Black And Brown Indie Producers Press Hollywood For Commitments To End Systemic Racism: Open Letter

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At a moment when Hollywood is listening more than ever to suggestions on how to make this industry more inclusive, a group of indie producers of color have written an open letter with some worthwhile suggestions meant to guide change.

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Let’s Be Honest: An Open Letter from Over 125 Black and Brown Independent Producers and Allies…

Dear Hollywood,

This letter is from Black and Brown independent producers in alliance with advocates for change. As one extended community, we require your active engagement to tackle systemic racism in our industry, in America and around the world. While messages condemning racism and advocating for solidarity on social media may inspire hope, Hollywood must put its money and practices where its mouth is. A direct line can be drawn from the stories and voices that Hollywood silences, to the discrimination and biases that are pervasive in the entertainment industry and larger society. This moment in history presents an opportunity for you to be an incredible partner for change.

Our aim is that this letter produces strategic commitments from Hollywood players to reshape our industry into one whose words are supported by action. Toward that end:

1. Banish “It’s Too Small”

Banish “it’s too small” from your lexicon. It is insulting to our stories, our history, our impact on world culture, and our worth. Our stories are referred to as “too small” because they do not center white characters or a small subset of actors whom you deem valuable. We know that many of our stories scare you because they go against your preconceived notions of us, and that perhaps you do not have ready-made templates to market and sell them. There are Black and Brown marketing experts who do. Hire them and together let’s push truthful, bold and imaginative stories by Black and Brown storytellers. We must emphasize this point because there are countless men and women in the streets right now, putting their lives, health, and livelihoods on the line, fighting for an end to systemic racism. There will be no end until financiers, distributors and the community of decision-makers cease this practice of marginalizing our voices and our stories. This marginalization perpetuates the racism we’ve experienced for centuries, negatively impacts our economic livelihoods, and further obscures our humanity. If Black lives matter to you, our stories and the scale on which they are marketed and distributed must as well.

2. Empower Black and Brown Independent Producers

Hiring Black and Brown writers and directors is of course of great importance, but rarely is this opportunity given to Black and Brown independent producers. This is especially troubling because producers often work with multiple writers and directors. Supporting one producer effectively supports many Black and Brown professionals above and below the line. Take a look at the first look and overall deals that studios have extended to producers. In 2019, of the 105 deals reported, only 18 were people of color, but 8 of those were actors, 4 were directors and one, our brother, LeBron James. The quick math reveals only 5 producers. These numbers are astoundingly inequitable and they directly impact the stories that are told and the economic sustainability of our communities. Take a deeper look at the community of Black and Brown independent producers, working hand in hand with talented directors. Many have compelling slates of projects in need of willing partners.

3. Expand Your Vision

There hasn’t been a Black producer on Variety’s “10 Producers to Watch” list since 2017. Perhaps it’s because of the above catch phrase that designates our stories as “too small”? We don’t mean to point the finger solely at Variety, because similar lists are printed in various trades. In addition, they all seek recommendations from agencies, management companies, and elite publicists. So this incredibly valuable publicity is often limited to advancing the careers of those who need publicity the least.

4. Be More Demanding

Actors and reps, become more demanding about the teams behind the camera. If there are no Black producers, no Black DPs, no Black department heads, just say no. To reps, be proactive in asking on behalf of your clients. Without your vocal support, we will continue to be largely shut out of this industry and it is not for lack of Black excellence. It’s for lack of will on the part of producers, network executives and studio heads. It’s that simple.

So many people, braver than we, are on the front lines fighting a cause that cannot be won without active partnership from Hollywood. We stand ready and willing to deliver narratives and share voices that dismantle paradigms that make racism acceptable, comfortable, or at best, “just a terrible shame.”

We challenge you to become willing partners in this righteous endeavor. If the full spectrum of our experiences are not produced, marketed and celebrated on the same budgetary scale and with the same regularity that white stories are, then you are actively denying our humanity. Our stories and experiences can no longer be limited to being backdrops for white narratives and protagonists. Nor should our stories of brutalization and suffering be told for mere entertainment, pity, or others’ edification. Until we are able to show our FULL joy, grief, fear, history, pride and all other myriad of emotions and experiences, then you, Hollywood, are just upholding the status quo and enabling a society that keeps white people comfortable in their racism and Black people perpetually dehumanized. You are a large part of the problem and it’s time to be honest about it. For far too long, the images on our screens have projected lies and partial truths when it comes to our lives and history, minimizing our perceived value and creating ripple effects throughout society.

