ConQnA: Jo Roark

ConQnA kicks off with my first guest is Jo-Dean Roark who recently moved to LA to pursue TV writing!

Jo went to NYU at the same time I did and I got to help out a little on the set of her webseries Dorm Therapy. She’s developing another (awesome-sounding) webseries about a girl who can see the future when she applies make-up. Follow the show accounts on Facebook and Twitter, plus Jo’s own Twitter — It’ll premiere this spring! Jo has been a real big supporter of me, because that’s just the kind of person she is, and I’m really proud of her gumption to just get the work done. Here is her writing journey so far!

Read More Continue reading

Advertisements

Link: More Diversity in Prime Time: It’s Not Your Imagination – The Root

More Diversity in Prime Time: It’s Not Your Imagination – The Root

This article mostly talk about black-ish in the aftermath of it’s premiere yesterday, but it also spotlights Jane the Virgin, which I must say was probably my favorite pilot this fall. Check it out!

Also check out two more articles regarding blackish:
In ABC’s ‘Black-ish,’ everyone has racial issues [Washington Post]
Black-ish: “Pilot”: Don’t call it the black Modern Family [AV Club]

American TV shows might look more diverse, but their writers aren’t

I haven’t posted in a while, but posts like this need sharing as much as possible. We’ve made some strides in diversity on TV, but it’s not nearly enough for it being 2014. Let’s take the diversity we’re experiencing for the new fall season and support it and applaud it so that we see even more increases in the years to come. Definitely check out this article and share it!

Upfronts 2014: Black-ish

Could this be the return of the black sitcom?

This is the question on everyone’s minds as the Laurence Fishbourne/Anthony Anderson comedy gets slated for ABC’s post Modern Family time slot. It’s definitely a strong lead-in, both because of Modern Family’s consistently high ratings and Emmy nominations as well as being similar family programming. Check out the teaser trailer below:

Based on Barris’ own life (loosely), Black-ish will follow an upper-middle class black man, intent on raising his kids with some sense of cultural identity, in the face of an assault of constant contradictions and obstacles coming from various directions, insisting that his children be color-blind.

decided to do this project when I looked up and realized that everywhere I go I’m constantly the fly in buttermilk… I’m usually THE Black guy at work. We’re THE Black family in the neighborhood. My kids are basically THE Black kids at school. I think it’s kind of a situation of be careful what you wish for. It’s almost in like moving on up, I’ve sort of priced myself “out” of being Black,” said Barris.

The show makes me both excited and nervous. I’m excited to see a black family on television. I’m even more excited to see a black family in a single camera sitcom (has there been one? I can’t think of one  Everybody Hates Chris was one!). But oh boy am I nervous. As a person who is often not seen as black because of the things that I like and the way I speak and the education I got, and as a member of the Black Girl Nerds community and seeing a lot of other people who struggle with being called “oreos” or “not black” and often being the only black person in your work/school/extracurriculars, there are a lot of sensitive issues to deal with. As long as the show deals with being black in a middle class environment without the characters losing their identities as black people.

The title alone is a little worrisome–black-ish implies that through their middle class lifestyle, they’re not fully black, only a little black or sort of black. Just because they have Jewish friends or hang out in affluent neighborhoods shouldn’t take away from the fullness of their blackness. It sounds like the character “insisting his children be colorblind” means that 1. they accept everyone regardless of their background and 2. the struggle the father endures through the series is that the children should be allowed to be who they are and like what they like with it having no reflection on how “black” they are. That’s not the kind of colorblindness we should have, but is often the kind we get: accepting characters regardless of their color but erasing any ethnic identity they have. I don’t know if I am explaining things right or if it’s truly the measure of how I believe things should be. Again, it’s sensitive issues and hard to define or draw the lines, but hopefully the team behind the show address these issues with comedy and class. Maybe the title was just a catchy way to express what the show is about.

So I’m excited! I’ll definitely be checking it out; I hope it’s funny and strong and I hope I can relate to the characters, as their experiences already speak to mine. But I am also nervous.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Quote: Co-Screenwriter of ‘Noah’ Explains Why There Are No Black People Or POC In The Film | Shadow and Act

What we realized is that this story is functioning at the level of myth, and as a mythical story, the race of the individuals doesn’t matter. They’re supposed to be stand-ins for all people. Either you end up with a Bennetton ad or the crew of the Starship Enterprise.”

What’s wrong with the Starship Enterprise?! What’s wrong with some diversity?! In order to maintain the story that Noah and his family repopulate the earth, the casting directors went with all white actors. And People of Color have had enough with the whitewashing (Noah, as a resident of the Middle East, would not have had Russel Crowe’s complexion) but if you want to say race doesn’t matter, then why not have each member of the family come from a different part of the world? I know from the story that Noah’s sons had wives: why not have them be non-white?

White as the default is very strong, but especially in mythic stories even when the story doesn’t belong to white people. It was a relief when I learned that the new FOX show Hieroglyph isn’t cast with all white people, but actual People of Color (we haven’t gotten as far as casting people directly from or descendent of the region, though).

There’s the idea that if something in a character description isn’t relevant to the plot, don’t write it in. So if a character isn’t described as being Black or Asian or Indian, it’s usually thought of to be white, even though the race of the character has nothing to do with the plot, hence why it wasn’t mentioned, so the character should be able to be cast as any race. We need to get past white as default, because it leaves so many people with no representations of themselves in the media in places where they could have been or even should have been represented.

It’s awful that he said this. I don’t think he realized the problems with his words, but it’s certainly not earned him anything from People of Color. It is clear that he thinks that in order for a story to be accepted by everyone and to stand on a grand, epic scale, only white people can be in it. Asian people or Black people or Hispanic people can’t be epic or represent mankind. Again, I think a better, more diplomatic solution would have been to cast everyone as a different race, but I suppose that would have been too controversial for them.

via Co-Screenwriter of ‘Noah’ Explains Why There Are No Black People Or POC In The Film | Shadow and Act.

Phylicia Rashad on Modern Sitcoms via Clutch

Phylicia Rashad Isn’t Happy With The Current State Of Sitcoms | Clutch Magazine.

I love Phylicia Rashad. She’s so elegant and mature and statuesque. She’s a queen of 80s sitcoms and the queen of all black sitcoms, in my opinion. She has some observations on how modern television works in comparison to when she was in her heyday and things aren’t looking good. Writers are becoming more isolated, in her view, too scattered across the country.

