Reasons why they do not hire older writers include, but are not limited to: “We don’t know how to find them; if they can’t find representation they must not be good; they are out of work so long they don’t understand the current market; they won’t be able to keep up with everybody else; I hired a movie once and it didn’t work out; This show / film is not about old people; they won’t fit the feel of the room; I don’t want
The Writers Guild of America West is demanding that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences extend its new best picture rules to include the mandate against age discrimination.
The Career Longevity Committee of the WGA West guild urged the academy to revise the new rules, which were released Sept. 8 to encourage equitable representation on and off screen to reflect the diversity of the filmgoing audience better. Others were ethnic and racial groups, women, LGBTQ+ and people with cognitive or physical disabilities or who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The letter was inserted “[It was] very likely that there was no reference to age,” said chair Catherine Clinch. For decades, members of the Writers Guild of America lived under the burden of this painful reality – that older writers are the only minority category deemed socially acceptable to discriminate against. Hollywood has not even created the facade of pretending older writers in the workplace. In addition to supporting the Writers Guild’s Diversity Programs, memberships of all other categories have been able to find employment and representation for them – except older writers.”
The representatives for the academy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
For the 94th and 95th Oscars ceremonies for 2022 and 2023, a film will submit a confidential Academy Inclusion Standard form for consideration for the best picture. Starting in 2024, the film that is submitted for the 96th Oscars must meet the inclusion thresholds for two of the four standards.
Clinch claimed that the entertainment industry had been operating in violation of the Federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act : We are not willing to be silent codependents to the discriminatory practices in the entertainment industry. As our moral right, we demand inclusiveness and equity. We demand inclusion and equity as our legal rights.
She noted that older television writers settled a class-action suit against network and talent agencies in 2010, which had been filed in 2000. The settlement required the payment of $70 million to affected writers who claim that they were victims of systematic age discrimination by talent agents who aided and supported networks and studios by refusing to represent and refer older writers for work at the studios.
Clinch asserted that the settlement was “insignificant” and added: “Older writers are shut out of the market by arbitrary measures that can all be traced back to blatant discriminatory practices that are used against all protected class members.”
The industry further refers to older writers utilizing the same language that has historically been used to defend racist hiring practices. Reasons for not hiring older writers include but are not limited to: “We don’t know how to find them; If they can’t find representation they must not be good; they have been out of work so long they don’t understand the current market; They won’t be able to keep up with everyone else; I hired one once and it didn’t work out; This show / film is not about old people; they won’t fit the feel of the room; I don’t want to hear how it was
The letter was published on Wednesday. Clinch closed the letter by noting that the United Nations designated October 1 as the International Day of Older Persons — with no events in the United States commemorating the day.
Read the whole letter here.