South Asian SAG Members Event (2007)

September 27, 2007

The Alliance co-sponsored an off-the-record event, Conversation with South Asian Artists, September 27, 2007, with the Screen Actors Guild’s New York Affirmative Action/ Diversity Department and Ethnic Employment Opportunities Committee.  Twenty-two performers participated, and we heard from at least twice that number who wanted to join us, but were unavailable, working on films or in theatre productions – these same individuals asked to be kept updated on future discussions.  It is the first time that South Asian artists had been asked to come together to discuss issues of common concern.  We also made an outreach to professional actor training programs in New York asking the participation of their currently enrolled or recently graduated South Asian actors.

Ground covered included a discussion of hiring practices, of the difficulty for many of being perceived beyond limited stereotypes (e.g., cab driver, terrorist).  We examined how factors of language, skin color, and accent intersect when one is considered for a given project; assumptions and expectations of decision makers/ gatekeepers as well as those within the South Asian community; and the significance of being first vs. second or third generation.  The discussion was substantive, the response extremely positive and the consensus that a) we follow with a second event to continue the discussion (again, off-the-record).  Participants agreed to reach out to colleagues, and b) to follow that with a sequel event, inviting in decision makers.  As a result, SAG’s NY Diversity/Affirmative Action Department and the Alliance are currently planning a follow-up event for this spring that will bring together 3-4 South Asian performers of different levels of experience and their agents for a “Q and A” with a targeted audience of South Asian performers.  Part of the two hours will be devoted to planning next steps for 2008-2009, i.e., how this group of performers wants to involve decision makers in a subsequent event, including how to explore relationships with writers, directors, and other professionals.

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