Morrison Foerster and the Motion Picture Association (MPA) Co-Host Panel on Diversity in Film & Series Production during 2023 Berlin International Film Festival
BERLIN, February 24, 2023 – On the occasion of the 73rd Berlin International Film Festival, Morrison Foerster, a leading global law firm, and the Motion Picture Association (MPA) continued their long-term cooperation by co-hosting another high-profile panel session titled “Film Goes Diverse – Diversity in Film & Series Production.”
The panel session, held at Morrison Foerster’s offices with a view of the Berlinale’s red carpet, was attended by more than 110 guests from the film industry. Christiane Stuetzle, Partner and Co-Chair of Morrison Foerster’s Global Film & Entertainment Practice, opened the panel session. She shared that the driver behind this year’s important topic was a visit to the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, which featured a video installation full of quotes and inspiring visions from voices across the film industry calling for a more diverse future for cinema.
Cherrie S. Daniels, Cultural Attaché of the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, then honored the event with inspiring introductory remarks, sharing that diversity is one of America’s great strengths. She noted that on his first day in office, President Biden issued an Executive Order “On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities.” She encouraged the audience to drive diversity in an active manner, as “both the things we do and the things that we do not do” have an impact.
In his keynote speech, Chairman and CEO of the MPA Charles Rivkin said: “Audiences around the world demand more authentic and nuanced portrayals of their societies and experiences and it is our privilege and responsibility to reflect this complexity and tell those stories with depth and verve.” He continued: “Our member companies work with local partners in Europe to reimagine well-loved stories and reshape perceptions of previously underrepresented or stereotyped communities.”
Following these inspiring opening remarks, presenters Sabine Henssler, Vice President Communications of MPA EMEA, and Christiane Stuetzle opened the panel discussion.
First off, Euzhan Palcy, pioneering French director, producer, and screenwriter who received an honorary Oscar in 2022 for her groundbreaking contributions to international cinema, provided unique insights into her path to more diversity. Palcy said she loved going to the movies as a kid, but always asked her parents why “they,” meaning people of color, were not seen on the screen and her parents told her that it was because “we” don’t make the movies. Eleven years old at the time, she decided to make movies to talk about “us.”
She said she welcomes the start of change, yet noted that further efforts are still needed in order to include all underrepresented groups of society. And she said she loves working with children, who are like a blank paper and without prejudice. She added that in making movies, one has a responsibility to contribute to change – her credo “With my camera, my miraculous weapon, I don’t shoot, I heal,” is a testimony of that. Palcy concluded saying, “Never let anyone take you off track of your dream.”
The MPA’s Vice President of External and Multicultural Affairs, John Gibson, said all Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) work needs to have support and direct access to leadership and that he likes to add an “A” for Access to DE & I.
Jennifer Sobol, Senior Manager, Programmes in Equity and Inclusion International at Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD), said that at WBD, everything is about storytelling—it is their currency. Therefore, she said, it is important to reflect society’s diversity on screen to encourage young adults to become part of this industry.
Anja Dihrberg-Siebler, casting director and owner of Anja Dihrberg Casting, started with the question: “Why [are] women, who make 51% of the world’s population, considered a minority? Why are they underrepresented?” She said that when she notes that stories and screenplays are unbalanced in terms of diversity, she does address the topic and sometimes is given the opportunity to provide constructive suggestions to make stories and roles more diverse.
Gudny Hummelvoll, producer, CEO of Hummelfilm, and President of the European’s Producers Club, said that a good way to foster diversity within the industry is through film funding schemes that require a diverse cast and crew as a condition to receive funding. Norway implemented such an initiative, which led the share of female directors to rise to 44%. She concluded by saying she often heard people say there are no female directors as an excuse for a lack of diversity, but in her view, they are there and you just need to look for them.
Following an insightful and lively discussion with the panelists and an engaging audience, Stuetzle and Henssler concluded that diversity in film and series production has improved in recent years, but there is still a lot more to do to achieve greater diversity, and that targeting the school level would be key to fostering a more open-minded mindset over time.
The panel discussion was followed by a reception at the U.S. Embassy Berlin, hosted by the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, Dr. Amy Gutmann, in partnership with Studio Babelsberg, the MPA, and Morrison Foerster. Legendary film producer Steven Spielberg, who was awarded the honorary Golden Bear for lifetime achievement at the Berlin Film Festival later that evening, attended the reception as a surprise guest. Ukrainian Ambassador Oleksii Makeiev was also a guest of honor and, as a sign of solidarity, the Embassy building was lit up in the colors of the Ukrainian flag. The reception was attended by high-profile guests from the international film and entertainment industry.
About Morrison Foerster
Morrison Foerster is a leading global law firm that transforms complexity into advantage for its clients. 2023 marks the 40th anniversary of Morrison Foerster’s presence in Asia. Our clients include some of the largest financial institutions, banks, consulting and accounting firms, and Fortune 100, technology, and life sciences companies. Highlighting the firm’s commitment to client service, leadership in market-changing deals and impact litigation, and values-based culture, Morrison Foerster was recognized as one of the top 10 firms on The American Lawyer’s 2021 and 2022 A-List. Year after year, the firm receives significant recognition from Chambers and The Legal 500 across their various guides, including Global, USA, Asia Pacific, Europe, UK, Latin America, and FinTech Legal. Our lawyers passionately care about delivering legal excellence while living our values. Morrison Foerster has a long-standing commitment to creating a culture that respects and celebrates differences, while providing an inclusive environment. The firm has achieved Mansfield Certification Plus since 2018 as a result of successfully reaching at least 30 percent women, communities of color, and LGBTQ+ lawyer representation in a notable number of current leadership roles and committees. For more information, visit www.mofo.com.
About The Motion Picture Association
The Motion Picture Association, Inc. (MPA) serves as the global voice and advocate of the motion picture, home video, and television industries. It works in every corner of the globe to advance the creative industry, protect its members’ content across all screens, defend the creative and artistic freedoms of storytellers, and support innovative distribution models that bring an expansion of viewing choices to audiences around the world.
Its member studios are: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; Netflix Studios, LLC; Paramount Pictures Corporation; Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.; Universal City Studios LLC; and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Charles Rivkin is Chairman and CEO.