Samie Kim Falvey on Why Commitment to Diversity in Entertainment Is Important

Samie Kim Falvey on Why Commitment to Diversity in Entertainment Is Important

July 24, 2020

BE CONFERENCE 2020: “You have to acknowledge and commit to the fact that it’s harder and takes longer to build that inclusivity in,” Falvey says

When Imagine TV president Samie Kim Falvey got her start in the entertainment business at ABC, she was one of very few women in the field and felt almost as if she’d “came in the side door.” But brushing off the so-called imposter syndrome led Falvey to a position at one of the top television studios in the country, and now she’s trying to use her position to continue diversifying Hollywood.

“It’s a nice time to be in the business, there’s more openness to that diversity of point of view,” Falvey said at TheWrap’s BE Conference on Friday alongside Audible executive vice president of U.S. content Rachel Ghiazza and Blumhouse head of casting Terri Taylor. Prior to working at Imagine, Falvey was instrumental in bringing shows like “Black-Ish” and “Modern Family” into prime time slots. In previous shows at ABC, Falvey said, “a lot of times it felt women were relegated to being accessories.”

One of Falvey’s biggest influences in her career so far was executive Paul Lee. “He was one of the very first people who I reported to who said, you have to swim outside your lane.”

Falvey said she found the network’s willingness to finally embrace new, diverse content was heartening. “What was inspiring was the idea of a contemporary family, that brand being as expansive as it was, and that’s what audiences really welcomed.” She also added that it will take time for Hollywood to fully represent America at large.

“You have to acknowledge and commit to the fact that it’s harder and takes longer to build that inclusivity in,” Falvey said. “The system tends to a little more white, male, upper-middle-class and heteronormative … you name it and there’s a system we all operate in. So that commitment is incredibly important.”

Ghiazza and Taylor both agreed with Falvey that while Hollywood has made steps towards becoming more diverse and culturally sensitive in recent years, there is still much progress to be made. Ghiazza said the change begins with intentional choices from the bottom up when creating content, and emphasized the importance of hiring diverse staff at all levels of the creative process, from directors to sound engineers.

“It starts with a clear definition of who you are, what your brand values are and how you see yourself,” Ghiazza said. “It was something I looked for when I was looking for a job, looking at the makeup of senior leadership, making sure they were people I wanted to be around.”

Blumhouse head of casting Terri Taylor said that fostering relationships with young professionals seeking to break into the business that come from a variety of backgrounds is key to making Hollywood more diverse.

“I latched onto strong women who started from the ground up and put a lot into training them,” Taylor said. “They care as much as i do, that type of teamwork has been so beneficial to our success and our time at Blumhouse. We could use more bright and ambitious people pursuing careers in casting.”

Blumhouse produced “Get Out,” Jordan Peel’s nail-biting directorial debut that tells a story of a Black man held hostage by his white girlfriend’s family. Taylor said Blumhouse is passionate about “telling stories people don’t always have the ability to tell, and ‘Get Out’ is an example.”

Falvey, Taylor and Ghiazza all espoused the benefits of having mentors early in a career, and each said they are working to now pay that experience forward to a new generation of up-and-comers — and to not be afraid to put a resume out there even if you don’t quite meet the qualifications.

Taylor said she learned valuable tricks of the trade as an assistant to the casting director on the 1993 Aaron Sorkin film “Malice” that she couldn’t have picked up anywhere else. “I refer to that experience as my own mini version of film school because there were so many kind people who showed me the way,” Taylor said.

BE Conference presented by WrapWomen is Hollywood’s leading mentorship conference. The event is designed to provide opportunities for the next generation of women in media and entertainment, with a focus on underrepresented voices. This year’s programming and mentorship is dedicated to breaking barriers, inspiring action and creating inclusive opportunities for all.

All the Hollywood Films Arriving on Demand Early Because of the Coronavirus

  • Since most U.S. movie theaters have shuttered in response to the coronavirus pandemic, studios are rushing out VOD home releases of movies that were only just in theaters.

    Disney/Warner Bros./Universal

  • “Trolls World Tour” 

    The sequel to the 2017 animated hit announced it would be available for digital download on April 10 — the same day it was supposed to land in theaters. Now it’s a VOD exclusive.

    Universal Pictures

  • “Birds of Prey” 

    The Margot Robbie spinoff of 2017’s “Suicide Squad” debuted on demand on March 24. The film grossed $84 million since opening on Feb. 4.

    Warner Bros.

  • “The Hunt”  

    The Universal/Blumhouse horror film was first delayed from release last fall due to controversy over its violent content — and then sidelined after its March 13 opening by the coronavirus. It’s available to stream now.

    Universal Pictures

  • “The Invisible Man” 

    The Universal horror film starring Elisabeth Moss grossed nearly $65 million since its Feb. 26 release in theaters. It’s available to stream now.

    Universal Pictures

  • “Emma.” 

    Focus Features’ adaptation of the Jane Austen novel opened in limited release Feb. 21 — and picked up $10 million in ticket sales until the pandemic shut down theaters. It’s available to stream now.

    Focus Features

  • “Bloodshot” 

    The Vin Diesel comic-book movie opened March 6 and grossed $10 million before theaters shut down. It’s available on VOD now.

    Sony Pictures

  • “I Still Believe” 

    Lionsgate’s biopic starring K.J. Apa as Christian music star Jeremy Camp hit VOD on March 27 — just two weeks after it opened in theaters.


  • “The Way Back” 

    Warner Bros. released the Ben Affleck drama “The Way Back” — which grossed $13 million in theaters since its March 6 opening — on VOD less than three weeks later, on March 24.

    Warner Bros.

  • “Onward”

    Disney and Pixar’s animated feature was made available for purchase on Friday, March 20, and the film hit Disney+ on April 3. 


