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Speaking about what it will take to bring about more diversity in the entertainment industry, indie producer Effie Brown, offering the keynote address Sunday at the 12th annual Film Independent Forum in Los Angeles, said, “There are only two ways we have made change in systemic oppression: shame and money.” She continued, “Our weapon is our voice, and our bullets are our dollars. We cannot support financially the people and places and things that are not inclusive, that participate in oppression.”
Brown’s producing credits include Justin Simeon’s Dear White People and The Leisure Class, the film whose making was chronicled in HBO’s Project Greenlight. She currently acts as executive vp production and development for TV and film at Lee Daniels Entertainment. And next up she is working with Lionsgate to adapt Omar Tyree’s novel Flyy Girl.
Addressing the audience at the Directors Guild of America, Brown said, “The next time there is a movie where there is a whitewashed Asian character, you don’t go see it and you tell other people not to see it. When there is another white-savior movie that is out there, you do the same — you don’t see it and you tell other people not to see it.”
Brown says this call to arms should extend to how audiences watch television as well. She added: “If we want to support inclusivity, stop watching the shows that don’t hire women and people of color in the writers’ rooms and behind the scenes.”
Brown has been a leading voice for inclusive filmmaking since gaining notoriety during the airing of 2015’s Project Greenlight, the HBO show that followed a first-time director embarking on the production of a feature film. In the show’s premiere episode, Brown was talking about the importance of diversity behind the camera, when executive producer Matt Damon seemed to interrupt her while dismissing the need for such talent, saying, “When we’re talking about diversity, you do it in the casting of the film, not in the casting of the show.”
A large internet backlash ensued against the actor, leading Damon to issue a statement, where he backtracked on his on-camera remarks, saying that there is a need for more diverse filmmaking.
During her keynote, Brown used her experience on Project Greenlight as a case study in how a collective outcry can enact change. “We do a great job of taking to Twitter and putting situations and content on blast when we know shit ain’t right,” she said.
During the Q&A portion of the event, one of the audience members asked how much of the moment was real and how much was creative editing. Brown answered, “Real talk: It was really accurate. I know I am not for everybody, I have been with me my entire life, so I know. But Project Greenlight was really accurate.”
She was then quick to acknowledge that without the show, she would not be in the position that she currently finds herself within the Industry. “[Project Greenlight] is the reason I am being trotted out to talk about diversity, so I am grateful to it,” said Brown. “So, thank you, Matt Damon for making me relevant.”
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