Tag Archives: Jordan Peele

My Yearly Oscar Inclusion Exclusion Speech! Or “The 90th Oscars – Segment 1 – The Kimmel Intro”

Wow! Very cool that this is the 90th Oscar show. And very interesting that this year the President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science was not given time to speak during the Oscars. That is usually the one speech I focus on and delve into when the topic of diversity is uttered from the Academy’s President Cheryl Boone Isaacs during the glam and glitz of the Oscar’s show. It is easy to explain if you were aware that last year she was released and John Bailey became the President. He did not make a speech on how wonderfully diverse the film industry is or make any speech at this year’s Oscar’s. And maybe because Mr. Bailey spent his career as a cinematographer and therefore he’s more comfortable being behind the camera?! Nonetheless, there was plenty for me to discuss as these self-appointed guardians of diversity and champions of giving voice to all – especially the marginalized in society and therefore given proof their humanitarian side is a huge part of who they are. And it appears that they were making up for the past couple of years where they had been criticized even from within with protests like, “Oscars So White” when no people of color were nominated for an Oscar in the top categories. But this year they did not need the Academy’s President to make a speech of the industry’s diversity because between the presenters and Oscar winners, they made sure they stated how diverse they are or how they want to be more diverse, more inclusive and that allows me to once again point out that which they so often ignore – the point of view from a person with a disAbility! And if you are new to this blog or my website, corresponding Facebook page, or other writings, this is very significant if you look at the demographics of our nation. People with a disAbility make up 19% (according to 2010 US Census) of the American population. That is far more that any single racial (Blacks or African-Americans – 13.3%, Hispanic or Latino – 17.8% [2010 US Census estimates for 2016]) or sexual identity (LGBT – 4.1% [according to Gallop poll for 2016]) minority.

Due to the fact that they spread the, “this industry is the forerunner in diversity and inclusion” throughout the show instead of one speech – I will have to spread out this blog posts into segments. This being the first – at the beginning of the show with a repeat host, Jimmy Kimmel.

The 90th Oscars hosted by Kimmel

After a Black and White old school newsreel style opening to somehow honor the 90th Oscar’s show Jimmy Kimmel steps out on the stage for his opening monologue. I will begin there. After typical Kimmel style jokes about what happened with last year’s mix up on who won the Best Picture Oscar award and how Oscar is now 90 years old, Kimmel then jokes and stumbles around the Harvey Weinstein scandal and his years of sexual harassment without saying sexual harassment at first. He mentions how the Academy expelled Harvey Weinstein and the only other person that the Academy expelled was an actor who shared screeners (copies of movies that are nominated for an award that year and given to Academy members to consider voting for. These are movies that are generally not available for home viewing (dvd, blu-ray) to the general public.) But then he gets to what needs to be said. Somewhat.

“But what happened with Harvey, and what’s happening all over, was long overdue. We can’t let bad behavior slide anymore. The world is watching us. We need to set an example and the truth is if we are successful here, if we can work together to stop sexual harassment in the workplace, if we can do that, women will only have to deal with harassment all the time at every other place they go.

Really? “…every other place they go”? Suggesting, actually meaning that women are being sexually harassed everywhere else? That all men are just like Harvey Weinstein? That there are no decent men out there? Not funny. Full disclosure. I find Jimmy Kimmel only an occasionally, mildly funny comedian. And I have not included any of his political jabs at the President and Vice President here at the Oscars. I do not feel like it is the place. Although I guess he is playing to the audience. At least the audience there in the Dolby Theatre the Hollywood elite that is there either to present an award or in hopes to be winner of an Academy award.

89th Annual Academy Awards - Backstage

But it does not play well with half the television viewers – or the potential viewers – as the viewership – the ratings have been drastically declining over the past couple years and it seems the only common thread is political jokes. That’s my thoughts.

Back to the show!

And the part I want to focus on is Kimmel’s statement, “We can’t let bad behavior slide anymore. The world is watching us. We need to set an example”. I have been saying that for the last two decades! The world is watching what Hollywood is producing and they do need to set an example. They need to stop excluding the nearly 20% of Americans – the largest minority in America – those with a disAbility. If they actually included characters with a disAbility – that is portrayed by actors with a disAbility, it would mean a lot to Americans and show the world that Hollywood is not excluding nor marginalizing the most under-represented minority! What’s wrong with that? By your own words, “the world is watching” and you “need to set an example.” By excluding of those with a disAbility – you are setting an example.

