Latest Casting Data Follows Historical Trends and Continues to Exclude People with Disabilities

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Latest Casting Data Follows Historical Trends and Continues to Exclude People with Disabilities

Screen Actors Guild and Other Unions to Host “Hollywood Disabilites Forum” on Saturday to Explore Opportunities and Challenges of People with Disabilities in Entertainment

Los Angeles (October 23, 2009)
—Incremental gains toward a more diverse and inclusive media landscape are supported by the latest 2007and 2008 Casting Data Reports statistics collected and analyzed by Screen Actors Guild. The latest statistics indicate there were slight employment increases of non-Caucasian performers, with a high-watermark in 2007. However, this rise in employment is mostly represented in supporting roles, while the employment and representation of women and senior performers have remained relatively unchanged.

“The diverse and multicultural world we live in today is still not accurately reflected in the portrayals we see on the screen,” SAG National President Ken Howard said. “We will continue to work with producers, hiring executives and industry professionals in accurately portraying the American scene by ensuring equal access to employment opportunities for all of our members.”

In a joint commitment by producers and SAG to ensure diversity and non-discrimination, and to realistically portray “the American scene,” producers that are signatory to the Guild’s television and theatrical contracts must submit hiring data of performers on all productions, including theatrical feature films, theatrical low budget films, television episodic programs and television non-episodic programs. The collection and analysis of casting data reports is based on the protected categories of gender, age and race/ethnicity in order to examine the hiring trends of traditionally underemployed and disenfranchised members.

Despite years of bargaining with producers to include the hiring of performers with a disability in Casting Data Reports, this protected category continues to be left out. Fifty-six million Americans — 20% of the U.S. population — have a disability. Despite being the largest minority group in the country, people with disabilities remain virtually invisible in entertainment media.

The Hollywood Disabilities Forum
On Saturday, October 24, a collaborative industry event between entertainment guilds, educational organizations, and advocacy groups will take place that will focus on best practices of industry pioneers who incorporate stories featuring characters with disabilities and who hire performers with disabilities for TV, film, radio and stage productions. The inaugural Hollywood Disabilities Forum, held at UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, is presented by the I AM PWD (Inclusion in the Arts and Media for People with Disabilities) campaign of Screen Actors Guild, Actors’ Equity Association, and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists; the Writers Guild of America, West and its Writers with Disabilities Committee; and the Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts.
Click here for more information.

Casting Data Report Highlights:
Gender and Age Statistics

Males continue to make up the majority of roles reported, especially in the supporting category, where they contribute around two roles for every female role. This 2 to 1 ratio has held steady from 2006, although the female proportion of supporting roles ticked up slightly in 2007. Females hold a slightly larger proportion of lead roles, compared to their proportion of supporting roles, although still considerably less than lead roles occupied by males. 

For males 40 and over, roles appear to be on the rise in both theatrical and television productions. In theatrical productions, 40 and over male roles ticked up from 40% to 43% of all roles from 2006 to 2008, while male 40 and over roles in television increased from 40% to 42%. Female 40 and over roles continue to be harder to come by as they represented only 28% of female roles in 2008. Both television and theatrical 40 and over roles made up 28% of the female roles in 2008, with television female 40 and over roles bumping up from 26% in 2006.

Race/Ethnicity Trends
Although the casting data from 2007 shows the highest ethnic minority representation on record, data from 2008 saw an across-the-board drop in non-Caucasian representation with most ethnic groups down a fraction of a percent in proportion to total roles, while the number of roles classified as “Unknown/Other” also reached an historic high in 2007 with 4.1% of total roles only to drop to 3.8% in 2008. It is impossible to determine whether the reduction in ethnic percentages are attributed to performers classified by producers as “Unknown/Other” versus an actual drop in the ethnic group’s proportion to all roles. Therefore, the following section must be read with caution as any losses could potentially be exaggerated by the continuing trend of higher numbers of those in the “Unknown/Other” category. 

Asian/Pacific roles were the only minority group to gain in percentage of roles from 2007 to 2008, increasing from 3.4% of all roles to 3.8% of all roles.  Although features and low budget productions saw decreases in proportion to total roles, increases in episodic television were enough to offset losses in the other categories.

African-American roles showed the largest drop in proportion to total roles, falling from 14.8% in 2007 to 13.3% in 2008. Each category of production type saw a decrease, lead by low budget films. In 2008, African Americans constituted 9.5% of low budget roles, which was down 6.5% from the 16.0% of roles reported in 2007.

Latino/Hispanic roles finished slightly down in proportion of roles from 2007 to 2008, with most of the losses coming in the lead role category.  Lead roles in features for Hispanics constituted only around 3.4% of roles in 2008, compared to 7.2% of lead roles in features in 2007.

American Indian roles held steady at 0.3% of all roles for each of the last two years.  While the feature film, low budget film and episodic television categories all dropped in proportion to total roles, increases from non-episodic television roles kept their overall proportion to all productions steady.

In comparison, Caucasian roles as a proportion of total roles crept up in 2008, after falling in each of the past two years. Caucasians made up 72.5% of all roles in 2008, accounting for 74.0% of roles in feature films and 71.9% of roles in episodic television.

Click here to view Casting Data charts.

October as Diversity Awareness Month
While SAG works year round to advance diversity and equal employment opportunities for members, it is shining a spotlight on the month of October to celebrate the initiatives of SAG’s Affirmative Action & Diversity Department: Click here for events calendar.

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About SAG
Screen Actors Guild is the nation’s largest labor union representing working actors. Established in 1933, SAG has a rich history in the American labor movement, from standing up to studios to break long-term engagement contracts in the 1940s to fighting for artists’ rights amid the digital revolution sweeping the entertainment industry in the 21st century. With 20 branches nationwide, SAG represents over 120,000 actors who work in film and digital motion pictures and television programs, commercials, video games, industrials, Internet and all new media formats. The Guild exists to enhance actors’ working conditions, compensation and benefits and to be a powerful, unified voice on behalf of artists’ rights. SAG is a proud affiliate of the AFL-CIO. Headquartered in Los Angeles, you can visit SAG online at