Click the link to read more.

Link: Bringing Diversity to TV: Whose Job Is It? | Hyphen magazine – Asian American arts, culture, and politics

Bringing Diversity to TV: Whose Job Is It? | Hyphen magazine – Asian American arts, culture, and politics

To be frank, it’s a huge deal that she [Mindy Kaling] has her own show at all, and she’s undoubtedly broken lots of barriers and paved the way for more women of color to do the same thing. But if we can’t merely rely on more diverse creative teams to help us with more equal, more three-dimensional representation, who should we count on? Whose responsibility is it to bring more diversity to television?

Click through for more.

HBO Uses Hip Hop To Lure Black Audiences To ‘Game Of Thrones’ ~ Black Girl Nerds

HBO Uses Hip Hop To Lure Black Audiences To ‘Game Of Thrones’ ~ Black Girl Nerds

Jamie at Black Girl Nerds makes some excellent points and correlations, HBO needs to skip the “hip-hopification” and actually get some diversity both on their existing shows and upcoming ones. You can’t claim Issa Rae is coming to your network and call it quits.

I love that HBO got some nerd rappers to rap about nerdy stuff, but don’t use it to “appeal to black audiences” because that shows you don’t know how to appeal to black audiences. Check it out!

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

New York Women in Film and Television Black Actresses on Screen Panel

NYWiFT PanelPanelists: (l-r) Ylana Kellar (moderator), Chenoa Maxwell, Sharon Hope, Neema Barnette, Rachel Watanabe-Batton (r on screen) Julie Dash (l on screen)

Last week, I was blessed to have been able to attend a NYWiFT Panel on the current state of black women on screen at Harlem venue My Image Studios (MiST). It was very inspiring and I got to watch Scandal afterwards with a room full of Gladiators. It was pretty amazing. Here are some of the questions and responses below (featuring general essence of their answers, with direct quotes from my notes).

The panelists for the evening were: Neema Barnette, Julie Dash, Sharon Hope, Chenoa Maxwell, and Rachel Watanabe-Batton with Ylana Kellar as the moderator. You can google them and check out their work like I have been. They’ve all been working in Hollywood trying to get the stories of black women told in the right ways and the things they had to say were very inspiring for all future black artists: whether actors, writers, directors, producers, any kind of black content creator.

The questions and answers are below as slides, click one and read through! These ladies were really inspirational and it was great to just be in a room with other like-minded people. Hopefully the roles portrayed by black actresses will continue to expand in number and in character dimension.

Enhanced by Zemanta

TV #Diversity Pilots 2014 Trend: More Black Actors

TV Pilots 2014 Trend: More Black Actors.

With Scandal ruling primetime and star Kerry Washington becoming an awards season fixture, more pilots led by black actors are in the works this season.

These are some of the black actors getting roles in upcoming pilots: Viola Davis, Anthony Anderson, Kevin Hart, Craig Robinson, Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson, Jada Pinkett Smith, Octavia Spencer, & Halle Berry. This is a star studded list of people and doesn’t even include the actors from FOX’s upcoming Hieroglyph, who are less mainstream A-/B-list actors. It’s wonderful getting to see more faces of color on television, hopefully with stories that diversify the stereotypes often relegated to such characters.

Now we just have to hope these shows get picked up past their pilots, so we actually get to see them act in these shows.

 

Link: Who Creates Drama At HBO? Very Few Women Or People Of Color

Mo Ryan of the Huffington Post breaks down cable/premium channel lack of diversity (for both women and PoCs) in the last few years. The numbers are awfully lacking any kind of diversity. We think the networks are bad with this stuff and that premium/cable is the way to go, but their numbers are somewhat worse! Check the quote and click through for the article.

Audiences can and should take individual writers to task for problems they perceive in a given show. But as long as this debate is limited to individual dramas, and doesn’t consider the entities that commission and distribute them, the conversation is likely to go around in circles indefinitely.

via Who Creates Drama At HBO? Very Few Women Or People Of Color.

Women’s Round Table Discussion: The State of Black TV

Andrea Lewis put together this awesome roundtable on the state of Black TV with various black, female content creators who have turned to the web to circumvent the difficulties of breaking into mainstream media. These ladies, Andrea Lewis, Issa Rae, Lena Waithe, Ashley Blaine Featherson and Numa Perrier have all made some sort of name for themselves through indie means, mainly meaning using the Internet to widen their fanbase. It’s really inspiring to see and hear their opinions because they make so many great points. It’s not an end all, be all discussion, but of course it gets a conversation started in the minds of those who watch it. How can we further the success of black content makers both online and in mainstream media. Watch it below.

Below are some of my favorite bullet points and thoughts.

  • Numa says that she doesn’t often feel like she’s surrounded by stereotypes because she actively works to watch content at contrasts the mainstream stereotypes. Shows like Love and Hip-Hop definitely portray a stereotype and is seen as mainstream media. “I’m not consuming the content that feels anti to my sense of truth.” I don’t watch those shows either, and while sometimes I do hate on them (sorry), the ladies make the excellent point that, “some people watch that content, why should they be discredited for who they are.” While the kind of behavior presented on those shows isn’t what I enjoy, others do, and I shouldn’t always be so derisive about it. I just wish there was more variety to the representation of black women (and other underrepresented groups).
  • Issa says she does watch some of the L&HH type shows, but there’s not enough of the other stuff. “We’re relegated to one stereotype. We watch the shows and know that there’s more to black women than this, but the general public doesn’t know. and opportunities are limited.
  • They point out that it’s about balance. There are two extremes. The Love and Hip-Hop types and the Olivia Popes. Either pristine, suits, wealthy or L&H characters. Bougie vs ratchet. We’re missing the middle ground. It’s an excellent point made that our two extremes are unbalanced as well. There’s only 1 Scandal, but multiple L&H’s shows. I’m a bit surprised the ladies don’t discuss the problems people have with Scandal, but I suppose that’s a whole ‘nother discussion.
  • It’s up to BET to step their game up and show people that the “middle ground” type black woman exists. But they’re trying to reach their base. Unfortunately, the middle ground doesn’t fit into their demo, “but what about Netflix and IFC and Sundance?” Those looking for new and interesting. It seems indie is the best place for a black content creator to go.

