Diversifying the gatekeepers of culture

TIME’S UP Launches CRITICAL Database, Secures Commitments from Major Film & TV Festivals

Entertainment, Equity


Today, just after launching the CRITICAL Database, the TIME’S UP Foundation announced seven renowned festivals, including Sundance Film Festival, South by Southwest, Tribeca, Bentonville, Athena, ATX TV Festival, and Toronto, have come together to make the ‘CRITICAL’ commitment: to allot a portion of their credentials to members of the CRITICAL Database.

Film and television festivals, which are often the entry point into the entertainment industry, are vital to artists’ stories being shared and their voices being heard. More festivals are expected to make the commitment imminently.

“By encouraging industry leaders to be more intentional about who gets invited to their press junkets, screenings, red carpets, and other events, this database is one way they can work to dismantle the systemic barriers for critics of color and other underrepresented individuals,” said Tina Tchen, president and CEO of TIME’S UP Foundation. “Together, we can ensure these voices are represented and heard.”

The TIME’S UP critics and journalists initiative, of which the CRITICAL Database is a part, was among the organization’s earliest priorities, given the significant role entertainment journalists and critics play in determining what work our culture deems valuable and, by extension, what institutional support projects can command.

“The population consuming content has never been more far-reaching or diverse, yet for too long, most of the people reporting on, analyzing, and critiquing have been frustratingly uniform,” said Dr. Stacy L. Smith, Founder and Director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. “Concrete tools like the CRITICAL Database provide pathways for more people from all types of backgrounds to have the opportunity to shape our culture as professional journalists and critics.”

In the past two years, TIME’S UP has:

  • Served as a founding member of Critics Groups for Equality in Media (CGEM), an alliance of six national organizations working to improve conditions for women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ journalists covering film and television.
  • Partnered in the release of the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s research, which found that 83 percent of critics across the top 300 grossing films between 2015 and 2017 were white and 79 percent were men while women of color represented just four percent. This is wildly out of step with the U.S. population, which is about 51 percent women, 40 percent people of color, and 18 percent women of color
  • Leveraged TIME’S UP leaders in the entertainment industry to advocate for change and worked with the Toronto International Film Festival and the Sundance Film Festival in their pledge to allocate at least 20 percent of press badges to journalists from underrepresented groups in 2018.
  • Supported advocacy efforts, which led Rotten Tomatoes to change their criteria for certifying critics to be part of the Tomatometer score in ways that supported greater inclusion.

“Over the past two years, we have ramped up TIFF’s efforts to invite new voices from underrepresented communities into the festival conversation as accredited journalists,” said Cameron Bailey, TIFF co-head and artistic director. “We stand with TIME’S UP CRITICAL in working towards a world where the people who interpret and assess our films reflect the diversity of the films themselves and the audiences who greet them.”

To learn how to join the free, opt-in CRITICAL Database and to see the latest list of participating festivals, visit www.timesupcritical.com.

Interested applicants should apply for credentials via each festival’s formal process and note that they are a member of the CRITICAL Database in their application. TIME’S UP will work with festivals directly to confirm that allotted credentials go to the journalists registered in CRITICAL. The CRITICAL Database was supported by a generous grant from the Nathan Cummings Foundation.


TIME’S UP Foundation

The TIME’S UP™ Foundation is the industry and impact arm of TIME’S UP. We enable more people to seek justice through the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund™. We pioneer innovative research driving toward solutions to address systemic inequality and injustice in the workplace through the TIME’S UP Impact Lab. And we support industry leaders in shifting the paradigm of workplace culture toward one of safety, equity, and dignity for women of all kinds through TIME’S UP’s industry change initiatives. The TIME’S UP Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.