Dee Tuck has heard all the excuses. “I want to hire more women, but I just don’t know where they are.” Yep. “I want to hire more people of color, I just don’t know anybody.” That too. She’s been working in tech for more than a decade and has often been the only Black female engineer on her team. She has reviewed company hiring practices and pointed out that “maybe you’re weeding out a lot of people who can’t code with eight non-people-of-color watching them on Zoom.” Tuck doesn’t want to hear the excuses anymore.
Last November she was tapped to be chief technology news officer at Array, the film collective founded by director Ava DuVernay. Her main objective: launching Array Crew, a database of women and people of color that studios can use when staffing up for movies and TV shows. The goal is to see if the industry will diversify its ranks when the “We can’t find anybody” barrier is removed. “When we really diagnosed the issue, it wasn’t that people weren’t willing to do it, it was that people weren’t willing to be inconvenienced to do it,” DuVernay says. “So what we tried to do is create a platform that made it really easy. And so now we’re in a space where, to be frank, if you still don’t do it, you never really wanted to.”
Hollywood has been in the midst of a yearslong reckoning with its overabundance of white male directors and stars. But less noticed is how few women and people of color appear in what are known as below-the-line jobs—the ones on the bottom half of the production budget. For decades, the industry has relied on people hiring the folks they already know for these gigs, leaving out swaths of qualified applicants. “It’s harder to manage on the production side, because hundreds of productions come and go each year within each studio,” says Kevin Hamburger, head of production at Warner Horizon Television. Array Crew, which debuted online in February and will be available as a mobile app in June, allows job seekers to create a profile that includes their résumé, location, images, reels, and contact information so that line producers can pull up every candidate near their film set; it also has tools to help managers keep track of the people they hire for each shoot.
On its face, there’s a tension in how Array is using technology news to solve Hollywood’s inclusivity problem. We now have search engines optimized to find everything from adoptable pets to dinner (for better or worse), but leaving something as complicated as workplace diversity to machines is far more tricky. Which might be why Array’s fix is purposefully simple. The database’s results are organic; there aren’t algorithms boosting some folks and not others. Someone crewing up a movie can search for certain positions (makeup artist, grip), locations (Los Angeles, New York), names, trade union membership, and experience level, but that’s it. Unlike, say, Google results, Crew’s list of candidates comes up in the most analog way possible: alphabetically. Hiring managers can sort by first or last name or those most recently added, but from there it’s up to them to pick a team.
Zooming from her Atlanta home, wearing a sweatshirt from her alma mater, Tuskegee University, Array’s CTO speaks pointedly about the best ways to remove barriers. Tuck has witnessed roadblocks to hiring throughout her career, and from the beginning her team was intentional about spotting and eliminating them. “We have conversations about the smallest things,” she says. Like that search function. Array could have made every field on a user’s profile searchable, but doing so might have left someone out of the results just because they didn’t include a certain keyword. “We realized that could’ve created some type of barrier to entry for people,” Tuck says. That puts an onus on the line producer to look through the list of candidates. But that’s the point—to make them look somewhere they hadn’t been looking.
Born and raised in Cincinnati, Tuck started trying to figure out Windows 95 at her uncle’s house when she was about 11 years old. “A few times,” she laughs, “he had to call me and be like, ‘What did you do? I can’t get in.’” She spent time at IBM and worked on missile defense at Lockheed Martin. By the time Tuck got to GitHub in 2020, she was making sure every job she took gave her a say in hiring decisions. “I really do believe in building diverse teams, because we ship better products that way,” Tuck says. “If you just have one demographic building a thing, you’re not going to end up with the best solution.”
When Tuck and I spoke, Array Crew had more than 5,000 verified users. It’s free for work-seekers; studios pay an annual fee. “This is an investment. It’s incumbent upon us to make sure this works,” says Jennifer Lynch, who oversees corporate social responsibility at Paramount Pictures, one of several studios, including Netflix and Disney, that signed on to be a Crew launch partner. “We’re in this for the long haul.”
That footslogging is key. Too often diversity efforts fail when old habits creep back in. Studios must buy in, because for the effort to succeed it’s essential that their employees and partners use the service. One function Tuck’s team is working on is the ability to provide demographic breakdowns for each production. DuVernay notes that she doesn’t want Crew to become just a “report card” for whether studios keep their promises, but Tuck sees other benefits: “We have to be able to tell a story of how we impacted the industry.”
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As we’re wrapping up our Zoom, Tuck’s team jumps on. She opens the conversation by asking everyone to name the song they currently have on repeat. (Bill Withers, Big K.R.I.T., and “Baby Shark” are all represented.) Kelsey Kearney, who handles Array’s relationships with studios, notes that it’s been a week of questions and requests from partners wanting more from the Crew database, like support and help desk functions. A lot of these wants will be fulfilled by the new mobile app. “I love a deliverable,” she laughs.
But there’s something else they want. Hollywood’s push for diversity goes far beyond LA. Could Crew release an international version? Tuck says it’s at the top of her to-do list and promises there’s “more to come on that.” So, yes, she’s on it. No excuses.
This article appears in the June issue. Subscribe now.
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