FX CEO John Landgraf Explains Why Networks Should Take a “Quantum” Approach with Improving Diversity
Back in November, Variety published a breakdown exploring diversity in TV directing jobs at ten networks, and even though all the networks were dominated by white men, FX had the worst numbers with just 12% women and people of color credited as directors. It’s been less than a year since that article went up, but the network clearly took their bad stats to heart, because as of this week, FX’s worked to bring that 12% up to 51%.
FX’s CEO John Landgraf spoke to Variety about what the network has done and is continuing to do to bring more diverse voices behind the camera, and it all comes down to one general sentiment: Stop making excuses, take responsibility, and just start hiring more diverse directors. “We set a goal that wasn’t incremental but quantum, in terms of what we wanted to achieve,” he said. “Part of it is, if you’re going to go from a laggard to a leader, try to get to something you can actually achieve and sustain that looks like real change.” He added later: “We just happened to all be working in a system that was racially biased, and weren’t taking responsibility for stepping up and acknowledging that and saying, ‘OK, we will be the change.'”
Landgraf’s interview with Variety is full of great quotes that thwart pretty much any excuse a network could make up regarding lack of diversity. Here are a couple particularly great ones:
I wish I had done it years ago. The thing that’s most exciting to me about this is that this group of people has proven that it’s just a matter of priorities. It’s just a matter of will, and it can be done. Nobody really can say, “It can’t be done,” or “It’ll take 10 years to do it.” It can be done now.
On acknowledging white male privilege:
There is a privilege in American society to being male and being white, and I think it’s hard for white males to understand that privilege, because we’ve never experienced the opposite. When I sought out mentors to try to move forward, there were white males in virtually every position from which I was seeking mentorship. There was a natural simpatico or natural comfort. And so if you believe that’s true, and I believe it’s true, then we have to change that. We have to try to equalize opportunity and privilege.
On what he hopes FX’s efforts will lead to:
[In future we may] struggle to maintain our 50 percent or better, because all the candidates that we’ve identified are working so damn hard on so many shows, because everybody’s booking them. And we have to then go find another set of candidates and they get taken away from us, and then we have to go find another set of candidates and they get taken away from us. But all the while, the percentage of [men and women of color and white women as directors in] the industry goes from 10 to 20 to 30 to 40 percent.
His call to action for other networks:
[The idea was,] let’s prove that it can be achieved in a localized space, which is FX. Let’s then challenge the whole industry to try to achieve it across every major producer of television, and then let’s deal with the problems that that creates — the fact that we don’t have the right farm system and we don’t have the agencies’ focus. If we have an urgency and intensity around solving this problem, we will solve it, because no one can argue it’s not solvable.
Of course, FX still has a long way to go in terms of diversifying its writers, showrunners, and onscreen talent, but it’s refreshing to see a network head not only take responsibility for the problem but explain the ways he’s working to fix it. Hopefully, other networks with this problem will take Landgraf’s advice, stop making excuses, and start taking action.