Mr. Kimmel then went on to talk about the supporters of the movements of “Me Too”, “Time’s Up” and “Never Again.” He states that, “Things are changing for the better.” And that, “it is [a] positive change.” This is very true and I am very happy for the positive change when it comes to those women and even girls who have to deal with sexual harassment or in some cases even worse. And we should not forget the men and boys that are also put in those situations. In Hollywood, I can point to male actors like Terry Crews how has revealed he has been a victim of sexual harassment and Corey Feldmen who as a child star was a victim of pedophilia. And the revelation last year of actor Kevin Spacey is gay and that there are at least 15 men and teen boys who have come forward alleging sexual harassment against him.  And if these movements against sexual harassment can be a positive change for the better, having pulled the curtain open in Hollywood on this issue, I hope one day the same can be said for the forgotten minority in Hollywood. You know who I am talking about. And let me be very clear – I am not putting these two in the same category. I’m just saying maybe there is, or at the very least should be hope for the forgotten minority in Hollywood. Believe me when I say I know that from some actors and directors that it is in the upper tiers of Hollywood who want to keep the curtain closed on the issue of the exclusion of people with a disAbility in movies and television.

Blockbuster Diversity

To continue on with the show, Kimmel’s monologue then transitions to,

“This is a night for positivity and our plan is to shine a light on a group of outstanding and inspiring films, each and every one of which got crushed by “Black Panther” this weekend. Which, that’s — that’s okay. The success of “Black Panther” is one of many positive stories this year. Especially for African-Americans and Bob Iger. “Black Panther” and “Wonder Woman” are — were massive hits, which is almost miraculous because I remember a time when the major studios didn’t believe a woman or a minority could open a superhero movie. And the reason I remember that time was because it was March of last year.

And I can remember when the major studios didn’t believe that a person with a disAbility can self-represent in any movie. Oh, wait, they still don’t believe we can represent ourselves in the creative roles as screenwriters, film directors, or actors. And if it could happen so quickly – then again I say there is hope for us in the forgotten minority.

Shattered Ceilings

And this is where it gets really good. Here Mr. Kimmel goes on to say:

“This year we have a lot to celebrate. Ceilings have been shattered. Ceilings in screenwriting. We have our first ever female nominee for cinematography, Rachel Morrison, which is historic. So many of tonight’s nominees are making history, and, in fact, if you are a nominee tonight who is not making history – shame on you.

RachelMorrison

Greta Gerwig is the first woman to be nominated for director in eight years. And that is important. Only 11% of movies are directed by women. And that is nuts. We still have a very long way to go in that department, and a very long way to go in equal pay.

greta-gerwig-filming-lady-bird-620

There is so much I want to pick apart in these few sentences! First, the ceilings! It is fantastic that women are getting the recognition for outstanding work in the creative roles of screenwriting, film directing and cinematography! And later we will speak of the creative role of acting! Second, I like that Mr. Kimmel used a percentage! “Only 11% of movies are directed by women.” I’ve already mentioned that nearly 20% of Americans have a disAbility. That is 1 in 5 and there is at least one person with a disAbility in 25% of American households. But where are we in movies and television? “The Ruderman White Paper on Employment of Actors with Disabilities in Television”, cited the research from GLADD that included performers with a disAbility is titled, “Where Are We On TV” showed that on television, characters during the 2015-2016 season found that only 0.9% of those scripted television characters have a disAbility. And that only 5% of those 0.9% characters are portrayed by performers with a disAbility. And for films, I have to go back to the Screen Actors Guild’s paper, “The Employment of PERFORMERS WITH DISABILITIES in the Entertainment Industry” that was first commissioned to be studied in 2003 and the results published in 2005 found that less than 2% of all performers, in television and film, displayed a disAbility, and less than 0.5% had speaking roles. Pretty pathetic numbers for 20% of Americans.

Lastly, Mr. Kimmel was light heartedly saying that in these days, during these the 90th Oscar’s that if you’re “not making history – shame on you.” But I am more serious in the statement as it applies to those with a disAbility. Come on Hollywood – allowing those with a disAbility to represent themselves as screenwriters, film directors, and actors in mainstream entertainment would be making history. And if you’re not – shame on you!

