New California Law Wants To Punish Hollywood Projects That Aren’t Diverse Enough

A new law in California will reward diverse TV and film projects with a special tax credit.

By Zack Zagranis | Updated

paul haggis

California recently passed a law that would give a special tax credit to projects that promote Hollywood diversity. Under the new law, SB 485, a movie or television show would only be eligible for the new tax credit if it provides “a diversity work plan that includes goals that are broadly reflective of California’s population.” In other words, go woke or go broke.

The law calls for a commission to review each Hollywood project’s diversity plan and decide if it meets the criteria for a cast and crew “broadly reflective of California’s population.” The commission will then approve a bigger tax credit for the project as long as it has made a “good faith effort to meet the diversity goals in its diversity work plan.”

GLAAD puts out a Studio Responsibility Index every year that grades all the major studios on LGBTQIA+ representation in their films. The SRI maps “the quantity, quality, and diversity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) characters in films released by seven major motion picture studios.”

Many of the studios in question got an “Insufficient” grade from GLAAD last year. Lionsgate, Roadside Attractions, and Paramount Pictures received the rank of “Failing.” GLAAD only measures Hollywood for LGBTQIA+ diversity, meaning other minorities may be faring better when it comes to representation.

According to NPR, only seven percent of major films released in 2019 had a lead Hispanic or Latino actor. That’s a far cry from the roughly 20 percent of the US population that identifies as Latino or Hispanic. In California, where most of the movies are made, the percentage of Latinos is approximately 40 percent.

Hollywood could also use more diversity on the other side of the camera. Only six percent of the writers, directors, and producers of U.S.-made movies identify as Black. This new law will hopefully encourage productions to hire more POC and LGBTQIA+ both on and off the screen.

Or it could cause more productions to flee Hollywood in favor of Canada, Georgia, or even overseas to avoid forced diversity and still save money. There’s bound to be pushback against SB 485 once the law takes effect. The segment of the population likely to object to the new Hollywood diversity mandate is small but usually very vocal.

hollywood diversity
The Latinx hero Private Vasquez in 1986’s Aliens was played by the white Jenette Goldstein

It’s important to note that it wasn’t that long ago in Hollywood that all the roles went to straight white actors regardless of the character’s ethnicity. Movies like Breakfast at Tiffany’s where Mickey Rooney played an offensive Asian stereotype, were very common in the past. As recently as the ’80s, movies like Aliens and Short Circuit featured white actors darkening their skin to portray different ethnicities.

With that perspective in mind, the new Hollywood diversity mandate makes sense as an incentive to finally balance Hollywood out when it comes to representation. The law takes effect in July. It will be interesting to see how many Hollywood productions comply.