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Few Blacks Ever Reach the Studio Front Office : Hollywood: NAACP report says the picture is bleaker today than it was 10 years ago.

July 10, 1990|DAVID J. FOX | TIMES STAFF WRITER

There are fewer opportunities for blacks in Hollywood executive suites than there were 10 years ago, a report distributed at the NAACP convention Monday charges.

The report, prepared by the Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP chapter, targets all the major film studios, claiming that "some studios are worse off today than they were 10 years ago. Ten years ago, at least, there were a few African-American executives. Ten years ago, at least, there were producers and production companies that were a viable part of the system."

None of the major studios cited in the report, which surfaced in Monday morning's edition of the trade paper Daily Variety, was prepared to respond to it, spokesmen said. An informal glance at studio executive rosters bore out the report's findings that, with rare exceptions, there are few blacks in creative positions in Hollywood.

Sandra Evers-Manly, president of the Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP, said in the report that there are few--"in some cases non-existent"--decision makers who are black.

"Many projects, especially those dealing with positive perspectives of African-American life, are generally passed over in favor of more mainstream fare," the report said.

Evers-Manly termed this an "invisible ceiling that exists in the studios" which prevents blacks from assuming creative roles.

Evers-Manly said an NAACP survey of studios was conducted by sending letters to chief executive officers at each company and during meetings with executives. "Often we were met with suspicion and/or some hostility and, in some instances, given no response at all to our letters," she wrote in her report. On the positive side, she said two studios had been forthcoming and a third promised to arrange a meeting with the NAACP group.

The report singled out only Walt Disney Studios for having "actively searched for more African-Americans" to serve in key studio roles. "While we do commend Disney for such movement and for being one of the first to meet with the NAACP, there is still room for improvement.

"If 'black' were really 'in,' then where is the one African-American executive who can 'green-light' a movie?" the report asks.

Evers-Manly said a final report is expected later in the year, along with a "report card" that will grade the performance of each studio regarding its hiring of blacks.

A panel discussion scheduled for 2:30 p.m. today will look at "Blacks in the Entertainment Industry." Scheduled speakers include producer Paul Brock, actors Jim Brown and Fred Williamson, singer Dionne Warwick, actress Marla Gibbs, Compton City Atty. LeGrand Clegg and Evers-Manly.

There was one positive exchange Monday between Hollywood and the civil rights organization.

The group on Monday presented actress Esther Rolle, who appeared most recently in the Oscar-winning "Driving Miss Daisy," with the NAACP's Civil Rights Leadership Award for her contributions to the civil rights struggle. The award was presented by NAACP Board Chairman William R. Gibson.

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