Historic Trifecta

Continuing on with the diversity and it being recognized by the Academy, Mr. Kimmel then states:

In the meantime, triple congratulations are in order for the kid from Comedy Central, Jordan Peele, who had a huge success with his movie, “Get Out.” Jordan is only the third person in 90 years to be nominated for directing, writing and best picture for his debut film.

That is a huge accomplishment. And if you did not know or watched these Oscar’s it is worth noting that Mr. Peele is an African-American! And he is not a “kid”! He is 39 years old.

Jordan peele directing Get Out

He had a hit sketch comedy show on Comedy Central. Even though he was a known name in Hollywood, it is still inspirational to think that someone like myself, a paraplegic filmmaker could make history by producing my own movie that featured a paraplegic actor in the starring role of one of my screenplays that I would director – let alone to be nominated for directing, writing and best picture for my debut film! I would just be grateful to be afforded the opportunity to make my film with a paraplegic actor in the starring role.

Small Recognition

Mr. Kimmel continues:

“Timothée [Chalamet] is the star of a small but powerful story called “Call Me by Your Name,” which did not make a lot of money. In fact, of the nine best picture nominees, only two of them made more than $100 million.”

Mr. Kimmel was obviously talking about Domestic box-office receipts because with the added International box-office had others over $100 million. But it is encouraging that smaller films are making a difference and getting the recognition from the Academy. Because for any movie that is self-represented by people with a disAbility it is going to be a small film! I know because I have been at this for a long time and still have not found the investors that want to risk it for a film that is nearly unprecedented in yours truly being the paraplegic writer and director who is insisting on hiring an actor who is a paraplegic to portray my paraplegic character. But once that ceiling is broken who knows what will happen?!

Equal Treatment

And finally in Mr. Kimmel’s opening monologue he brings up the following:

“if you do win an Oscar tonight, we want you to give a speech. We want you to say whatever you feel needs to be said. Speak from the heart. We want passion. You have an opportunity and a platform to remind millions of people about important things like equal rights and equal treatment.”

And as I will point out in the next segments, later in the show there were some that spoke about “Equal rights and equal treatment” and that is awesome and it could be even more awesome. Hollywood you are an industry and a group of individuals who preach the equal treatment of everyone. You say that diversity is important. That everyone needs to be equally represented. So why do accept the traditions of exclusions of people with a disAbility? The exclusion of the forgotten minority? The exclusion of 20% of your fellow Americans? We don’t even need equal representation – how about 2% representation? We do not even need to be in the starring roles. How about supporting roles? Are you really the guardians of diversity and champions that give a voice to all – especially the marginalized in society and really have the compassion and heart you project to the world?

Stay tuned for ”Oscar’s 90th – Segment 2 – Let’s Dream” – coming up or in the case of the blog treatment it is literally coming up – as it will be the next blog entry right above this one!!!

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Authentic Jackson

Earlier this past Spring, March 7, 2017 to be specific, big time actor, Samuel L. Jackson made some obvious observations about a lot of British actors are taking on the roles of American characters lately. Not just that black British actors are in a lot of American movies but more specifically that they are being cast in roles that are specifically written as American characters. On Hot 97, a New York radio station, is where he gave the interview back on March 7th.

jackson hot 97

The interview and the video of it was included and written in The Guardian and on Page Six, the very next day and then on Patheos, Stacey Dash’s website where I first learned of it on the day after the next day, March 9th (I know – I am 3 months behind in writing this blog post!) and to be more specific Jackson is talking about roles that are about American race relations and how the black British actors would not know what the race relations are like and have been like in America.

Jackson was first talking about the movie, “Get Out” which had just been released in theatres on February 24, 2017 and by the time of the interview, March 7th, it had already grossed over $80 million in box office receipts.   Get Out (2017)

It is actor Jordan Peele’s feature film directorial debut and is a satirical horror movie about an African-American man who goes with his white girlfriend to meet her family. Peele is a bi-racial man that most identifies as an African-American, as he said on the AMC television show “Talking with Hardwick”, and is best known for the hit comedy, “Key & Peele” on Comedy Central. In the movie, “Get Out”, which Peele also wrote, is from his perspective about the current American relations between blacks and whites and he hired British actor, Daniel Kaluuya in the role of the black boyfriend.

 

Samuel L. Jackson remarked that:

“There are a lot of black British actors in these movies. I tend to wonder what that movie [Get Out] would have been with an American brother who really feels that.