This letter is in defense of the Black entrepreneur pitching seed investors. It is in defense of the Black executive deserving yet passed over for promotion. It is in defense of the Black teenager told to cut his locs before coming to school. It is in defense of the Black men and women who just want to make it home to their families. It is in defense of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Atatiana Jefferson, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Michael Brown, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Tamir Rice, Jordan Davis, Trayvon Martin, and so many others whose lives were senselessly and tragically cut short.

Your messages of Black Lives Matter support are a first step. But after decades of rewarding racism in your ranks and beyond, it’s time to do more. If Black lives really matter to you, our stories must as well. Tell the whole truth Hollywood. Black and Brown lives all over the world depend on it.

#tellthetruthHollywood

Signed,

Huriyyah Muhammad
Writer, Director, Producer
Co-Founder, the Black TV & Film Collective

Kibi Anderson
Producer, Board of Directors, the Black TV & Film Collective

Mynette Louie
Producer, The Population

Iyabo Boyd
Writer, Director, Producer
Director, Brown Girls Doc Mafia

Marttise Hill
Producer, Director, Writer, Pryor Hill Productions

Ekwa Msangi
Writer, Director, Producer, Farewell Amor
Board of Directors, the Black TV & Film Collective

Avril Z. Speaks
Producer, Director

Leah N. Thomas & Ron Davis
Writer, Producer, Founder, CoSi/gn
CEO, The Jordan Davis Foundation

Rachel Watanabe-Batton
Producer, Founder, Contradiction & Struggle

Julius Pryor
Producer, Director, Writer, Pryor Hill Productions

Jordana Mollick
Producer, The Lovebirds

Monique Walton
Producer, Bull

Ryan Zacarias
Producer, Bull

Neil Creque Williams
Producer, Miss Juneteeth

Mollye Asher
Producer, The Population

Derek Nguyen
Producer, The Population

Kishori Rajan
Executive Producer, Random Acts of Flyness

Kelly Robins Hicks
Executive Producer, Random Acts of Flyness

Nijla Mumin
Writer / Director, Jinn

Tayarisha Poe
Writer / Director, Selah & the Spades

Lauren McBride
Producer, Selah and the Spades

Susan Kelechi Watson
Actor, Producer

DeWanda Wise
Actor, Executive Producer

Trevitte Willis
Producer, Southern Fried Filmworks

Dani Melia
Producer, The Farewell

Keith Levine
President, Phantom Four

Lisa Cortes
Producer, Cortes Films

Idil Ibrahim
Director, Producer

Shatara M. Ford
Producer, Test Pattern

Mayuran Tiruchelvam
Producer, The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin

Melissa Adeyamo
Producer, Eyimofe “This is My Desire”

Gabrielle Glore Producer
Festival Director of Urbanworld Film Festival

Jeff Friday
Founder & CEO ABFF Ventures (American Black Film Festival)

Nicole Friday
EVP, General Manager ABFF Ventures

Leslie A. Fields-Cruz
Executive Director, Black Public Media

Denise A. Greene
Director of Program Initiatives, Black Public Media

Cassian Elwes
President, Elevated Films

Anadil Hossain
Producer, Dillywood Inc.

Terence Nance
Writer, Director, Producer

Chanelle Elaine
CreativeBionics, Producer, First Match

Mel Jones
Writer, Director, Producer

Josh Penn
Producer, Department of Motion Pictures

Elizabeth Lodge Stepp
Producer, Department of Motion Pictures

Rebecca Green
Producer, Founder Dear Producer

Ela Thier
Founder, the Independent Film School

Anne Lai
Executive Director, SFFilm

Justin Lewis
President, the Black TV & Film Collective

Bird Runningwater
Sundance Institute, Director, Indigenous Program

Michelle Satter
Director, Feature Film Program, Sundance

Angela C. Lee Producer, Songs My Brothers Taught Me
Associate Director, Artist Development at Film Independent

Josh Welsh
President, Film Independent

Lisa Hasko
Film Independent, Director of Artist Development

Jenifer Westphal
Founder/CEO/Executive Producer, Wavelength Productions

Joe Plummer
President, Wavelength Productions

Paul Mezey
Cinereach – Director, Original Productions

Sam Bisbee
Producer, Park Pictures

Bobby Allen
MUBI, SVP of Production

Jeffrey Sharp
Executive Director, IFP

Jenny Raskin
Executive Director, Impact Partners

Bert & Bertie
Directors, Troop Zero

Jason Berman
Producer

Milan Chakraborty
Producer

Daniel Bekerman
Producer, Scythia Films Inc.

