Producer Jason Blum is making good on his promise to hire directors who aren’t white males. On Wednesday, it was announced that his film and TV production company, Blumhouse Productions, made a deal with Amazon Studios to produce a series of eight feature-length thrillers that will all be made by “underrepresented” filmmakers. That includes Asians, African-Americans, women, and essentially any demographic that veers from the typical résumé of a Blumhouse writer and director: white dude.
The news comes a few weeks after Blum found himself in hot water over comments he made when asked in an interview about the absence of female directors in projects from his company, which include the horror hits The Purge, all three of which were written and directed by James DeMonaco; Jordan Peele’s Oscar-winning Get Out; and the latest installment of Halloween, directed by David Gordon Green.
“We’re always trying to do that,” Blum told Polygon in October, meaning hire women filmmakers. “We’re not trying to do it because of recent events. We’ve always been trying. There are not a lot of female directors, period, and even less who are inclined to do horror.”
Blum was attacked on social media for his comments, but he quickly apologized, saying he’d been misunderstood. “I totally misspoke,” he told Variety. “I made a mistake about it. Our audience is 55% women, the executives at the company we have are 50% women. I am passionate about hiring women, and I totally made a mistake in the way I represented that. We already work with a lot of women.”
At the Fast Company Innovation Festival in October, Blum again addressed the issue–this time sitting on stage next to Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke–reiterating that he’d been misunderstood and saying that “I would like to work with more” female directors.
Salke came to his defense, interrupting him mid-sentence to say, “We have to be careful about going after people who are defenders. He’s a friend of this movement.
“I have screamed and yelled in my office at NBC when I couldn’t get female directors. They’d hand me lists of who we were going to assign episodes over the course of 12, 13 episodes, and I would say, ‘Why are there two women on the list?’ [The reply would be], ‘Oh, there just aren’t enough female directors. There’s these and they’re all busy.’
“I found myself saying many times, ‘Where are they? What is happening here?’ I think that was just the frustration, as I read it, that Jason was trying to express.”
Salke went on to say that at Amazon, as at NBC when she was head of programming there, she makes gender parity in front of and behind the camera a priority. She’s even brought over the pilot program she started at NBC, Female Forward, which creates a pipeline for female directors. Since joining Amazon earlier this year, she has inked deals with the likes of Nicole Kidman, Blake Lively, and Jordan Peele.
No writers or directors have been hired yet for the Blumhouse Amazon series. But the idea is that all eight of them will be thematically connected and will be exclusive to the platform. They will also only be available for streaming, although Amazon doesn’t typically–unlike Netflix–give films a theatrical release. This presumably gives the films, and the filmmakers, more creative freedom, and less pressure to rack up box office grosses.