  • “Sonic the Hedgehog”

    Paramount Pictures’ “Sonic the Hedgehog” set a new record for video game adaptations with a $58 million domestic opening weekend on Feb. 14 and has grossed $306 million worldwide theatrically. It’s available on demand now.

    Paramount Pictures

  • “The Call of the Wild”

    20th Century Studios’ feel-good film starring Harrison Ford and a giant CGI dog is available on demand now.

    20th Century

  • “Downhill”

    Barely escaping an avalanche during a family ski vacation, a married couple (Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell) is thrown into disarray as they are forced to reevaluate their lives and how they feel about each other. It’s available on demand now.

    Fox Searchlight

  • “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”

    “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” is the story of two teenage cousins from rural Pennsylvania who journey to New York City to seek an abortion. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and walked away with a Special Jury award. It’s available for VOD now.

    Focus Features

  • “Endings, Beginnings”

    “Endings, Beginnings,” a romantic drama from Drake Doremus starring Shailene Woodley, Sebastian Stan and Jamie Dornan, opened early on digital on April 17 and on demand on May 1. It was meant to open theatrically on May 1.

    Samuel Goldwyn Films

  • “To the Stars”

    “To the Stars,” a period drama set in 1960s Oklahoma that stars Kara Hayward, Liana Liberato, Jordana Spiro, Shea Whigham, Malin Akerman and Tony Hale, was bumped up to a digital release on April 24 and an on demand release on June 1. Martha Stephens directed the film that premiered at Sundance in 2019 and was meant to be released theatrically by Samuel Goldwyn Films.

    Samuel Goldwyn Films

  • “Impractical Jokers: The Movie”

    truTV’s first-ever feature-length film arrived early on digital on April 1. Follow James “Murr” Murray, Brian “Q” Quinn, Joe Gatto, and Sal Vulvano, aka The Tenderloins, playing themselves in a fictional story of a humiliating high school mishap from the early ’90s.


  • “Artemis Fowl”

    Disney’s adaptation of the Eoin Colfer fantasy novel “Artemis Fowl” was meant to debut in theaters on May 29 but premiered exclusively on Disney+. The film is directed by Kenneth Branagh and stars Colin Farrell and Judi Dench.


  • “The Infiltrators”

    The theatrical release of Oscilloscope’s docu-thriller “The Infiltrators” has been postponed, and the film was released on both Cable On Demand and Digital Platforms starting June 2.


  • “Working Man”

    The March 27 theatrical release of “Working Man” has been canceled due to the theater closures, and the film premiered on May 5 via Video On Demand.

    Brainstorm Media

  • “Jump Shot: The Kenny Sailors Story”

    “Jump Shot: The Kenny Sailors Story,” a sports documentary executive produced by NBA star Steph Curry, was made available for streaming on the new service Altavod between April 16-18 for $7.99 and is available for pre-order beginning April 9. 10% of all the proceeds will be donated to COVID-19 relief efforts. The documentary tells the story of the player, Kenny Sailors, who pioneered the jump shot, and it features interviews with Curry, Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki, Clark Kellogg, Bobby Knight and more.

    Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

  • “Scoob!” 

    Warner Bros. announced on April 11 that it would release the family animated film “Scoob!” for digital ownership and premium video on-demand on May 15, making it the second film (after Universal’s “Trolls World Tour”) to cancel a planned theatrical release and head straight to home release pandemic.

    Warner Bros.

  • “The King of Staten Island”

    “The King of Staten Island,” the comedy starring and co-written by “SNL” star Pete Davidson and directed by Judd Apatow, skipped its theatrical release date of June 19 and opened one week early on VOD everywhere on June 12.

    Universal Pictures

  • “The High Note”

    “The High Note,” the latest film from “Late Night” director Nisha Ganatra that stars Tracee Ellis Ross and Dakota Johnson, made its premiere on VOD on May 29. It was meant to open on May 8 theatrically.

    Focus Features

  • “Waiting for the Barbarians”

    Ciro Guerra’s film starring Mark Rylance, Johnny Depp and Robert Pattinson was originally slated for a theatrical release but was picked up by Samuel Goldwyn Films to instead be released via cable on demand and on digital in August

    Samuel Goldwyn Films

  • “Irresistible”

    Jon Stewart’s latest film, a political comedy called “Irresistible,” will skip theaters and make its premiere online for on demand digital rental on June 26. The film from Focus Features stars Steve Carell and Rose Byrne and was meant to open in theaters on May 29.

    Daniel McFadden / Focus Features

  • “My Spy”

    The Dave Bautista action comedy “My Spy” was originally meant for a theatrical release from STXfilms and was due to hit theaters in March. Amazon then acquired the film from STX and will now release it on streaming on June 26.

    Amazon Studios

  • “The One and Only Ivan”

    The animated Disney film based on Thea Sharrock’s best-selling children’s book “The One and Only Ivan” is the latest feature to skip theaters and move to Disney+. The movie features the voice talent of Angelina Jolie, Danny Devito, Sam Rockwell, Bryan Cranston and Helen Mirren. The film was previously slated for theatrical release on August 14 but will now debut on Disney+ one week later on Aug. 21.


  • “The Secret Garden”

    The re-imagining of the book “The Secret Garden” was meant to open in UK theaters in April but delayed its theatrical release until August. But STXfilms will now release the StudioCanal and Heyday Films movie on PVOD for $19.99 on August 7 in North America. “The Secret Garden” stars Colin Firth, Julie Walters and Dixie Egerickx.


“Irresistible” joins a list of big films heading to digital home entertainment platforms early

Since most U.S. movie theaters have shuttered in response to the coronavirus pandemic, studios are rushing out VOD home releases of movies that were only just in theaters.

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