This time last year, one of the world’s largest companies made a major statement about its expectations for diversity, equity and inclusion within its content operations.
Amazon’s Prime Video and Amazon Studios have released a detailed inclusion policy and playbook to outline its guidelines and requirements for producers working on shows for the studio or commissioned by Prime Video. It was a concerted effort to be transparent and tell the creative community “this is what we think good looks like,” says Latasha Gillespie, head of global diversity, equity and inclusion for Prime Video, Amazon Studios and IMDB.
A year later, Gillespie recounts Variety‘s “Strictly Business” podcast, that there has been measurable progress in hiring, especially in low-profile areas like transportation and support services. Amazon’s Policy for Content Productions and Database of Companies, Suppliers and Talent from Underrepresented Backgrounds is an open source document posted online for everyone to view. This was important in making it a “living, breathing document” and an industry resource, she says.
“We’re not saying we’re never wrong. We made it public because it’s a mechanism to hold us accountable,” says Gillespie. “We ask not only our creative partners but also our industry to hold our hands and do this with us. And oh yes, by the way, if you find a better way to do any aspect of this policy or manual, please share it with us so we can keep it updated and all of us can benefit from it. ‘learning.
For a company that prides itself on being customer-obsessed, Gillespie says, it’s crucial that the people behind Amazon’s shows have the right “lived experience” to tell the stories they make. Overall, she was impressed with the number of people committed to meaningful progress. But there were also some candid conversations.
“Our creative partners have been great allies and co-conspirators in this work. I haven’t come across anyone who says, ‘I don’t think this is right’. We shouldn’t be doing this,” Gillespie says. , the devil is in the nuance and the detail, so I’ve met creators who had good intentions of telling a story in a certain way without understanding the harm it could potentially cause.
“We all measure ourselves by our intentions, but others may measure us by our impact. So if you’re going to tell a trans story, you should either have that lived experience or someone in your writers room has to tell it. If you’re going to tell a specific story that’s centered around a woman of color, then there have to be women of color on your production team and your writing team,” says Gillespie. “You have to make sure that story is authentic.”
During the chat, Gillespie also shares his impressions of working in the entertainment industry after a long career as a senior human resources executive at Deerfield, Il.-based machinery and equipment manufacturer Caterpillar. The Chicago-raised executive joined Amazon on the corporate side in 2017, moving to Prime Video and Amazon Studios in 2018.
The challenge of learning a new business in such a prestigious field has been invigorating, Gillespie says.
“I always give advice to others: if you’re not living on the razor’s edge, then you’re taking up too much space,” she says.
“Strictly professional” is VarietyThe weekly podcast from features conversations with industry leaders about the media and entertainment sector. New episodes debut every Wednesday and can be downloaded from iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud.