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Eamon O’Rourke: Promoting Diversity on Movie Sets Through Transparency and Trust

Eamon O’Rourke paid his dues in the industry working on film sets prior to becoming a director. However, he couldn’t help but notice the prevalence of white males on the sets, preventing new diverse talent from entering the industry. For this reason, having written and directed his new movie Asking for It, he decided to go off the beaten path for a Hollywood film, focusing on creating a diverse cast and crew that could contribute equitably to the filmmaking process.

With two femme fatales leading the group of vigilantes who seek revenge for marginalized communities that have been hurt in the South, Eamon O’Rourke took a sensitive path to choosing shooting locations. Acknowledging that the film was shot on the Wichita people’s ancestral homelands as well as the 39 tribes that call Oklahoma home today, the credits recognize that native people make many contributions to the land. The cast and crew made it a point to share that they stood with these people, thanking them for allowing the film to be created there as they work with those communities.

During the process, Eamon O’Rourke understood the cast and crew might not have been comfortable with the location. “When you’re asking anyone to do extremely vulnerable work – and a lot of the stuff we were shooting was asking a lot of our actors – [you want to make sure] they feel seen,” O’Rourke said. “The purpose of trying to achieve diversity is not to check boxes, but rather to create a fuller and more comfortable experience.” Though O’Rourke is white, he understands that he has gaps in his knowledge as well as limits to his implicit bias.

Recognizing this bias and making way for others on the set with better experience and knowledge has helped the film step beyond a single director, producer, or writer. “I do really think that those kinds of things make a big difference and can just adjust the overall vibe on a set…It felt really important to me to be able to recognize those things within myself and be surrounded by people who can help me in those moments and fill in the gaps. I feel like I’ve said this before, [but] being a good director is not always knowing the answer, it’s understanding when you know the answer, understanding when you don’t, and knowing who to ask when you don’t.”

The female empowerment film features a range of talented LGBQT+ actors and those from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. Eamon O’Rourke promoted transparency and trust across all people working with the film to produce an outstanding result. He wanted to ensure that for people of color, the right approach was taken down to set design, hair,  and makeup, with appropriate people hired so that his cast felt supported during the production process. With a diverse cast and crew, O’Rourke knew that he could turn an average film into an extraordinary one by building trust.

“Luckily, I was working with a lot of really, really wonderful people. We were able to gain a lot of trust between us. They were very comfortable giving their opinions and sharing their perspectives in those moments, which I think really just helped the movie overall,” Eamon O’Rourke stated in a recent interview. “[I was able to ask] ‘What do you think about an experience like this? Does this moment read emotionally true to you? Does it feel authentic? Or does it feel like this is how a white man would say it? If that is the case, then what are adjustments?'” This level of trust and transparency is rare on a movie set where big egos often get in the way of communal creativity.

“I would rather the entire cast and crew say, ‘Wow, that was an amazing experience. I felt safe and respected and heard the entire time,’ Eamon O’Rourke said. “Because those are not things to be taken for granted on a film set. [It’s] not always the case that that’s the way that you end up feeling because there’s so much time pressure, and the stakes are so high because there’s money involved, and things like that. Oftentimes, laborers and people who aren’t at the very top of the hierarchy get really badly mistreated. It’s a huge bummer, because I really don’t think it has to be that way.”

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