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Media Diversity Finds Champions in Congress, ShortsTV

Diversity in media– especially film– is an issue that needs more than headlines and rhetoric. It needs to show up. The change formulas need to be tested and proven out.

And while the web has done an amazing  job of offering diversity through algorithms, it has also created deep verticals where people aren’t getting exposed to content they might not agree with. The free market aspect of entertainment has its gate keepers in the mainstream that don’t move quite as fast or precise as digital and have both more and less freedom to make and offer diverse programming. In the land of Oscar and Emmy, the market isn’t truly free and diverse, yet.

Which is why elected officials in Washington are stepping in with the creation of  the Caucus for Advancement of Studio, Talent (CAST) and Film Diversity. Formed by Hank Johnson (D-GA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Raul Ruiz (D-CA) the bi-partisan group can help push forward the dialogue of diversity.

They are not alone in the fight, of course. So many in Hollywood want more diversity on and off screen. The summer block buster of Wonder Woman, starring a woman, directed by a woman- is moving the agenda forward.

On the front lines of that fight is Shorts TV, the short film TV network operated by Shorts International– the largest distributor of short film in the world. The company has a good reason for doubling down on diversity, as short film is already the most diverse genre of film. And stats show, it is where the next generation of premium cinematic storytelling will emerge. The network has been very active in driving the conversation through its #watchincolor campaign launched earlier this year.

“This year’s Academy Awards proved again that the talent is out there, it just needs a shot,” said ShortsTV’s Chief Executive, Carter Pilcher.

The majority of today’s Film and TV talent got their start making short films in university or film school, but new filmmaking technologies have made this format even more widely accessible and provide unique, low-cost opportunities to bring diverse talent into the film and TV industry. More emerging talent from diverse backgrounds are trying their hand at making short films, but they still need a place for their work to be seen in a professional environment.

“One thing is non-debatable,” Pilcher emphasized. “Short film is where it all starts for diverse filmmakers to begin to hone their skills and showcase their work. We see short films as the key to building a broad-based pipeline of diversity in Hollywood.”

Barry Jenkins is a real-world example of the career-building power of short film. Jenkins has catapulted to the A-list with his feature film, Moonlight. But, he started in short film. The stylistic connections between his first short film, My Josephine, and Moonlight are evident.

He’s not alone in valuing short film. The last five Oscar-winning Best Directors have made short films throughout their careers, to hone their craft but also as an avenue to tell the stories they want to tell – their way. “Giving diverse talent real opportunities is important to me,” said Chairman of the ShortsTV Advisory Board and former member of Congress, Charles Gonzalez (D-TX).

“When I worked on diversity issues in Congress, we focused our attention on increasing minority ownership. Ownership is important, no doubt about it, but now I understand that we missed a critical piece of the puzzle – the focus on creating opportunities for diverse talent. “It’s great that this new Caucus is putting front-and-center the need to increase opportunities for minorities in filmmaking, added Gonzalez.”