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Multi-Ethnic Media Coalition Tells Hollywood: You’re Next

Multi-Ethnic Media Coalition Tells Hollywood: You're Next

Fifteen years ago, when the Multi-Ethnic Media Coalition introduced themselves to some of TV’s biggest creative teams to discuss diversity, it didn’t go well. Now, they want to do the same in Hollywood. 
“They didn’t want to work with us,” National Hispanic Media Coalition president and CEO Alex Nogales said at a Thursday morning MEMC press conference in Pasadena. “(But) We’re not adversaries anymore. Now it’s an easy relationship. We’re there as collaborators. We’re there as advocates and we’re working together to go to the same ends.”
The MEMC — which also includes the American Indians in Film and Television, the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition, and the NAACP Hollywood — is hoping for a similar trajectory as it works to bring a greater multicultural influence to the film industry. (The group said its initial attempts to speak with film industry representatives have been less than fruitful.)
“It is only when each and every child in this country and beyond can go to the movies and see themselves represented on screen that the industry will have fully realized its financial potential and fulfilled its moral mandate to tell stories that cover the entire human family,” said Sonny Skyhawk, founder of AIFT and a current AMPAS member.
The recent Academy Award nominations were a running theme in the press conference, as were a flurry of notable casting decisions including the characters in Cameron Crowe’s “Aloha” to the international success of the “Furious” franchise.
The group’s advocacy plan aims to appeal to business sense as much as cultural obligation. Multiple speakers, including Skyhawk and APAMC co-chair Daniel Mayeda, cited a recent MPAA study asserting that 46% of all movie tickets are purchased by non-white theatergoers. 
While their initial experiences with television were a struggle, the MEMC believes they will eventually have the ears of the  major studios’ highest-ranking offices.

Of their continued TV efforts, Nogales said, “We meet twice a year, in some cases three times a year, with the presidents of entertainment at all four of the networks, plus their bosses. We’re talking to the right people. When we have a meeting, we have anywhere from 20 to 30 of their executives and [representatives] from all their cable companies as well.”

Guy Aoki, founding president of Media Action Network for Asian Americans, cited the recent success of ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat,” adding that through the organization’s efforts, the network consulted them on aspects of the show (including the title) before putting it on the air. “We have these meetings where we’re not criticizing anybody. We’re just saying, ‘Let’s use your best thinking with our best thinking. How can we be more inclusive?’ It’s been a proven success,” Aoki said.
When asked about specific initiatives the group would like to see enacted to help start their film efforts, Nogales pointed to jobs behind the camera. “Personally, I would like for them to start slating some films that have to do with people of color. Let’s make some $10 million films that are about something. Just to have actors out there doesn’t quite do it for me. People of color haven’t really been exposed to the American white public and because of that, they don’t know very much about us,” Nogales said.
“This is a business,” Nogales said. “And if they want our business, they’re going to have to include us.” 

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Katia Thomas

The work of are doing to broaden the base of diversity in television and film is admirable. Each should represent in their productions the "real" face of America, which is not strictly those of European descent. The U.S. is a spectrum of colors and there are talented young men and women seeking opportunities to show what they can do. They include bi-racial and multi-ethnic people too. I am a 30-year old woman whose mother is Hispanic and my father is African-American. I graduated from The George Washington University with a major in Theatre and spent two years earning an Acting Certificate at the Actor’s Studio in NYC. Over a six-year period, I auditioned for hundreds of parts in T.V. and film productions. I was called back a few times, but never got a role because, as one casting director told me, "you’re very ‘exotic-looking and you definitely can act, but we don’t know where you fit. I should be judged on whether I can carry the character in a particular role, not because of my race or ethnicity. I played dozens of roles off-Broadway and race was never an issue. so, my question is: where do bi-racial and multi-ethnic actors fit in T.V. and the movies?

Dorothy Thompson

It has been our pleasure for the last 24 years to create a terrific, young minority talent pool of crew members that is accessed by many television and feature productions. We at Streetlights take sharp, ambitious African Americans, Latinos, Asian, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders, over-train them, then get them a slew of work as P.A.s so they can solidify some contacts in this freelance industry. We have helped many advance into higher positions, including Unions, while still filling the daily requests we get for our PA.s. We hope productions aren’t requesting our graduates just because they are of a different race, but because they are fantastic production assistants.
As a producer back in the day, I noticed there was absolutely no diversity on any of my crews and said, “Well this is an easy fix. I’ll start by training P.A.s and they can eventually grow into whatever department best suits them. And they did – Camera, Wardrobe, Writer, etc. But there are still not enough of them!

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