“Our tastes are being partitioned.”

  • How do you reach people worldwide who want to see this content? The internet has certainly been the best place for this for these ladies.
  • “Some people are going to have to get old and die before things change.” It’s a shame that this seems to be the truth about a lot of things.
  • “We need to continue to find ways to reach the world-wide audience, reach black people in Korea, etc.” Everything is so global these days. and “international eyeballs matter too.” Even movie Box Office numbers are increasingly including and discussing the international box office revenue.
  • Is online working better for you than mainstream? People are certainly grateful for content that represents them (esp when its free), but it’s hard to find/create content without sponsorship or support, to translate that community to a larger space.

“Keep doing the work and the right people will come.”
“We have to value ourselves more.”
“People are inspired and impressed when they find out I’m doing it online rather than just a “guest star” on a show.”

  • Don’t wait for things to come to you. Be driven.
  • Your work has to be something people are talking about and connecting with.
  • How do you develop your fanbase online? You can’t do it with 2 followers. Make sure you talk back to the fans. When people realize you’re gonna hit them back up, you build  relationships. It helps when people can trust you and the content is something they like.
  • All these ladies all “share in being a black women, but have such different voices”. It is definitely important that we get that across in the mainstream–we are not a monolith of Olivia Popes or Real Housewives of Atlanta.
  • It’s all about trial and error. Be strategic about collaboration. Be unapologetic about what you are and who you want to write for.

“This is black women not fighting.”

    • It’s a funny way to end the piece, but a sad fact that most shows, especially the reality shows which are born and bred on conflict, must show black women fighting all the time. That might be some people’s truths, but it’s not everyone. And if we have representations of black women not fighting with each other, but rather, supporting each other, perhaps there can be less fighting in the actual black community?

Finally, check out a webseries my friend created and I’ve helped work on, called Blacktress (I promise it was conceived before we ever knew about Andrea Lewis’ Black Actress webseries). It’s still a work in progress and we’re looking to expand very soon. But watching this was certainly inspirational for us to keep going and expanding and just getting more content out in the universe.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Response Post: “New Girl, Brooklyn 99, and Breaking the “One Black Friend” Pattern | TIME.com”

Can you find the token? (Love you Dule Hill)

It’s so very rare to find a show with more than one character of color. Some notable tokens off the top of my head include Angela from Boy Meets World, Lisa from Saved by the Bell,  Martha Jones from Doctor Who, Charlie on The West Wing and Gunn on Angel. 30 Rock subverts the trend by having Tracy Jordan in the main cast, but also Twofer, who is both black and nerdy. Some of the disappointment behind Agents of SHIELD came from the team claiming diversity and internationality (yup, I made that up), but only having one character of color, Melinda May.

For the most part, the characters listed above were main cast members, but even when I Googled “Token Black Character,” a lot of the examples were recurring characters, if that. When we begin to include 1-episode black characters as “token” characters, it doesn’t look good for the diversity of television.

Some shows this season, however, are trying to buck that trend. Mostly they’re on FOX, who started and seems to be maintaining a diversity initiative this season. Brooklyn 99 has one of the most diverse casts out there, up there with Grey’s Anatomy in terms of variety, which makes sense due to its New York Police Department setting. FOX also airs Sleepy Hollow, which has 2 black main cast members and up to 4 black supporting characters. Then there’s John Cho’s recurring character and the sometimes seen Abbie ex-boyfriend Det. Morales.

And when they brought Damon Wayans Jr back to New Girl, I was pleasantly surprised that Lamorne Morris wasn’t going anywhere. (Though, just through a quick google, there don’t seem to be any new cast photos with Damian– I have to wonder how the conversation went down when they told Lamorne Damon was coming back. Was there a “don’t worry, we’re not replacing you with him like we did him with you” conversation, or was it just we’re adding him to the cast everyone, no one is leaving. With this trend so prevalent, I would have been a little nervous my time was up.)

This article, from Time a few weeks ago, discusses FOX and other networks beginning to break the 1 black friend trend, which we could hopefully include other nationalities of color too. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the article.

But it’s also a welcome change because it makes New Girl a rarity in TV today: a major-network sitcom with more than one African American character in its regular ensemble–a comedy about friends in which “a black friend” isn’t “the black friend.”

[…]

The big networks have had a notoriously sketchy track record on casting diversity–better some seasons, terrible other seasons. The reaction has tended to be adding minority characters to shows with largely white casts. That affects the overall math, of course, but it has the side effect of replicating a universe in which black–or Asian, Latino, &c.–characters are scattered, uniformly and singly.

[…]

The exceptions are scarce: Troy and Shirley on Community; Glee, if you count that as a comedy; Parks and Recreation, depending on your definition. (That is, Rashida Jones is biracial, but having seen every episode I can’t recall Ann Perkins’ ethnicity.)

[…]

Brooklyn 9-9, the diversity is very conscious, not for p.c. reasons but simple realism. As its co-creators have said, it’s a New York City police show, and New York’s police department is about half minority. So you’ll see two Latina detectives who are very different personalities, because why not? You’ll see Andre Braugher and Terry Crews (who had a fantastic episode this week), sharing a subplot about Crews’ character’s annoying brother-in-law–not because they’re bonded as the precinct’s black characters, but simply because they work together, and it’s life–and, you know, in-laws, amirite?

[…]

But there’s another reason: sometimes, a show should just have two black women on it, because sometimes in life, there just are two black women in the same place. (Again: or men, or Indian, or Middle Eastern, or…) TV should be diverse because of fairness, but above all because it should reflect the world.

I hope this upcoming pilot seasons shows a continued growth to this trend. It shouldn’t just be FOX and Shonda Rhimes’ shows on ABC that have more than one token character of color. But that’s if the shows feature a character of color at all, like I said, sometimes the token is a recurring character and not even a supporting character. All television shows don’t necessarily have to be a tossed salad of racial diversity, but more shows need it.

Read more: New Girl, Brooklyn 9-9, and Breaking the “One Black Friend” Pattern | TIME.com http://entertainment.time.com/2013/11/07/new-girl-brooklyn-9-9-and-breaking-the-one-black-friend-pattern/#ixzz2q49hWhew

Enhanced by Zemanta

Link: 2014 is the Year Black Women Take Over Hollywood | Clutch Magazine

“What I love about this list is that it is made up of black women who are content creators. It’s wonderful to have talented actresses in front of the camera, but what we desperately need is more black women behind the camera, shaping the portrayals we see on-screen.  Often times we complain that black folks only get awards for playing slaves, maids and prostitutes/pimps. We can change that! The way we change that is to have equally diverse and talented people back-stage as on-stage.”

