Ming- Na in ER.
By May Chow | AsianWeek Staff Writer
Televisions four major networks ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC have come under attack from various minority communities for their failure to represent the diverse culture of America in their programming.
The paucity of Asian Pacific Americans, blacks, Latinos and Native Americans in the entertainment industry has caused many organizations to speak out against the networks.
The lack of diversity in Hollywood now is because of Hollywoods history, said Keith McAllister, director of technology at the Washington, D.C.-based Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA). You go back 20 years, and there werent enough minorities going into the business because they were probably discouraged from going into it.
Back in 1999, a group of Latino organizations gathered together to boycott the four major networks. In what was dubbed a Brown Out, the Latino community, through word of mouth and public rallies, boycotted the networks, demanding network officials to give them reason as to why there was an absence of Latino actors and actresses on television. They invited all minority groups to participate and ask for an increased presence and fair portrayal of minority characters on screen.
McAllister said OCA also took part in the Brown Out movement to ask the networks to increase minority writers, producers and off-screen talent.
In response to the Brown Out and under the pressure of television ratings, ABC created the Talent Development Scholarship and Grant Program, a nationwide search aimed at fostering and supporting aspiring writers, directors and filmmakers from diverse backgrounds.
OCA partnered up with ABC to spread the news about the scholarship opportunity to the APA community. The program is designed to help high school and college students as well as nonprofit arts institutions develop creative ideas or complete an existing creative project through grants and mentors. OCA is one of many community organizations selected to conduct the search.
According to Christine Chen, executive director of OCA, the partnership came about from the work of the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition and other minority-interest media groups.
OCA, as well as other APA groups, has long been disappointed with the lack of APAs and other minorities in the entertainment industry, said Chen.
Chen stressed the importance of media in forming opinions in society and its proper representation of all communities. McAllister said another reason why Hollywood has a low number of APAs is because the pool of APAs trying to break through is small.
This is cultural, it goes back to the idea of if you go into the arts, youll make no money, he said. Sure, you can play the piano, but dont make a living out of it.
Ironically, though stereotypes have APAs dominating the fields of medicine and law, that isnt reflected on television. On NBCs ER, it was only this season that actress Ming-Na was made a permanent cast member. Other medical dramas showcase few or no APAs, neither as physicians, nor as Filipino nurses.
With a high number of APA attorneys, there is a striking absence on shows such as the now- defunct L.A. Law, The Practice and Law and Order. During the height of L.A. Law, two out of 10 lawyers in Los Angeles were APA, according to McAllister.
Look at Friends, Ross had to go to China to get a [APA] girlfriend, when all he had to do was go outside, said McAllister. I mean these people are living in Manhattan, and all they see are white people?
The contests ten winners will each be awarded $20,000, assigned a mentor and given the opportunity to take part in a three-day workshop in Los Angeles at ABC Entertainment and Disney Studios.
Entries were submitted in screenplay, video or script. Submissions could be an uncompleted original idea, a first draft with a budget or a work in progress with a script. The deadline for entries to OCA was Jan. 15, 2003.
Last year, New York resident Nora Chau was one of 16 recipients of the Talent Scholarship Grant Program for her project, To Chow Yun Fat with Love.
It has always been ABCs desire to discover, develop and encourage creative talent that might otherwise go unnoticed, ABC said in a statement. We feel that every year, in a small way, this program does just that. It not only provides the necessary resources, but the moral and professional support needed for these artists to practice and hone their craft.
Reach May Chow at firstname.lastname@example.org.