A group of activists has called on the major Hollywood studios to do a better job of representing America's diversity.
The Multi-Ethnic Coalition, which has previously pressured TV networks to boost their representation of minorities, on Thursday shifted its attention to the film studios.
At a news conference in Pasadena, coalition members said they planned to meet with the major movie studios in an effort to boost the number of minorities working at all levels of the film business.
"When people do not have their image in front of others, we lose our voice," said Sonny Skyhawk, founder of American Indians in Film and Television. It's one of several groups in the coalition, which also includes the National Hispanic Media Coalition.
Since 2000, the Multi-Ethnic Coalition has met annually with CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox in a campaign to increase the representation of minorities in front of the camera and behind the scenes of the TV business.
The coalition's film initiative follows the #OscarsSoWhite uproar. The dearth of nominations for actors of color ignited debate across the industry and prompted the academy to announce sweeping changes aimed at doubling the number of women and minorities in its ranks by 2020.
But coalition representatives said those steps were not sufficient to address the problem. As others have argued, they said meaningful change needs to occur within the executive suites of studios, where decisions are made on what films are greenlighted.
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"Give the white audiences a little more credit," said Daniel Mayeda, co-chair of the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition. "They'll go see movies that star people of color if the stories are compelling. We're not asking for charity. We're saying that the film studios need to catch up to
The group cited "whitewashing" by studios, referencing instances in which minority characters were either played by white actors — Emma Stone as an Asian American in "Aloha," Ben Affleck as an Hispanic in "Argo" — or ethnic roles that were rewritten to accommodate white actors.
The alliance also argued that Hollywood has a tendency to limit roles for actors of color to films about historic or extraordinary figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. or Jackie Robinson, or an "especially dignified slave or maid," Mayeda said.
"It is about how we are perceived by the American public as a whole," said Alex Nogales, president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. "If we are absent, we don't have visibility. If we're [cast] in a negative way, that's how we will be treated."
The coalition, however, offered few specific proposals on its upcoming meetings with studios. Among other steps, they said they will press studios to track minority employment at all levels and expand "pipeline" programs to develop minority writers, directors and others.
"We seek change," Skyhawk said. "We're not only going to seek it, we're going to demand it."