This is exactly it. Hopefully if we can get more (black, asian, hispanic, all WoC) female content producers, we’ll be able to see more PoC on our screens!

Click through to read more: 2014 is the Year Black Women Take Over Hollywood | Clutch Magazine

Related:

Blackout: Hollywood

The most offensive statement I’ve heard people make is, ‘If 12 Years hadn’t been released in 2013, The Butlerand Fruitvale would have had a better chance.’ Is there only room for one?” – Scott Feinberg

Oscars’ Insult to Black Movies: There’s Room for Just One (Analysis)

Enhanced by Zemanta

Briefly Discussing SNL’s New Cast Member

And (UPDATE) newest staff members, two black female writers.

I didn’t want to have a lot of words on this, since everyone else will, but people have been asking my opinion on it, so here are my thoughts on Sasheer Zamata being cast as SNL’s newest token black cast member– black female comedian (neither is much better is it?). I had more thoughts than I thought I would.

via Sasheer Zamata’s Twitter

I know nothing about this girl, so this opinion has little to do with her or her comedy style. I sincerely hope she is great and has a great time and it leads her, whenever she is ready, to bigger and better things. But SNL hasn’t solved the problem. This hire really will only highlight more problems. What about comedians of other races? Will SNL only cave to include an Indian or an Asian after those communities raise an uproar? What about SNL’s non-acting writing staff (the cast and featured players aren’t the only writers, as far as I understand–perhaps I am wrong), how diverse is that group? Is the placement of this hire a ratings stunt for the traditionally slow month of January?

I worry also about featured player dynamics now that Sasheer has been chosen. The newbies on SNL are all currently fighting to get as much sketch/screen time as the main cast. Is Sasheer on featured player level, or main cast level? Either way, the show is gonna have to use her often, if only to prevent backlash of, “oh you hired her but don’t let her do anything.” Hopefully this opens up the writers’ sketch ideas in what they can include (non-drag Oprah and Michelle Obama will be a nice change of pace), but will those other writer’s write appropriate sketches for a black character?Some of Kerry Washington’s sketches were seen as problematic, if not on their own, but mostly because the issue was so hot then. If the show was known to have black writers/cast members as apart of the team, those sketches might not have had such unfortunate implications. To be specific, I’m thinking of the fact that Kerry played a lot of “ghetto” girls in her sketches, even the digital short. Kerry on SNL

Part of Jay Pharaoh’s failure as a successful main cast member is that he did great impressions, but once he did them, what was left? The ones we’ve seen become unfunny if done every time you’re in a sketch. His original work left much to be desired. Will Sasheer be relegated to those kinds of characters–ghetto girls and black female celebrities–without allowing her to broaden her range and play the straight man in a sketch or play a (quirky) character that has no ethnic implications?

Only time will tell. All I know is that Sasheer’s first (and probably second) episodes will be some of the highest of the season–the normal crowd will be watching, as well as critics (both positive and negative) of the choice, as well as “Black Twitter,” which has shown itself to be a force to reckon with. The black television audience is larger than networks give us credit for and the success of Scandal and even Sleepy Hollow have shown that black women will watch a television show with a black female character (even if just to hate on it) because we are so starved for representation. The rest is up to the writing, which SNL has been suffering with in the past, but hopefully some new blood will raise the quality of the writing as well.

UPDATE: http://splitsider.com/2014/01/snl-adds-two-black-female-writers/ SNL has also hired two black female writers LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones, to add to the staff. This certainly alleviates concerns about the treatment or Sasheer’s characters. As long as they can 1. fight to shut down sketches with unfortunate implications and 2. not be sidelined to only write sketches Sasheer is in… but right now, SNL is seeing our concerns and circumventing them, so here’s to hoping! Even more reason to watch SNL when it returns… They really will be some of the highest rated of the season I am sure.

Article Response Essay: In the White Room With Black Writers: Hollywood’s “Diversity Hires”

In the White Room With Black Writers: Hollywood’s “Diversity Hires”.

via IndiesUnchained via WGA

This article, by Beejoli Shah dishes out some of the real workings of what is basically Affirmative Action in the TV writer’s world. She discusses what it is to be a “Diversity Staff Writer” (DSW) on a show and the pluses and minuses that come with obtaining that title. It is a bit of a long read, but definitely worth it. [Below became a long read as well.] There are many great insights in this article, I’ve quoted blocks of text below and appended further thoughts on the issues raised.

Most every writing room has one—an entry level, non-white staff writer, explicitly hired due to their race. (If you’re really lucky, being gay or a woman might just suffice, in lieu of not being white.) […] Perversely, Hollywood’s genuine attempt to remedy the overwhelming whiteness of the industry has instead led to a place where networks pat themselves on the back for hiring a token writer by institutionalizing those sotto voce complaints.

This is going to be a major issue (again) as of this week, since the hiring of Sasheer Zamata to be the first Black Female cast member to be on Saturday Night Live since Maya Rudolph left 6 years ago. It’s great that they’ve hired her, but it was only done so after major backlash after the current season was newly staffed and it is very clear that she is the token; the diversity hire. They didn’t look at her in the pool of everyone who auditioned, they’re looking at her in a pool of other black, female comediennes (an issue which Beejoli discusses further down). They’ve seen her in a pool of people like her and seen her as the best, but she shouldn’t be boxed in to a subset. More on this later.

It will then tack on some extra cash earmarked solely for a diversity hire, so that the studio budget can instead go towards everything that’s “integral” for the show to function.[…] Showrunners don’t have to worry about wasting their studio budget on a token hire that may not be so great in the room, a young colored writer gets a shot at the dream, networks proudly get to proclaim their commitment to diversity, everyone wins!

She kind of make it sound like an internship. The intern is the bottom of the office food-chain (in this case, the intern thankfully gets paid, but the same amount of respect). The show doesn’t really have to put any mental effort into hiring this person (they should, obviously, if they want a person who will creatively contribute, but it can be anyone and they lose no money for the choice).

