by Arianna Sergio
The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinion of Byte or Byte’s editorial board.
It’s no secret that the film industry lacks diversity and inclusion. In 2015, the Oscars were called out with the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite because every category listed lacked an artist of color. And I mean literally every category. This movement was the beginning of the shift that the film industry is slowly making to be more diverse and inclusive.
When April Reign, a media strategist and advocate for diversity and inclusion, created the hashtag and spilled it onto every social media platform known to man, the Academy membership was 92% white and 75% male. Since then, the membership has improved. In 2020, the academy membership was 84% white and 68% male.
The UCLA 2020 Hollywood Diversity Report is an analysis of the top-grossing films of 2018 and 2019. It includes a workplace analysis of 11 major and mid-major studios, which found that 91% of corporate-level executive positions were held by white people and 82% were held by men. Among all senior executive positions, 93% percent were held by white people and 80% by men.
Additionally, the report stated that women held 44.1% of lead acting roles and 40.2% of the total cast within the 145 films examined. People of color made up 27.6% of lead acting roles and 32.7% of all film roles examined.
Fringed is working heavily towards bridging that gap while educating others in the process.
Fringed is a film club at Ball State University that focuses on women and diversity in the film industry: including people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities, etc. Ball State University telecommunication majors Zoleanny Carmona and Maria Pizzo were co-presidents of the club during the fall 2020 semester. Pizzo graduated this past December, so Carmona is the sole president now.
“I think Fringed works to do what other clubs don’t. We are there to fill that gap—that need that the founder of Fringed saw that wasn’t being met, so we are here to fill that gap. I think people should join Fringed, so they can have those experiences to focus on those [women and diversity] kinds of stories and learn why that’s important,” Pizzo said. “It is really important and to go into that [film] industry. I feel like it’s just good to have a heart that cares about those kinds of [women and diversity] things.”
Image from Facebook
Fringed’s main focus is creating. They’ve written original scripts for short films ranging all genres from comedy to drama to suspense/thriller, that they produce themselves as well. They’ve also produced various documentaries, public service announcements, and promotional videos. Most of their meetings are used to plan the productions of those scripts. Once a month they dedicate a meeting to watching a film either made by or that features individuals who belong to underrepresented groups. They typically choose films that associate with whatever holiday/season happening that month. The executive board will choose about 4-5 films and then the members will choose which one they want to watch as a collective.
“We really try to focus on learning. It’s a learning experience. I struggled looking for a club that I identified with because most of them expect you to know how to edit your first semester. But with Fringed if you don’t know how to do something we teach you, we are there for you,” Carmona said. “We are all here to learn with each other, from each other, so that counters all that pressure.”
Fringed teaches whatever the members want to learn. They’ve had workshops on screenwriting, video editing, and beginner animation work. Their members are always encouraged to give suggestions for what they'd like to learn in Fringed, so it varies from semester. Recently, they’ve become familiar with the equipment that Ball State's telecommunications teleplex gives them access to, through equipment training, which makes them more productive and efficient on set.
Fringed is a tight-knit community and a family. Most of the tasks they take on are a collaborative effort, which, in doing so, they love to try new things and experiment with.
“My favorite thing [about Fringed] would just be being around like-minded individuals and hearing everybody’s ideas and their stories, as well as being around people that I identify with and relate to,” said Carmona.
Pizzo feels the same way that Carmona feels, expressing that she has even met some of her best friends through Fringed.
“Being around like-minded individuals definitely is the whole purpose of Fringed and definitely the best part about it, because that space isn’t always made for people who would gravitate towards Fringed. There’s not necessarily a lot of other places where they might gravitate towards, so it’s nice to have that space and just experimenting with storytelling…” said Pizzo.
Fringed meets virtually on Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. They still have film nights once a month and those remain in person.
“If you’re not having fun you’re not doing it right. Especially with art, making something creative, you’ve got to make sure it’s fun or else it’s not,” said Pizzo.