Activist Organization Seeks Diversity Commitments From Studios

Courtesy of 20th Century Fox Films
Emma Stone's turn as a Hawaiian/Chinese American in 'Aloha' was criticized by an industry coalition.

"This is a business and if they want our business, we want to be included," said Alex Nogales, CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition.

In the wake of the recent #OscarsSoWhite nomination controversy, a group called the Multi-Ethnic Media coalition has unveiled an initiative calling for inclusion of more minority groups in the film industry.  

Under the new initiative, representatives from Asian Pacific American Media Coalition, American Indians in Film and Television, the NAACP Hollywood Bureau and the National Hispanic Media Coalition will meet with the top six studios — Sony, Warner Bros., Fox, Universal, Paramount and Disney — to seek commitments from executives and creatives about increasing diversity.  

"We are simply not a part of the entertainment landscape," said Sunny Skyhawk, the founder of AIFT, during a Thursday press conference that was held with representatives from the coalition groups. 

"The American Indian has thousands of stories to share with the worlds that combine adventure, comedy and drama, we just need a place to tell them." Mr. Skyhawk is a member of the Academy, and cites himself as the only Native American member of the organization.  

The Multi-Ethnic Media Coalition formed in 1999 when out of the 26 new shows debuting in the fall TV slate, not one had a person of color in a primary or secondary role. Since then, the coalition has been meeting annually with ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX to prompt inclusion of minority players both in front of and behind the camera.

Daniel Mayeda, co-chair of the APAMC, says the networks were extremely hesitant to meet with the group at first but have since complied. Mayeda calls for the casting of Asian-American actors to play the parts of Asian Americans, citing Emma Stone's turn as a half-Hawaiian/half-Chinese American in Aloha and Ridley Scott's The Martian changing the ethnicities of two of it's characters, from Korean to white and then Indian to black.   

"Twice as many white actresses have won Oscars playing Asian characters, as Asian American actresses have won playing Asian characters," said Mayeda. "This whitewashing must stop."

The group says it will seek commitments from film studios to regularly provide them with data on their released films regarding casting, writing, producing and directing, and to meet with them on a annual basis to explore strategies to increase diversity. As it did with the networks, the coalition will issue annual report cards grading the studios on their diversity and overall inclusion efforts.

"Latinos make up 40 percent of the moviegoers," said Alex Nogales, president and CEO of the NHMC. "This is a business and if they want our business, we want to be included."

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