“Daniel grew up in a country where they’ve been interracial dating for a hundred years. What would a brother from America have made of that role? And I’m sure the director would help. Some things are universal, but not everything is.”

That makes sense. I cannot say for sure because I am a white American, but let me explain how I can relate to what Jackson is expressing. I have made the comparison between racial minority portrayals and representation to disAbled minority portrayals and representation in movies and television – specifically when it comes to those that are specifically written as disAbled characters. When I read an article or hear an interview from a black or African-American talking about not enough roles, or directors, or executives representing them in the movie studios or network television stations and the movies and programs the produce, I can easily insert “those with a disAbility” in everywhere they mention “black or African-American” in their statements and it make complete sense.

Jackson’s statements in this interview is a wonderful example of what I mean and if you switch the phrase “black British actors” with “able bodied actors” and “that movie [Get Out]” with any movie that features a disAbled character, and finally “American brother (obviously referring to black American actors)” with “disAbled actor(s)” you would understand how I can relate to Jackson as a black American actor upset with black British actors taking roles that are specifically American. And I being a disAbled American being upset when able bodied actors are being cast specifically in disAbled roles. I am not an actor. I am a writer and director who is disAbled. And have felt the same way when an able bodied writer or director is hired in a project that features a person with a disAbility. I also know my fair share of actors with a disAbility and what it is like when they find out that an able bodied actor is hired to portray the role of a disAbled character.

Let us go back to the first statement by Jackson:

“There are a lot of black British actors in these movies. I tend to wonder what that movie [Get Out] would have been with an American brother who really feels that.”

And what I have been saying:

“There are a lot of able bodied actors in these movies (featuring a person with a disAbility). I tend to wonder what that movie (for example the most recent movie, 2016’s [“Me Before You]) would have been with an actor with a disAbility who really feels that.”

I have already said these words many times! Not verbatim but very close. I not only chose to speak out about the able bodied actor who portrayed the paraplegic character in “Me Before You”, but also the author of the book, that the movie is adapted from, as not being a person with a disAbility and cannot know what that “really feels” like. Let alone know what that is like – like a performer with a disAbility and a writer with a disAbility – and if you also add the trifecta of a director with a disAbility then you will know what it “really feels” like.

The next statement by Jackson:

Daniel grew up in a country where they’ve been interracial dating for a hundred years. What would a brother from America have made of that role? And I’m sure the director would help. Some things are universal, but not everything is.”

What I have been saying:

Sam Claflin (the able bodied actor who was cast as the paraplegic character in “Me Before You”) grew up in an entertainment industry where they’ve been excluding paraplegics from being cast in movies and television for a hundred years. What would a paraplegic actor have made of that role? And I’m sure the director would help (if he or she had direct relations with a paraplegic). Some things are universal, but not everything is.”

“Some things are universal, but not everything is.” How true that is and especially in the entertainment industry where authenticity that Jackson and I are talking about seems to mean nothing on their scale of importance.

Selma poster - 3

 

Mr. Jackson also responded to the black British actor David Oyelowo’s portrayal of American civil rights hero and leader, Martin Luther King, Jr. who was hired for the film role in the historical drama, “Selma.” He said:

“There are some brothers in America who could have been in that movie who would have had a different idea about how King thinks.”

So Jackson points to the American character, this time based on a real person, in which an American actor would better be able to authentically portray and represent this particular character because they would have a better insight, background and context to the character. I have been in African-American homes and nearly everyone had a picture of Martin Luther King, Jr. on the wall. I am not sure if that can be said for black Brits? And Jackson’s point is that the portrayal would probably been deeper and one that would have resonated with audiences because they do have the background of living it. Feeling it. I propose that able bodied actors cannot feel it because they have not lived it to really portray a character with a disAbility. In fact, whatever Jackson feels about the Brits pales in comparison to how I feel, and I know many of those with a disAbility trying to work in Hollywood feels, when an able bodied actor is cast in the role of a character with a disAbility. Living with a disAbility, such as paraplegia every moment of day and night it far deeper than the American race relationships or portraying an American hero by a black British actor. Nevertheless, he is making a point or points about something he knows about. And that is something I can relate to.

Jackson continues in the interview and mentions why he thinks the entertainment industry hires these British actors and does this to his American brothers:

“They’re cheaper than us, for one thing. They don’t cost as much. And they [casting agents and directors] think they’re better trained, because they’re classically trained.”

