Friday, October 14, 2016
On Wednesday night, I had the opportunity to go see Lemon Andersen at Ohio University’s 90 Minute Series. Lemon Andersen is a spoken word artist, poet and actor. Lemon has performed on Broadway and has toured on stage for a number of years. He stated that what inspired him most was reading about characters in poems, which eventually led him to become a poet and a spoken word artist. He is currently a full time screen writer in the entertainment industry.
I really enjoyed learning about Lemon’s life and his career, but what stuck out to me the most during his talk, was his thoughts on diversity in the entertainment industry. I actually thought this was perfect because our in-class discussion this week was all about diversity in the journalism field.
Lemon believes that there is a serious lack of diversity in the entertainment industry, especially in the writing room of TV shows or films. He explained how there are very few minority writers in the field, and how this needs to change. He believes that people of color need to be writing in any form. The ultimate goal would be to have as many diverse writers as possible to start competing with one another.
His assumptions are not wrong. CBS interviewed Darnell Hunt, the Director of UCLA’s Center of African American Studies, who has spent time analyzing the ratio of women and minorities in the television industry. He stated that the heads of these studios “…have been reluctant to invite other people into the room, women particularly, and people of color who can help them develop the diverse stories that will resonate more…” The rest of CBS's report and Hunt's interview can be seen here.
According to NPR, The University of Southern California did an extensive search looking at 1,500 executives and graded 10 media companies “for their onscreen and behind the scenes representation of women and people of color.” The study did not pass any of these six film distributors: 21st Century Fox, NBC Universal, Sony, The Walt Disney Company, Time Warner and Viacom.
Lemon also believes that white writers ultimately do not want to write other’s diverse stories. He thinks the best way to change that is by reaching out to today’s youth. He believes that going to elementary schools and speaking to minority children about the diverse writing jobs available in the entertainment industry will help the problem. Lemon thinks that this is the best time to reach out to minority children, so that they will actually want to go to college. He believes that reaching out to teenagers would be to late. It is imperative to start planting a seed in children’s heads now.
Lemon shared with us a couple of things he is doing to help get minority children interested in the writing process. For one, he is reaching out to schools and helping teachers come up with curriculum that will better help children learn about poetry, as well as how to creatively write. He is also teaming up with AMC and doing projects with inner city children to talk to them about the opportunities that come with learning how to creatively write and the screen writing jobs that could be available to them. They also eventually bring the children on set to show them first hand the huge prospects that they could eventually have in the entertainment industry.
I really enjoyed Lemon’s thoughts on the problems of diversity in the entertainment industry. I agree that the lack of diversity in the behind the scenes work of TV shows and films is a problem that needs to be fixed. I think that Lemon has excellent ideas of how to help solve these problems and I sincerely look forward to seeing progress be made.