Beejoli goes on to tell us that not a single new show brought in this season (2013-14), was created by a person of color. And I’m not even sure how many veteran shows are; Beejoli mentions Shonda Rhimes (because how can you not), but the fact that no one can ever name anyone else? That’s a problem. Essentially, Shonda is the showrunner diversity hire. No one has to hire a show runner of color because we already have one on TV.

Fox can guarantee a person of color a job to return to in future seasons, but also cleverly hold a person down at the level of diverse staff writer, even though they may be far too qualified to remain there.

It also seems to me that this could prevent new DSWs from getting work on a show because a show already has one that will remain on staff for that second season, while being paid with the diversity money rather than the regular staff writer’s allocation?

Beejoli says that some shows try to circumvent the issue by allowing “diversities” in traditionally white, male writers that aren’t usually considered diverse. A man reached deep into his family tree to discover he was a part Mexican, while another writer was given the position due to his heart murmur. I have a rare extra superior vena cava in my heart, can that count in my diversity points (besides being a nerdy, black, female obviously)?

there was a known stigma in the TV writing world that diversity hires are never quite as good, so much as they are just there.

This is my fear for Sasheer (I’ll probably post on this more later), but it’s also a problem in other Affirmative Action environments, like schools, etc. There is a lot of fear when being a black student at an expensive, possibly Ivy-league (/quality) school, that the other kids will look down on you because they see you as less intelligent. You got into the school because you are [black, Indian, Asian, etc], not because you “belong” there. And sometimes, when you feel overwhelmed in those environments, you have no one to talk to about it, because then it seems like you really don’t belong there (when in fact everyone feels the same way).

But in practice, the diversity hires are traditionally seen as slightly lower than plain old staff writers. The showrunner had to really want the staff writer there to be willing to part with $70,000 that could be spent on production or a different writer, whereas the diversity staff writer was a free gift from the network.

Like I said, kind of like an intern.

“Do you want to be writing partners? This white male writer not in a partnership thing isn’t working out.” “Listen, you’re both good writers, but he needs you more than you need him. He’s never read you before—he just wants an easier shot of getting staffed, because you’re diverse.”

I feel like this has come up in my life or the lives of my Friends of Color. Where someone attaches on to you because, “you’re black, they’ll let you in because they have to.” I don’t have a specific example, but it’s always strange to think of times when you have more possibility of doing something because you’re a person of color, since usually it’s (/you fear) the opposite. OR, as the article sort of talks around, people look down on you because you got in because you were diverse, but once you’re in, it’s a whole ‘nother set of issues.

“You know, you’re just like that girl from The Office. You could be the next Mindy Kaling!”

Whenever I mention my love of TV and desire to write for it, everyone says, “You could be the next Shonda Rhimes!” Which is cool, I admire Shonda for all that she’s done, but why can’t I be the next… Joss Whedon (another show runner I admire—Agents of SHIELD notwithstanding…) or Aaron Sorkin (without the drug problem).  When it comes from other black people, I think it’s really just them wanting my name to be with hers (or something along those lines, my thought on this isn’t fully formed), but the fact that it comes from everyone who you mention it to… A friend of mine is a black actress who is producing a web series, so everyone says, “You could be the next Issa Rae!” As Beejoli mentions, it’s stuffing us in a “racial box.” She quotes Mindy Kaling herself, who said: “I feel like I can go head-to-head with the best white, male comedy writers that are out there. Why would I want to self-categorize myself into a smaller group than I’m able to compete in?”

 I was also starting to think of myself as only a diversity writer. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve called my agents to tell them that I heard there’s a diversity position open on a show.

This has been so relevant to my thought processes. When thinking about writing (because I need to sit down and actually do more of it…), I’ve gone from saying, “I should write for [insert show with predominantly white cast/writers]” to “I should watch more black produced shows so I can write specs for those.” And while this is certainly something I should do, because part of my desire to write is to create more content for black people to watch on television, I shouldn’t have to feel like I could only write for the next The Cosby Show or Fresh Prince. And it’s poisonous to think you should only write for diverse groups and then “move up” to, say, network television.

It’s poisonous to think that you should be the “diversity hire” and then “move up” to regular staff writer. It’s putting diverse writers and diverse television shows on a lower rung than the “rest” of television. “Shows with PoC are lesser than network shows without.” Back when UPN and the WB existed, they were looked down upon compared to the other networks, and part of that had to do with their commitment to airing shows with black casts (I say partly because even now the CW is “lesser” than the big 4 even though the CW has long abandoned the WBs diverse offerings). We must get out of this thinking. It’s one thing for the white dominated studios and networks to see the diversity hire as being of less worth, it’s another for it to spread to our own ways of thinking. Then we’ll never rise above the way the system works now. But as Beejoli says, the higher ups aren’t making the change just yet (outside of severe pressure from audiences *coughSNLcough*), so how can things really change?

I think Beejoli’s article is one way. It’s better to go in understanding how things may work, so that if given the opportunity, you can change it. People can band together to make things run differently. The “diversity hires” need to stick together and help everyone realize that there’s more to a person of color joining your writing staff than filling your token quota.

Related links: More Than A Diversity Hire: WGAW’S Female Asian Comedy Writer’s Panel Notes

Article Response: Whitewashed TV isn’t just racist. It’s boring! – Salon.com

In James Cameron’s “Avatar,” a white man once again plays savior, this time to a planet of tall blue aliens unambiguously suggestive of Native Americans. What if they’d cast Michelle Rodriguez, who plays a stereotypical no-nonsense doomed Latina side character, in the lead role instead of Sam Worthington? The context of an interesting movie about race is already in place. Without a single word changed in the script, “Avatar” would have taken on layers of new meaning, opened conversations that mainstream, white cinema has not even approached. […] Instead, though, we’re left with a cliché: the same old really nice white dude, filling a void in himself by appropriating and then saving another culture. What we could’ve had was something new: a story of intersectionality and solidarity across interplanetary colonialism.

via Whitewashed TV isn’t just racist. It’s boring! – Salon.com.

YES THIS ALL OF THIS!

There is constant complaining about the same old stories being told, especially in Hollywood. A very, very simple solution to spice those same old stories up, is to cast PoCs as the main characters. Then it becomes something new that we haven’t seen before.

