(Los Angeles, CA) One of the strongest enforcers of systematic racism is... Hollywood. I have worked in this industry a little over 10 years. The first half in front of the camera then the next half behind the scenes. The last few years I have been a film editor on multiple tv shows under NBC, cut major music videos under the most prominent music video production label in the business and all the flashy video ads you see while scrolling down Instagram and Facebook with the cool motion graphics... I designed a lot of them. Although, I am very thankful for those opportunities, there has been a BIG problem behind the scenes.
For every major company that I worked for I was the ONLY black film editor amongst a team of 5 - 20 white editors. You can only imagine the type of pressure I had to endure feeling like I had to dim my “blackness” down, be extra friendly so I wouldn’t be labeled the angry, anti-social black guy yet still deliver outstanding work as I knew my job security was very thin compared to my co-workers. I once was laid off from one company being told I was difficult with a producer because I made a simple request to help with workflow meanwhile my co-workers did the same thing, but didn’t suffer the same fate. On the first day for another company that I previously worked for they had a new supervisor and when I walked in he gave me a hard time, making me wait in the lobby as he called the network to verify that I worked there telling them that I was an imposter. (I guess he would think that since you don’t see black editors everyday). Then another company just flat out laid me off with no grounds. As the ONLY black man on these teams it was only human to question if my skin color had anything to do with it. My abilities as a film editor (humbly speaking) are unquestionable as I have the resumé, demo reel and schooling to prove it.
But the bottom line is the post-production and pre-production side of the industry needs so much more diversity that it’s sickening! I walk on these sets and sit in these production companies wondering why there aren’t more black directors, black writers, black editors, black producers, black production supervisors, black composers?! Are we only good for “shuckin and jiving?” Why aren’t more black directors getting blockbuster level budgets to make a film? Why are we always being told to "whiten up" our films because they won’t sell well with too many black people in it? As a filmmaker myself with all the skills that I bring to the table I often wonder if I were white, would I be at a much higher level in my career? Would it be easier for me to get approved for a grant or a loan to elevate my production company? The truth is as black film creatives we are still locked out and limited in growth.
One of my personal long term goals has been to open up a performing arts/film and tv industry school in my hometown of Virginia to bring in more people of color into the technical avenues of the film business where the real money, decisions and power moves are made. I have been in every single avenue of this industry and it is very color coded! A change has to occur! If you are in the position to help this change, feel free to reach out to me.
A frustrated black artist
About the author:
Jordan Cann is a professional actor, filmmaker and martial artists who holds a degree in Film Science from the Los Angeles film school. He's been actively working in the Hollywood scene since 2009. He has been on both ends of the spectrum: Producing, writing, editing, directing behind the camera and performing in front of the camera. He's worked with many major music acts as a dancer and flexed his acting skills on primetime television shows and movies. When he's not doing that he runs J&S Film Productions LLC an independent film company producing short films, music videos and feature films. He can be reached through his social media or you can send him a personal email to: firstname.lastname@example.org