The industry is show business – a for profit business. And I will defer to Jackson’s statement on the amount the industry pays for American versus British actors because he would know better than I and I agree that getting a comparable skilled actor for less money is business – not personal. But what about authenticity? Again it is show business and it does not work like a typical business. Big money and big risk are at stake for a theatrical run movie. Its success with audiences can hinge on the smallest details. The feel that it is real – even though it is “make believe” industry – it is what audiences want and can tell when they are being cheated. So authenticity does mean something. There are some directors in some film projects that insist on it when it comes to some aspect of a movie such as a regional storytelling. As for example, Ben Affleck was specific to hire local Boston actors, and members of the local population, in all the extras in his directorial debut film, “Gone Baby Gone.” He insisted that they did not hire professional extras in order to keep it as authentic as possible. Whether it is locations, people, featured actors, or stunt work performed by the featured actors, such a Tom Cruise in most of the action scenes of his movie. Many strive for the most authentic film that they can make. They know that audiences can tell and feel authenticity. Therefore, does Samuel L. Jackson have a valid point here in the black British actors being hired for specific black American roles? Ones that relates directly to American race relations and not to universal subjects or themes as Jackson opines?

What about my advocacy for the authenticity of disabled creatives in the roles of writers, directors and certainly actors when it comes to disAbled characters?

It was not hard for me to immediately find the comparison that Samuel L. Jackson was making when it comes to the authentic portrayal and representation of specific American race relations and those roles being cast with those who do not have the same race relations from where they live. They have little to no background or context to the character and/or story. Compare that to using paraplegics and others with a disAbility for roles that are too often cast with able bodied actors who also have no background or context to the character and/or story that features a paraplegic or others with a disAbility.

Therefore, I thank Mr. Jackson for his bold yet obvious statements regarding the hiring of those creatives in the roles that are specific and should insist on authenticity for a film or television program. While his is about racial and regional authenticity and mine is about disAbility minority authenticity, we both have valid points. I will add that the exclusion of authentic disAbility creatives in movies and television are exponentially worse in the entertainment industry than the hiring of black Brits for authentic American roles.

After some push back in social media from some black British actors, Mr. Jackson replied during an interview at the premier of his latest film “Kong: Skull Island” by saying:

“It was not a slam against [British actors], but it was just a comment about how Hollywood works in an interesting sort of way sometimes,”

“We’re not afforded that same luxury, but that’s fine, we have plenty of opportunities to work.”

I can testify from 20+ years of working or trying to work in the entertainment industry “Hollywood works in an interesting sort of way” as in the examples Mr. Jackson sites and I will again add that it is very true when it comes to those with a disAbility in Hollywood. And he is also correct that he and other black American actors “have plenty of opportunities to work.”

Those of us in the disAbility minority have very little work opportunities – especially in the creative roles, that either rarely include or more often exclude a character with a disAbility in the entertainment industry. And we certainly deserve to be included as we make up 20% of the American population. How can you exclude 20% of the American population in movies and television? According to the U.S. Census, blacks, African-Americans make up 13% of American population. Can you imagine what would happen if they or any other minority were excluded as much as those 20% with a disAbility are today? And what happens here in American is often followed by the international entertainment industries. Hollywood should lead in the inclusion of people with a disAbility as creatives – writers, directors and actors.

While I have often advocated for those with a disAbility, especially paraplegics to be portrayed and represented by those with the same or similar disAbility as the characters in movies and television because they know what it “really feels” like. They know it – they live it. How can anyone else truly portray that experience? Like Samuel L. Jackson is saying about the specific American race relationships being portrayed and represented by those who know it – that live it.

While there is some progress with the network television program “Speechless”, we are far from where we should be in the 21st Century and in an industry that promotes itself and prides itself as being the most inclusive industry in the world. So Hollywood, can we be included so you can continue boasting of being the most open and giving voice to all, especially those who are marginalized? Because we are more accepted in society than you are showing in movies and television, and more that you are accepting us within your society of creative members. It is way past time for Hollywood to get out of the Dark Ages of excluding the people and stories of those with a disAbility. And the best way is to hire those with a disAbility as writers and directors to be the voice and vision, and actors to be the authentic portrayals – all to be the authentic representation of the 20% of the American population you have ignored for far too long. Let’s work together to represent the honestly inclusive industry that gives voice to all in movies and television entertainment!