ADWEEK: Some of film’s simplest images of Black life have a way of inspiring deep-seated dread in audiences.
A shot of two boys entering a convenience store can have viewers guessing whether they’ll make it out alive. Black female characters are too often saddled with outdated stereotypes disguised as “strength” with little to no development. Even moments of joy seem like brief segues to something much more bleak, like peace before inevitable tragedy.
It shouldn’t be this way. But for Black audiences, this is the reality when faced with a film industry that repeatedly invests in a very narrow view of the culture —a view often presented by white creators.
On Monday, consumer products giant P&G announced a new initiative geared toward expanding the development of Black creators in film, television and advertising. Titled Widen the Screen, the effort aims to fuel investment in Black-owned media not only by increasing representation on screen, but also by creating and encouraging opportunities for Black talent behind the camera.
Widen the Screen’s introductory short film, narrated by Academy Award-winning actor Mahershala Ali, premiered during the 2021 NAACP Image Awards on Saturday, serving as a call to action for the film industry to portray a more holistic view of Black life that isn’t reliant on two common extremes: Black struggle and Black triumph. The films produced under this initiative will explore the many stories that exist between these extremes and are designed to place creators on a trajectory for long-term success.
P&G believes that such necessary change begins with correcting the system that has largely kept Black creators from entering the film and production industries in the first place.
“We have to address the systemic inequalities that exist in our industry, and that’s why Widen the Screen is a critically important initiative, not just for P&G, but for the industry,” said Marc Pritchard, P&G’s chief brand officer. “In stepping up and leveling the playing field for Black creators, we will enable change that will benefit all underrepresented groups and result in higher quality, more relevant film, television and advertising content that deepens our appreciation of the richness of our society.”
Widen the Screen is a continuation of the company’s longstanding effort to close the racial and gender gaps that exist in the film and television industries.
The company’s Queen Collective initiative, created in partnership with Queen Latifah to provide increased opportunities for women filmmakers, enters its third year as it greenlights four documentary-style projects. Films created within the Queen Collective program have premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, aired on BET and streamed on Hulu.
P&G also announced that it will be partnering with Spring Hill Entertainment and Tribeca this summer for a number of scripted films that “tell life-affirming stories of joy, love and resilience.”
Widen the Screen can be viewed on the initiative’s dedicated website alongside two additional short films, stats surrounding Hollywood’s current lack of inclusion and action items aimed at combatting racial bias.
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