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The Writers Guild of America West’s recently formed Middle Eastern Writers Committee is asking the industry to increase their outreach, improve their knowledge and “take more chances on us” in an open letter.
The letter, signed by over 50 members of the Committee, including writer-director Ramin Bahrani (The White Tiger), writer-director-producer Sam Esmail (Homecoming) and actor and writer Mitra Jouhari (Three Busy Debras), notes that their union’s most recent inclusion report found that just 0.3 percent of employed screenwriters and 0.3 percent of employed TV writers are Middle Eastern, behind all other ethnic groups measured in both categories. “Because of this, we find ourselves at a cultural inflection point, and we’re asking for your allyship to improve this number,” the letter reads. “Identifying the problem is the first step — taking action is what should follow.”
The Middle Eastern Writers Committee was formed less than a year ago, in Aug. 2020, and is co-chaired by Big Hero 6: The Series writer Paiman Kalayeh and Life-Size 2 scribe Cameron Fay. Its goal is “to boost visibility and employment of Middle Eastern writers within the film and television industry, while celebrating and promoting accurate portrayals of Middle Eastern characters in all areas of media,” according to the union. The Committee also seeks to be a resource for productions looking to portray the Middle Eastern community in the U.S. and internationally.
Pointing out the Guild’s database of writers identifying themselves as Middle Eastern, the letter proceeds to ask the industry to “Reach out to us. Get to know our work. And most of all, take more chances on us to both tell our
own stories and contribute to the ones being crafted in writers rooms all over town.” (The Committee, which is looking to get the word out about its work, has previously hosted a panel with the Think Tank for Inclusion & Equity and is currently working on an upcoming “In the Room with Middle Eastern Women” panel set for Sept. 23.)
The letter further notes the recent success of Hulu’s Ramy, TBS’s Chad and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (featuring two MENA stars) but says, “Unfortunately, these stories are typically few and far between. We’re often branded as one-dimensional, naïve foreigners with funny accents, stereotypical, shady businesspeople, and too often, our identities seem to be intrinsically tied to the War on Terror and being America’s number one enemy.”
The letter concludes by inviting the industry to “keep this conversation going” and contact the Committee through the Guild’s Inclusion & Equity staff liaison. “We look forward to partnering with you, ensuring that our voices are heard and that we’re represented across the industry,” the letter says.
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