The article speaks heavily of Sleepy Hollow; if Abbie had been a white guy, it would have been sooo boring–kind of how Almost Human felt to me. Karl Urban being the primary lead was boring. What if they’d switched the roles and Michael Ealy was the human, Urban the robot? Then it might have been a different story. I haven’t seen past episode 3, so I don’t know if Michael Ealy’s character has to deal with race at all in the futuristic world of the show, but it would have been prudent to introduce it in the first three episodes, since him being cast as a black man is a big deal in the real world. But since it wasn’t really mentioned at all, I think I got bored (for forgot to set my DVR to record all…) and wasn’t interested in coming back. I don’t need race to be a discussion, but it shouldn’t be glossed over. (this isn’t even what I started to talk about after I mentioned Sleepy Hollow above…)

It is so simple to change the dynamics of the same old stories we’ve heard before by changing the racial and sometimes gender identities of the characters. I don’t watch Elementary, but it took guts to cast an Asian woman as Watson, and look how that turned out for them. The show is great. They knew they couldn’t follow in the wake of Sherlock, so they changed the story in a very simple way to make it more interesting to people who have seen Sherlock and the RDJ Sherlock Holmes movies and might be bored with the same old “two white guys solve crimes” story.

Quote/Link: Fox TV Says That Diversity Is Just Good Business Sense [Shadow and Act]

Of course it may seem like a no-brainer, but execs told those in attendance that their shows must reflect today’s current and increasingly multi-racial and multi-cultural world in order to attract those coveted younger viewers.

Of course the success that Fox has enjoyed with their runaway hit Sleepy Hollow, which has already been renewed for a second season, and other current shows, like Almost Human and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, are just some signs of the network’s commitment to its new programming strategy.

Fox TV Says That Diversity Is Just Good Business Sense [Shadow and Act]

At least FOX is getting with the program. I love BK99 and Sleepy Hollow (and a bunch of other people are watching and talking about it) and I am looking forward to watching Almost Human. When you have a diverse cast, you basically double your expected audience, because while I watch plenty of “mainstream” (read: majority white cast) TV shows (and enjoy them), I have more pre-interest in a show that has a diverse cast. I look forward to it more. If Michael Ealy wasn’t in Almost Human (if the character was a white person), I’d perhaps be interested because it’s JJ Abrams, but I would be less interested, less invested, and less likely to watch it. Other people feel the same way. The same goes for Sleepy Hollow. I didn’t know anything about it before it premiered. If I’d heard about it (merely the title), I didn’t really care. I checked it out because I learned there was a black female star. I probably wouldn’t have if Nichole Beharie (or any other black female) hadn’t been the star. Networks really need to pay attention, the success of Sleepy Hollow and Scandal is not isolated to social media, their premises, or even the good writing (because both shows are great, but they’re not perfect). Those things are a factor, but their diversity is what has helped them skyrocket to the hit shows that they are.

Article Response: Why I think “Why Is ‘Sleepy Hollow’ A Hit?” from Forbes is Missing a BIG Factor

First: Click here and skim Why Is ‘Sleepy Hollow’ A Hit? – Forbes, though I basically summarize it below.

Here are some reasons the Forbes gives for the success of my favorite new show of the season, Sleepy Hollow and some counterarguments.

1. “Choosing a young person, Emily Murray, as ‘Social Media Producer.'”

2. “Using Facebook and Twitter” (duh? What else would you use?), or I guess the point is knowing where your fans are hanging out (which is an excellent point–Castle, Doctor Who, and Supernatural fans rule Tumblr, Scandal and Sleepy Hollow are Twitter hits, no one is really using Facebook for this kind of thing).

3. “Collaborating internally.” I guess this means having the social media team and creatives and marketing people all work together to have gifs and images ready for the twitter experience; all of that requires multiple departments to work with the social media guys.

4. Focusing on the product, not the company.” or I guess, creating a community around the show not the network, but this is what every show does. Every show has a twitter account and makes it about the show. This isn’t a special thing Sleepy Hollow is doing.

5. Getting the actors to tweet. Yes, this is a huge helping, which they learned from shows like Scandal. Get everyone on board and people will retweet behind the scenes info or Orlando Jones being a hilarious doofball mentioning fanfiction and gifs in his tweets.

6. The twitter account having a back and forth “fight” with the twitter account from rival network show Elementary. Yes, this was funny to see and contributed to word of mouth.

But the article, which is definitely tech/social media focused, didn’t at all think about the show or the fans it draws. Other shows do these very same things. They have show specific twitter accounts. They try to get their actors to live tweet. They have the marketing department draw up designs and posters that work with their live tweeting efforts. These aren’t the only factors.

The audience is a major factor, and who is in Sleepy Hollow‘s audience? The same kinds of people who are in Scandal’s audience. Young black (females mostly, but some males who reluctantly admit they watch either or both shows) people (what these young people call Black Twitter). The media hasn’t yet caught on that young African-Americans LOVE Twitter. And if you give us a show with a black lead, we will watch that show (because we don’t have many options with that factor, so we watch the ones that do until there are more options). And we will tweet about it to our other African-American friends on Twitter. And shows like Sleepy Hollow and Scandal, both with a black female lead, will skyrocket to the top of the tv ratings and social media discussion charts. Oh, but we don’t talk about this being a factor, do we? Nor do we discuss the fact that the person doing the most tweeting and connecting with the fans is Orlando Jones, a person of color. These things are certainly important.

Other shows have tried to mimic the formula of Scandal. They’ve done the same social media things that Sleepy Hollow is doing. And yet they’re not ratings phenomena. All because the networks and media coverage are hesitant to acknowledge the real reason these shows are blowing up: because people want to see diversity on their TV screens. They are more likely to tune in. They are more likely to tell their black/asian/hispanic/white/etc friends about it. And then the show get super popular and gets renewed for the next season 4 episodes in, like Sleepy Hollow did.

Don’t let social media take all the credit for this show’s success. I know that’s what the article was about, but in a discussion about social media, you should discuss the people who use social media, and their various idiosyncrasies. That’s the real way of understanding how to use it and what platforms are best.

ConStar Watches Sleepy Hollow “The Midnight Ride”

This week’s Sleepy Hollow was a solid episode with lots of forward movement. We’re just over halfway through the season and they’ve already caught the Horseman. I know there are three more horseman on the way, but it makes me wonder where they can go the rest of the season. I’m anxious with anticipation!

