Variety Gotham Week Expo Kicks Off With Panels on Diversity, Inclusion



The 2023 Variety Gotham Week Expo kicked off in New York City on Thursday with a series of panels focused on diversity and inclusion.

The first panel of the day was “Deep Dive: The Inclusion List” with the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative in collaboration with the Adobe Foundation. Panelists included Dr. Stacy L. Smith, founder of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, “Nomadland” producer Mollye Asher, and Amy White, global head of corporate social responsibility at Adobe and the executive director of the Adobe Foundation Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. Dr. Katherine Pieper, program director at the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, served as the moderator.

Dr. Smith led off by discussing the findings of the Initiative’s latest research study, which she said found that “women of color, internationally, are making more money than white men at the box office. It’s not a significant difference, but it is the only difference.” She also said that the best films in the study in terms of inclusion both in front of and behind the camera were “”The Woman King,” “The Farewell,” and “Zola,” all of which were directed by and starred women of color.

After that, there was the “Affirmative Action and the State of DEI in the Documentary Field” panel with the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) and the Asian American Documentary Network. Donald Young, director of programs for CAAM, served as the moderator. The panelists were: Mridu Chandra, a director and producer of documentary and fiction films; Bethany Li, legal director at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund; and Chi-hui Yang, senior program officer at the Ford Foundation.

On the subject of affirmative action, Yang said that it is important for all filmmakers to understand that “what’s happening here is that there is a battle over narratives. “The social narrative over a zero sum game, over ‘There’s not enough pieces in the pie for everybody’ is winning. This idea that “If I advance, it’s at your cost.’ I think that’s deep at the heart of America.”

Chandra added that she does not want Asian-American filmmakers to get “niched” into telling stories of being underrepresented. “We should tell the story of America and mainstream America,” she said. “It sounds like it’s stage two, but it has to happen all at the same time.”

The third panel was “Disability Inclusion in the Filmmaking Process” with ReelAbilities Film Festival: New York. Actor Matthew Jeffers, who is a little person, and writer/director Elizabeth Sargent were the panelists, with Isaac Zablocki, director of film programs at Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, moderating. Garrett Zuercher, a deaf actor and director, was also meant to be on the panel. However, Zuercher was forced to drop out after the ASL interpreter the Expo hired was unable to attend.

“You have to understand this is what this panel is about,” Zablocki said regarding Zuercher’s absence. Zablocki then asked the other two panelists about their own experience with lack of access in the productions on which they’ve worked.

Jeffers said that his obstacles have largely been internal rather than external, with most of the people he has worked with in his acting career making efforts to accommodate him.

“I will say it’s more of a challenge for me to be more vocal on sets as we’re all going into this with with more open minds than perhaps ever before, which is obviously terrific. That being said, I will say I have been really, really pleased in my experience with the sets that I’ve worked on.”

Sargent discussed her short film “Take Me Home,” which stars Sargent’s real sister Anna and mother. The film tells the story of a cognitively disabled woman and her estranged sister as they deal with their mother’s death. Anna really does have a cognitive disability, and Sargent said she made sure to include her sister in the process and “really let her lead the writing of the film.”

Jeffers and Sargent both agreed they did not want to see films that solely focused on a person’s disability, but rather films about disabled people that dealt with the human experience.

“I get more excited about content that does not point the spotlight at disability as a solitary existence, like ‘This is the story about a blind man,’” Sargent said. “I’m just I’m not interested in those stories. Frankly, I’m interested in stories of that blind man who just happens to be blind but he’s navigating a relationship or wants to try to become New York’s best theater director. People don’t walk around with a spotlight being like, ‘Let me tell you all about my existence.’”

The other panels for the day were: “Held in Care: Healing and Harm Reductionist Practice for Documentary Participants and Audience” with Brown Girls Doc Mafia; “How Do We Support our Creator Community: Expanding Communities Listening Session” with The Gotham Film & Media Institute’s Expanding Communities Program; and “Advocacy for the Independent Filmmaker Through Community” with Brown Girls Doc Mafia, Islamic Scholarship Fund, Minorities in Film, and New Orleans Film Society.

The 2023 Variety Gotham Week Expo continues on Oct. 5 with the theme of “Career Advancement Day.”


Source link

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.