As a driving force behind film and TV projects including “The West Wing,” “The Newsroom” and “A Few Good Men,” Aaron Sorkin has enjoyed an illustrious screenwriting career in Hollywood that’s spanned decades.
At an industry event over the weekend, however, Sorkin learned that other, non-white, non-male people historically have had a harder time making it, according to a report by Variety.
The Hollywood diversity issue ― reported by journalists, researched by academics, dissected by insiders ― was, apparently, news to him. Or at least a topic on which he demonstrated shocking unfamiliarity. Variety reported on Sorkin’s “burning questions” during a discussion moderated by film critic Elvis Mitchell at the Writers Guild Festival in Hollywood on Saturday. According to people there, however, the talk was a genuinely compassionate one on the part of Sorkin, who invited input from those around him.
“Are you saying that women and minorities have a more difficult time getting their stuff read than white men and you’re also saying that [white men] get to make mediocre movies and can continue on?” Sorkin asked, per Variety.
“You’re saying that if you are a woman or a person of color, you have to hit it out of the park in order to get another chance?”
While various reports have found slight gains in opportunities for women and minority screenwriters ― and other behind-the-scenes workers like directors and producers ― over recent years, the picture has been clear for some time. White people, and white men in particular, are given more opportunities to create on-screen entertainment.
A most recent report, from the Writers Guild of America, West, released in 2016, found that women and minority writers were underrepresented in TV and film from 2012 to 2014. (Writers of color in television stood at just 13 percent during that time frame.) Another study, led by the same University of California at Los Angeles researcher and released in February, found similar results when 2015 shows and films were also taken into account.
Such research has been practiced for years. The #OscarsSoWhite hashtag also dominated entertainment news cycles during awards season two years in a row, prompting a critical look at how race and gender is represented across all parts of the industry. How an accomplished writer like Sorkin could have missed the conversation is hard to imagine.
But, for his part, Sorkin was eager to learn more and become a force for positive change. “I do want to understand what someone like me can do,” he said, per Variety.
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