy and the Ukrainian Film Academy (Ukraine):
    • Applications are now open for a new series of digital masterclasses for Ukrainian producers and line producers.

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