Beyond Oscars’ glare, a glimpse of women on the rise

The Oscars are embracing diversity this year. The gains for women in cinema and TV are hard fought – and just gaining momentum.

Published Feb. 26, 2017 in collaboration with Molly Driscoll.

Sujata Day’s Hollywood career was transformed by a tweet.

It was 2011 – Twitter’s early years – and she had spotted a call online for auditions for a new web series. Ms. Day, frustrated after four years of commercials and bit parts that often caricatured her Indian American heritage, jumped at the chance.

Within a week, Day had nabbed the role of CeCe, best friend and sidekick of the lead character in “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl,” a YouTube comedy short. A month later, she was on set with Issa Rae, who starred in, wrote, produced, and directed the show. By 2012, the series had won a Shorty Award and drawn support from players like star singer Pharrell Williams.

“What a web series can do in terms of visibility, especially for women of color – it’s really amazing,” Day says. “It changed my life.”

Day’s experience demonstrates how indispensable the Internet has become for diversity in Hollywood.

Data show that opportunities remain largely limited and stereotyped across the board. But online platforms, industry experts say, are providing female and minority actors and filmmakers a means to break out of those boxes.

“What we’re seeing is a lot more of a lot more,” says Jocelyn Diaz, executive vice president of programming for EPIX, a premium cable service. “There are more opportunities out there, and more opportunities for women.”

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