WASHINGTON – Former Rep. Charlie González (D-Texas) said members of Congress have an opportunity to push for more diversity in film and television when media companies are interested in coming to their districts.
“Any industry or any business, if you are trying to attract it in your district because it creates jobs, generally, you don’t have buy-in whether it’s city council, country government, state or federal, unless there’s certain important points that are being addressed, and one of them, you know, you start off with wages, working conditions, all that good stuff, right?” he told PJM after the House Caucus for Advancement of Studio, Talent and Film Diversity’s (CAST) Capitol Hill discussion Thursday on the problem of diversity in film.
“But people are now including the issue of diversity and saying, well, how diverse is going to be your work force? Will it be reflective of our community and stuff? You’ve got to start – that’s the beauty of the House of Representatives – that it’s local,” he added.
González said he views increasing “diversity” in film as an issue of “inclusion.”
“I really think people are looking at diversity and the first thing is, ‘oh, we’ve got to do this or something’ and people start thinking in terms of some quotas. No, we are not talking about that and we never have,” he said.
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), co-chairman of the CAST Caucus, said he plans to work with those inside and outside of the film industry to achieve more diversity “at all levels.”
“We envision that the CAST Caucus will be a congressional forum for debate and dialogue on the issues pertaining to diversity in front of and behind the camera. CAST will address issues ranging from pay equity, carriage of diverse programming, pipeline for job promotion and advancement of people of color throughout every facet of the industry including financing and entrepreneurship,” he said.
“Every aspect of diversity including race, sex, religion and sexual orientation will be subjects for discussion and it is our hope that ideas and potential solutions will develop from our hosting of discussions and forums. CAST provides a way to focus on what makes America great. It is our diversity.”
Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.), caucus co-chairman, recalled a time during his college years when he printed a photo of an African-American child wearing a cape standing like Superman and looking in a mirror with a white Superman staring back at him.
“He was looking at that and I thought, wow,” he said. “We need more diversity in film, in TV, in casting, in writing to tell that story of my mother in the farm fields, our uncles in the restaurants, our aunts in the architects and engineering offices, our lawyers who struggle and overcome adversity to make life better for themselves and for others – that’s why this is so important for me and that’s why this is so important for us.”
Ruiz also said that “our stories” have to be told in films so “we see ourselves in those superheroes.”
González said federal agencies have an opportunity to advocate for more inclusion of minorities in the film industry when large media companies plan to merge. He encouraged government officials and advocacy groups to “go back” and follow-up on each Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that has been reached with companies like Comcast.
“It’s a healthy thing to do, especially right now when things are a little more sensitive,” he said. “Stories need to be told and they need to be told accurately, you know, the misinformation that is out there on stuff – setting records straight, but in a way that is entertaining but powerful.”