Ava DuVernay Introduces Diverse Database 'Array Crew'—We Better Not Hear Anymore Excuses, Hollywood

Tonja Renée Stidhum
·4 min read
In this Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, file photo, Ava DuVernay arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party.
In this Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, file photo, Ava DuVernay arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party.

Far too often, Black and other Film/TV crew members of color often hear a variation on trite excuse, “We keep hiring this white person because there aren’t a lot of [insert specific POC identifier here] directors, producers, cinematographers, production designers, costume designers, editors, etc.!”

It’s a lie. It’s not that they don’t exist; it’s that the gatekeepers aren’t looking hard enough. Frankly, it’s laziness. Well, it looks like we have yet another receipt to use as pushback against that tired narrative.

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According to the LA Times, Ava DuVernay has partnered with Warner Bros. TV executive Peter Roth to launch Array Crew, a division of Array Alliance, which will serve as a database to highlight below-the-line talent (the industry term for crew members that aren’t the actors, writer, director or producer, who are all considered to be “above-the-line talent”) that executives and hiring managers can use. It’s the next step toward more inclusive crews and its mission is to “bridge the hiring gap for women and people of color in the entertainment industry.”

Here’s more info about the brand new database, via LA Times:

Already in a soft launch stage, the searchable database so far features 2,500 profiles, which can be sorted by crew position, experience, location and more — think IMDb meets LinkedIn. The database is free to qualifying talent, who must have at least one verified credit. While the purpose of the database is to make it easier to find qualified women and people of color for crew positions, it’s open to everyone. It’s focused on U.S.-based talent, but there are plans to expand it to include the U.K. and Canada next year.

“I’ve never had the experience of being so closely connected with someone who’s probably, just on paper, the polar opposite of me—not a woman, not Black, not my age and certainly not anyone with as much power as Peter has,” DuVernay said of Roth, a relationship that led to her huge overall deal with Warner Bros. TV. “It serves as a model for the kinds of relationship[s] that we can be in, in our industry.”

Though this new database is the brainchild of two people with a Warner Bros. link, studio competitors such as Disney, Netflix and Sony have signed up for and invested in the project.

In a video call with the LA Times, DuVernay gave more of a background on how Array Crew came to be:

The genesis of it was a lot smaller than it is now. And Peter has a lot to do with that. We thought: “Oh, let’s just put together names of a bunch of people that we know — like everyone else in town, make a list.” There’s all these lists that people have ... literally, like little pieces of paper. You ask, “Can I see the list?” Everyone has one. CAA has one. But they weren’t together in one [omnibus list]. So, the first thing we thought about is: “Let’s go to everyone and say, ‘Hey, why don’t we all put our lists into one kind of spreadsheet, so we have one mega-list. People weren’t with that. And it’s like, “You’re proprietary with those 30 names? Are you serious, that little list, you don’t want to give?” Fine, we’ll make our own. The first two weeks, we had 500 people on a spreadsheet. After a while it was 750 and then 1,000 and then people calling and hearing about it, and it became a bit of a thing.

It was really Peter who said: “We should contact everyone.” He helped me think larger in terms of studios taking part in the foundation of it in a way that made it feel like theirs, which was our original idea. He knew, from a business perspective, [the studios] should invest in this so that you feel like it’s yours. And that’s why we are where we are now where it’s not a spreadsheet ... It is a tech company with a chief, with a CTO and a full staff and a fully vetted backend that is proprietary that we built from scratch.

Though this effort is to expand on existing industry lists, it’s actually been quite some time since Hollywood gatekeepers had absolutely no excuse when it came to diversifying their behind-the-scenes talent, with existing databases such as The JTC List (including their #StartWith8Hollywood program) and Diverse Representation or initiatives such as the implementation of inclusion riders. With DuVernay’s launch—especially given the significant combined platforms that she and Roth have—there is even less of an excuse not to have a truly diverse film or TV set.

Any further excuses? We don’t want to hear it. Just do the right thing.

For more information on Array Crew, head to arraycrew.com.