Tech

Coder Dee Tuck is on a mission to help diversify Hollywood

Dee Tuck has heard all apologies. “I want to hire more women, but I’m not just where I am.” Yes. “I want to hire more people of color. I just don’t know anyone.” Even that. She has been working in technology for more than a decade and has often been the only black female engineer on her team. She reviewed the company’s hiring practices and said that “maybe you’re eliminating a lot of people who can’t code with eight people who aren’t of color looking at them on Zoom.” Tuck no longer wants to hear excuses.

Last November he was hired to be chief technology officer of Array, the film collective founded by director Ava DuVernay. Its main goal: to launch Array Crew, a database of women and people of color that studios can use when making staff for movies and TV shows. The goal is to see if the industry will diversify its ranks when the “We can’t find anyone” barrier is removed. “When we really diagnosed the problem, it wasn’t that people weren’t willing to do it, it was that people weren’t willing to be inconvenient to do it,” says DuVernay. “So what we’re trying to do is create a platform that makes it really easy. And so we’re now in a space where, to be frank, if you don’t do it too, you’ll never really want to.”

Hollywood he has been in the midst of a long slew of ads with his excessive number of directors and white male stars. But less noticeable is how few women and men of color appear in those known as under-the-line jobs – those in the lower half of the production budget. For decades, the industry has relied on people hiring people it already knows for these concerts, leaving out bands of qualified candidates. “It’s harder to manage on the production side, because hundreds of productions come and go every year in every 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 resume, location, images, reels, and contact information so that line producers can take each candidate close to their film together; it also has tools to help managers keep track of the people they hire for each shot.

In his view, there is a tension in how Array uses technology to solve Hollywood’s inclusion problem. We now have search engines optimized to find everything from adoptable pets to dinner (for better or for worse), but leaving something as complicated as the diversity of the workplace to the machines is much more complicated. Which could be why Array repair is purely simple. The results of the database are biological; there are no algorithms that increase some people and not others. Someone making the film may be looking for certain places (makeup artist, outlet), locations (Los Angeles, New York), names, union membership, and level of experience, but that’s enough. Unlike, say, Google’s results, Crew’s list of candidates comes in the most analogous way possible: alphabetically. Recruitment managers can classify by first or last name or those recently added, but from there it’s up to them to choose a team.

Zooming out of his Atlanta home, wearing a sweatshirt from his alma mater, Tuskegee University, the CTO of Array talks punctually about the best ways to remove barriers. Tuck has witnessed obstacles to recruitment throughout his career, and from the beginning his team was intent on getting out and eliminating them. “We have conversations about the little things,” he says. Like that search function. Array could have searched every field of a user’s profile, but doing so could have left someone out of the results just because they didn’t include a certain keyword. “We understood that it could have created a kind of barrier to entry for people,” Tuck says. This puts a burden on the line producer to keep the list of candidates. But that’s the point — to make them look for them in a place they weren’t looking for.


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