Entertaining Ideas for Diversity in the Industry : Hollywood Blocks Door for Minorities

In the year 1993 AS (After Spike), the mute position of the networks and studios on the subject of hiring of women and minorities grates at the very core of our souls. That's especially true for those of us minorities who have chosen the media as a career.

A case in point: This writer graduated in 1973 summa cum laude from the UCLA Film School and then went on to take a master's degree in 1979 from the same school with a straight-A average. While an undergraduate, I completed my first feature film, "Welcome Home, Brother Charles," which later got international distribution (Crown International Pictures, 1975). For my master's thesis, I made a second feature, "Emma Mae," which also was distributed internationally (Pre-International, 1976).

An Anglo male with similar background would have been able to get a good agent and a secure Hollywood career.

My try for a job in the industry was met with "no-agent, no-job"--and vice versa. I was forced to hold off formally registering my master's thesis so I could stay in school and make another feature film, "Penitentiary" (Jerry Gross Organization, 1980). (All three films were financed with competitive academic grants from such institutions as the American Film Institute, Rockefeller and Ford foundations, UCLA Black Studies Center and that grandest of institutions, my parents. Graduation would have made me ineligible for the grants.)

"Penitentiary" was a critical and box-office success, the most successful independent film of 1980. It also spawned two sequels.

I recently completed my latest feature, "Street Wars," which received an NAACP Image Award and got rave reviews at the AFI/LA Film Festival. "Street Wars" has been picked up for distribution by Mitch Blum's Medallion Entertainment for release this fall (again, my parents, provided the bulk of the funding).

I mention all this not in braggadocio but to put a face on the claims of the blatant injustices that permeate Hollywood. My story is not unique. I know of many immensely qualified minority persons who could tell much the same story. Yes, Spike Lee may have cracked open some doors, but they have hardly opened wide.

Many women and minority writers, actors and directors have prepared themselves for the big break that has never come. And Hollywood refuses even to discuss the matter.

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