There has been an awakening. Sure that's a line from The Force Awakens, the movie that received criticism from closed-minded trolls because it featured a Black Stormtrooper. But it's no less relevant to where we are today in terms of the lack of inclusion in Hollywood. Everywhere you turn, people are becoming more aware of the problem. And by people, I mean the general market. We, People of Color, don't need a study to prove what we've known all our lives.
Before I get too far, let me make clear that I have no intention on jumping on the bandwagon of people criticizing the Academy yet not doing anything about it. As a matter of fact, I personally don't really care about The Oscars. Why? Because I'm not a film actor. I'm a voice actor. And we already know we're invisible in many respects. It comes with the territory. What I'd like to do, however, is encourage everyone to create. Anything! Just create.
Last November, when I was invited to narrate a staged reading of Ben Schwartz' hilarious screenplay El Fuego Caliente, I was inspired by him to write. Here's an actor with plenty of credits, yet several of them consist of writing. Hell, he wrote this great screenplay! "If Ben can do it (no offense Ben) I can too," I thought. I was going to write when I got back home to Jersey!
Once home, doubt crept in, "You're not a writer, Anthony!" Then fear moved in (with its bags), "Yeah, you're gonna suck! People do this for years and still have no success!" And, so, I didn't write. I was going to be really bad at it anyway. What made me think that anyone would care about my first screenplay? Your first, according to all "the experts," will suck. But it's part of the process.
Shortly thereafter, Azie Tesfai (who plays Nadine on Jane the Virgin) spoke about doing "something," even if you don't think you're going to be good at it, just do it, but make sure to connect it with something of service -- in a way for it to benefit others.
Yes, I've personally met both Ben Schwartz and Azie Tesfai (as a result of being the narrator on a TV show,) but I was inspired by them simply by what they are doing and, oddly enough, from a podcast interview that Ben had done for Franklin Leonard's The Blacklist and an Instagram video that Azie had posted. So, anyone could have been inspired by them!
I dove into reading tons of books on screenwriting, watching online video interviews with top screenwriters... I soaked it all up. Then, when doubt paid me a visit again and asked, "OK, so you do know that most screenplays are never made, right?" I replied, "Well, I'm making this one myself, so STFU!" And I permanently kicked out both doubt and fear and went to work. How would it be of service to others? In two ways: First, I hope it will inspire others to do the same. Create their own project or, at the very least, start one. Second, I intend to donate the profits from the graphic novel to a charity that supports and assists abused children.
After three months of study and working up ideas, I finally wrote my screenplay, Mike Tomb. But because I'm a narrator and a comic book fan, I decided to have it adapted into a graphic novel and, ultimately, a motion comic. I have no illusions of it becoming a film, but stranger things have happened. In the meantime, I just ask that you create something that works for you! It doesn't have to be a film, it doesn't have to be a comic book. It just has to be created by you with your voice, your perspective, your soul.
Don't worry about diversity in your work, if you're Latino. I didn't set out to address diversity -- a word that makes me cringe, because it implies that the "standard" is white and everything else is "non-white" (another word establishing white as the standard -- at the center). All I'm doing is creating something from my perspective, a Dominican American. That's it. Diversity... Sorry, it's become a habit now. Inclusion is built into everything we, as Latinos, manifest. We walk around with it and we create it by our mere existence. We are our own standard. As it should be. The problem is when our point of views are excluded.
If you're a Person of Color, simply create! Create anything. Express yourself. Sure, learn as much as you can about the artform or medium you will be working in, but get to it! We need more people to create our content, to present our personal and varied stories (in any form), and to lift our voices. My kids are already excited about Daddy's project (although it might not be age appropriate for them.) So much so, that they themselves have taken to writing. If my children are all the people that I inspire, then I have already succeeded. Who cares if my screenplay gets made or not? Scratch that. I do care. That's why I'm making it myself -- just not in the way someone else might expect.