During my time at this years NBCUniversal Short Film Fest, I caught up with NBC VP Karen Horne and a host of other Hollywood attendees to discuss the current landscape of diversity in Hollywood and why festivals that showcase new diverse talent are more important than ever.
“It’s important to celebrate the world for what it really is. You don’t really get to see as much diversity on the television screen” says Roland Buck, a recurring star of the wildly successful NBC series Chicago Med. “We’re seeing more than we had before but we still have a ways to go.”
A sentiment that Essence Atkins, an American television mainstay and star of the new NBC sitcom Marlon, emphatically agrees with. “It’s important to talk about diversity but, not just talk about it, be about it. That’s what NBCUniversal is doing with these short films. They have a record and a history that says ‘we believe in developing talent’ not just recognizing it and handing it an award but we also believe in pouring back into it. That’s one of the things that I love that NBCUniversal has done that no other studio does.”
Manny Jacinto, one of the stars of NBC’s The Good Place, spoke about short films as a training ground for up-and-coming actors and creatives, especially those of color. “[They’re] a way for people who are just starting out to express their creativity. I remember back in the day, when I was auditioning, the only projects I could get were short films because sometimes people don’t really want to do them. I was able to practice my craft through these projects. It’s really just a medium for us express whatever’s in our hearts and minds, however cheesy that sounds”
Kim Whitley, the host of that night’s festivities and an actress/director/producer herself, suggested that having more women in positions of power, especially in Hollywood’s current harassment-riddled climate, might help further offset its diversity problem. “It’s wonderful that women are rising to the top in position [who] will include all types of people: men, women, in [all] different colors. I’m very excited about that”
One such woman is NBCUniversal Vice President Karen Horne, who oversees NBC’s diversity and inclusion initiative. I asked Mrs. Horne about the future of diversity in film and television and her advice for young people who fall into the category of “diverse” talent, and her answer was so eloquently put, that no more need be said. “Don’t let anyone say no to you. Be persistent. And also, be the best that you can be. Diversity is not an excuse for talent; you have to be the best. Be the very best at what you do and the doors will be open to you. I hope that eventually my job will be obsolete. I hope that eventually we become a society where we won’t need someone to say ‘I’m developing the best diverse writers and actors’ because they’ll just be considered automatically. I think I’ll have job security for a while, we’re not there yet, but that’s my hope.”
For more information on the NBCUniversal Short Film Festival or any other NBCUniversal Talent Infusion Programs, please visit http://www.nbcunitips.com