Becky Morrison
Producer

Kisha Imani Cameron
Producer, Film Executive & Coach

Joyce Deep
Executive Producer / Producer, Where’s My Roy Cohn?

Gerry Kim
Producer, I’m No Longer Here

Rebecca Dealy
Casting Director

Nana Mensah
Actor, Writer, Director

Zainab Jah
Writer, Actor

Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine
Artist

Kiran Deol
Actor

Mrs. Riley Keough
Actor

Gabrielle Nadig
Producer

Kelly Williams
Producer, Ten Acre Films

Jonathan Duffy
Producer, Ten Acre Films

Kim Parker
Producer

Cybel Martin
Director of Photography

Angela Harvey
Writer / Producer

Rachael Fung
Producer

Nabil Vinas
Actor, Writer, Producer

Alexandra Cuerdo
Director, Writer, Producer, ULAM: Main Dish

Ramazan Nanayev
Writer, Director, Producer

Abbesi Akhamie
Writer, Director, Producer

Adetoro Makinde
President, Women Independent Producers (WIP)

Letitia Guillory
Writer, Director, Producer
Board of Directors, the Black TV & Film Collective

Arinze Onugha
Attorney and Creative
Board of Directors, the Black TV & Film Collective

Kahlil Garner
Board of Directors, the Black TV & Film Collective

Laura Fielder
Board of Directors, the Black TV & Film Collective

Natalie Qasabian
Producer

Karin Chien
Producer

Yvonne Huff Lee
Actor & Co-Founder The Lagralane Group

Randy Wilkins
Filmmaker

Pin-Chun Liu
Producer

Drea Clark
Producer, Film Independent

Tommy Oliver
Producer

Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour
Writer, Director, Producer

Shruti Ganguly
Director, Producer, Writer & Founder, Honto88

Fernando Frias
Director

Bruce Cole
Director of Photography

Esra Saydam
Director

Michael Mobley
Producer, Mustang Island

Diana Williams
Producer

James M. Johnston
Producer

Mary Jane Skalski
Producer

Cara Marcous
Producer

Ken Pelletier
Founder, Executive Producer/Producer, NiKA Media

Stacey Reiss
Producer, Spaceship Earth

Sharon Chang
Producer, Founder, Guild of Future Architects

Bao Nguyen
Director, Producer, Be Water

Samba Gadjigo
Producer, Sembene!

Jason Silverman
Producer, Sembene!

PJ Raval
Director, Producer, Unraval Pictures

Jacqueline “JJ” Ingram
Producer, Come As You Are

Márcia Mayer
Writer, Producer, Tenacious Productions

Grace Lee
Director, Producer
Co-Founder Asian American Documentary Network

Andrew Lee
Producer, Austin Asian American Film Festival Board Chair

Kathryn Everett
Head of Film/Executive Producer, XTR

Stephanie Marin
Producer

Gillian Weeks
Writer

Alyse Nahmias
Producer, Director

Theodora Dunlap
Producer

Ken Lee
Manager, Producer, Brillstein Entertainment Partners

Alicia Van Couvering
Producer, Dark Arts Films

Joyce San Pedro
Producer

Ethan Goldman
Producer, Anchor Entertainment

Giorgio Angelini
Director, OWNED: A Tale of Two Americas

Monisha Gandhi
NewFest Festival Producer

Rashidi Hendrix
Founder & CEO, Metallic Entertainment

Heather Rae
Producer, Narrative Change Activist, IllumiNative

This article was printed from https://deadline.com/2020/06/indie-producers-of-color-advise-hollywood-on-what-is-needed-to-make-biz-more-inclusive-open-letter-1202961453/