First, check out my recap here: Can Sleepy Hollow Cover Your Favorite Moments of American History?

Favorite Quotes

“You paid? For water. […] the extent to which your generation has defiled this earth is truly mind boggling.”

The entirety of Ichabod’s voicemail, styled as a formal letter.

“I will not leave this earth with him still on it!”

“It was a mere inquiry.”

“The warning all the riders gave, as discretely as possible, was “the regulars are coming” NOT “the British are coming!” See, we too were british at the time, so that would have been most unhelpful.”

“Highly acclaimed dentist. The man was a silversmith. That’s the last person you’d want poking around in your mouth.”

“There’s good news and bad news. Which do you want first?” “Is this a riddle?”

“My cousin Steve forgot to take his medication this morning.”

I loved this line because of the obvious. He’s white and she’s black. And while there was no real time to deal with that simple throw-away line, it doesn’t get a response. They could be cousins. We know they’re not, but they could be. No questions that the two of them are together, in any fashion And the fact that she (and the writer’s) throw it out there with no regards to their difference in races is what I love. Because we don’t get opportunities for black characters and white characters to interact the way these two do. I don’t know. I just really liked that they threw that in there.

When Ichabod was trying to figure out the cypher, he gets really snippy with Abbie. I think this was really interesting because, in the promo for next week, it seems Ichabod is cracking under all the pressure. Introducing it in this episode is a great way to lead up to it organically rather than having us wonder next week where his outbursts come from. He’s been so cool under the “adjustment” (as he put it) so far, but he clearly feels out of place (as per his conversation with Abbie) and all of the craziness is beginning to get to him. I don’t think it helped that that website popped up and Abbie reminded him of his wife. Being without Katrina and knowing that she’s just out of place, trapped in that limbo, must also really frustrate him.

“Hey sexy. Wanna chat?” “I’m flattered but I’m afraid I am currently espoused to another.”

Do you mean Katrina? Or Abbie? lol

“Too bad we can’t summon your wife.” “Yes the thought had crossed my mind, thank you. Though not as a means to defeat our present enemy.”

As I said above, I’m sure this… pop-up… didn’t help with his frustrations… Careful Abbie, touchy subject. Though I wonder. Does Crane have any descendants we don’t know about yet? Could Katrina have gotten pregnant after his suspension in death?

The conversation Crane has with Abbie and Captain Irving are other reasons I appreciate this show and what it’s doing. They recognized that Crane supported abolition in the pilot, but it seems he thought everyone else did too. He must have had a desire to see the best in his comrades. He didn’t know about Jefferson’s infidelity with his slaves or the many descendants he has. (Watch this Key and Peele Acenstry.com sketch RIGHT NOW) Poor Ichabod also had to deal with dropping one of his mentors off a pedestal. I hope there is more of that. So far, we’ve have Ichabod schooling the moderners on how it really was in the Revolutionary Era, but there are things history teaches us that he wouldn’t know about his own people. More scenes like this would be great for the contrast and to disavow him of some of his hero worship.

I really loved the cinematography/direction of the horse-chase. The swivel of the camera when the Horseman stalks Ichabod down the tunnel was fantastic.

What episodes of American History would you like to see featured on Sleepy Hollow? If they could go to any time in our nation’s history, what incidents lend best to this show’s themes? Obviously some National Treasure/Lincoln Assassination stuff would be applicable. Maybe some Columbus era stuff that really reveals his awful character. Actually, they could definitely bring Pestilence back for that one! The two were teamed up! (Maybe I just planned my first Sleepy Hollow spec script?!)

Watch: Ava DuVernay’s Filmmaker Keynote Address At 2013 Film Independent Forum | Shadow and Act

via Watch: Ava DuVernay’s Filmmaker Keynote Address At 2013 Film Independent Forum | Shadow and Act.

I haven’t seen any of Ava DuVernay’s work yet, but I loved this keynote address and think it’s useful for anyone who is a media creator/artist. (She’s also directing an upcoming episode of Scandal, episode 308, so I’ll get to see a bit of her style then.)

All of the things that we try to do while trying to move forward in the industry is time not working on your screenplay [insert what your art is & what you’re supposed to be doing to work on it]. All the time you’re focusing– trying to grab– ‘I need this, I need this, I don’t have this–‘, you’re being desperate, you’re not doing. All that stuff is not active, it’s not moving you forward. All of the so called ‘action’ is hinging on someone doing something for you. Does that make sense? […]

The only thing that moves you forward is your work. […]

If you channel your desperation towards things you have, it’s passion. If you channel it towards things you don’t have, it’s desperation. It’s stagnation. […]

My whole thing, what I want is to be making films as a senior citizen. When I look at senior citizens making films, they’re only white guys. There’s no black, female Woody Allen. Or Mike Nichols. Like Clint Eastwood? Just imagine a bad ass black woman, walking like Clint, ‘I don’t care! I’m gonna say whatever I wanna say!” You’re old as hell, you’ve made a gang of films, say what you wanna say! I wanna be her. Old and making films. American women making films, black women making films into old age, actively and consistently. I wanna be Werner Herzog, I have so many films, I don’t know their names. I wanna be that. […] I just want consistency and longevity.

Watch the whole thing, you may get a nugget of something.

 

New UCLA Study Finds That TV Shows w/ Ethnically Diverse Casts & Crew Have Higher Ratings | Shadow and Act

I recently half-joked about how instrumental the additions of Angela Bassett and Gabourey Sidibe to the cast of this season of American Horror Story were, in helping its premiere episode become the most-watched telecast ever

But really! What this article (kind of surprisingly) forgot to mention was shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, whose diverse casts skyrocketed them both to being ABC’s #1 dramas. I think even Glee got it’s popularity boost when it came out because it had a diverse cast (though many have problems with the way that diversity is presented on the show, but that’s another issue). ER and Lost are also shows with that I’ve recently been reminded had diverse casts and hit  #1 status in their day. They are the hot Thursday shows. And recent addition Sleepy Hollow has been doing extremely well (probably even better than the network or anyone thought) and I believe that is in large part to its diverse cast.

It’s kind of unbelievable that networks haven’t caught on to the fact that this is working. ABC is clearly trying to copy some form of the Scandal formula with it’s show Betrayal. Sexy secrets and affairs, a “scandalous” name– but these aren’t the things that make Scandal a hit, so ABC going with some blandly all white cast and a hot name and some racy storylines isn’t going to drive it to be the hit that Scandal is. Scandal is successful because of its black lead and showrunner, who see that diversity in storytelling is what makes a hit show even more popular.

via New UCLA Study Finds That TV Shows w/ Ethnically Diverse Casts & Crew Have Higher Ratings | Shadow and Act.

Why Are Black Sitcoms Less Available to Us?: Black Sitcom DVD/Streaming Distribution Disparity

Black Sitcoms Distribution Article Cover

In this digital age of streaming and DVD and Blu-ray, its seems we can watch anything we want, on any device we want, any time we want. Despite the number of networks and outlets available, there are what feels like the fewest black sitcoms on today. Compared to the heyday of the 80s and 90s, the lack of black sitcoms is especially obvious when you consider there is not one on network television. So you’d think we’d be able to go back to those great 80s and 90s TV shows to fill the void of black faces on our television screens. And yes, there are plenty of shows in syndication thanks to BET and TV One and other minority niche networks. But, as I said, in this digital age, you’d think we could watch whatever we want, whenever we want. This is not the case.

When I fell in love with A Different World this summer, I immediately went searching for it on the internet. I found it: terrible quality, 3-parts per episode YouTube videos. Ok. What about on DVD? Only season 1. Netflix? Nope. Hulu? Hasn’t even heard of the show. I currently have 30 episodes stored on my DVR thanks to TV One syndication. Then I thought of other popular black sitcoms and decided to do some research.

Shows like The Cosby Show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Family Matters had major audiences. Diverse audiences even; these shows aired during some of the most popular ratings time slots on TV: The NBC Thursday Must-See-TV block and the ABC TGIF block. The first two shows have full series on DVD, but Family Matters remains at only 3 seasons of its total 9 on DVD and none on any of the major streaming sites. Martin and Girlfriends also have all their episodes on DVD, but again, no streaming. Other shows from these eras and time slots, some with lesser ratings or critical acclaim are available but not black shows.

Check out this chart I made, featuring about 48 black sitcoms spanning from the ’60s to the ’00s (only 1 currently running sitcom is on the list)(It’s a bit ridiculous that it only took me a couple of hours to compile this list. It should be a longer list).

Black Sitcom DVD Release/Streaming Chart

Black Sitcom Streaming Availability Chart

Preview of the chart. Click through for the full and most updated version.

Only a quarter of the series on this list have full DVD releases. Only 3 are available on Netflix. Only 5 are available on Hulu. Some can be seen on the WB website or other network/studio pages (not listed on the chart), but I’ve watched shows on the WB website before, it’s not a pleasant experience (perhaps they’ve made some changes).

Why are our shows not available to us? Why must we hunt through DVD bins and “Save Until I Delete” on our DVRs or suffer through terrible quality YouTube versions (missing episodes or muted scenes because of song copyrights)? Why did so many Wikipedia pages say “Season 1 was released on DVD, but future seasons haven’t been made available due to poor season 1 sales”? Are people really not interested? Or were those cop-outs for those companies (more often than not, these shows were distributed by Warner Brothers)? I know that in the case of A Different World, season 1 differs greatly from the other 5 seasons, so of course DVD sales were low. The fans were waiting for season 2-6 to come out. What about The Jamie Foxx Show or Living Single or The Bernie Mac Show? Who is preventing these shows from being available to the (African-) American people?

I put African in parentheses above because here’s the thing: if shows featuring black people aren’t made available to everyone–not just black people–then how will a wider audience of people come into contact with black shows? If they were available as easily as [insert random show that people rarely watch or talk about but is streaming], we could get more than just black people watching these shows. We could expand the typical audience of these shows to include other races and the next generation. And in doing that, we could inspire writers and producers and networks to give more black written/black-led TV shows a shot (especially on network television). Then, more people would have exposure to great television programs and then realize, oh right, the cast was all black.

I don’t know what the solution is. Petition letters for shows like A Different World and Living Single have gone around, but they don’t seem to do much good. Hopefully, Netflix and Hulu will reach out to the black audience. For goodness sake, in their “Categories” section, Hulu has a Spanish Sitcom section while Netflix has a Korean TV Shows section. Why is there no “Black Sitcom” section, why are those shows not available? Maybe we need to create a streaming site that can get the rights to black TV shows; but there are already so many ways in which black television is being propelled backward (maybe you feel this way about Tyler Perry shows, maybe you don’t, but you definitely can’t ignore the complete lack of any black sitcoms on network television–and only three black led dramas, two which premiere this season)–we don’t need to add segregation to the list.

Let your favorite streaming service know that Black Sitcoms are worthy of being viewed. Make them talk to distributors to give them the rights. And support syndication reruns. Somewhere, I’m hoping something will change.

Are there any black sitcoms I left off the list? Any that have DVD/streaming availability that I neglected to mention? How do you think we can get better access to black television sitcoms?

*CORRECTION* I miscalculated on the chart: there are 12 shows with full DVD releases. Not much better. It has been corrected.

Related post: https://constarstudiestv.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/constar-studies-90s-black-sit-coms/

Quote: SNEAK PEEK at Shonda Rhimes – Black Bloggers Connect™ Official Blog

MG Media: How much pride do you take in the fact that your casts are much more racially diverse than most other shows?

Shonda: I don’t take pride in it at all. I think it’s sad, and weird, and strange that it’s still a thing, nine years after we did “Grey’s,” that it’s still a thing. It’s creepy to me that it’s still an issue, that there aren’t enough people of color on television. Why is that still happening? It’s 2013. Somebody else needs to get their act together. And oh, by the way it works. Ratings-wise, it works. People like to see it. I don’t understand why people don’t understand that the world of TV should look like the world outside of TV.

via SNEAK PEEK at Shonda Rhimes – Black Bloggers Connect™ Official Blog.

No seriously. It’s 2013. Why is it a thing to have a racially diverse show and why is Shonda the only really doing it? Other shows that seem like they have diverse casts kind of still have the token minority who support the lead. They don’t really have leading qualities or episodes of their own. And Shonda is right, her shows are super hits for ABC, and yet no one else has thought that perhaps her casting has helped her get her shows where they are. It’s not everything, but it certainly helps widen your audience.