The Amy I Know

Amy Pascal, Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman, arrives at Variety's 5th Annual Power of Women event at the Beverly Wils
Amy Pascal, Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman, arrives at Variety's 5th Annual Power of Women event at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on Friday, Oct. 4, 2013, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

I am a fairly prominent African American screenwriter (Ali, Remember The Titans). I write this in defense of Amy Pascal, someone I met 22 years ago as a young writer. What she did for me, away from the cameras, when I was nobody and just breaking in, I want to share with the public as she comes under this withering barrage of racial invective.

My producer and I had a meeting with her when she was an executive vp at the studio to pitch a project. It was one of my first high-level meetings. I had only been in the business a few months. I was nervous. I was pitching a true story (something that would become my specialty years later). The meeting did not go well. In fact, she and producer had words, as they say. I said to myself, "my career is over before it's even begun." It had little to do with me, it more had to do with them, but I was collateral damage.

I left her office that day thinking, "I'm done. It's over for me." I got in my car and just drove around LA aimlessly. After lunch, I was headed back home when I got a call on my cell. It was Amy Pascal. I was shocked to say the least. I remember what she said like it was yesterday, "You're a good writer and you'll have a great career. This wasn't your fault, but just remember a movie is not about events, it's about people." That was the best single piece of advice I've ever gotten. Ever. I use it every day to write.

This good woman saw a young black writer, reached out to encourage me when no one was looking, when there were no cameras to record this kind act. And at that time the number of black writers in Hollywood could be counted on one hand. Anyone who would call her a racist is going to have to fight me.

This does not mean there isn't racism in Hollywood; there is. I've written about it myself blogging on HuffPo, "The Whitewashing of James Brown," but to compare this good woman to that monster Donald Sterling is evil and stupid on the part of Al Sharpton. More than anyone, he should be sensitive about reputations since his careless remarks have destroyed the lives of others.

There should be a holistic discussion about race and diversity in Hollywood. I would welcome it, but leave aside character assassination and focus on the problem and how to solve it. Leave the hyperbole out of it. It does nothing to advance the cause of inclusion.

And just in case someone thinks I've been paid to write this, I haven't been in business with the studio since Ali. I write this from the heart because I saw hers that fateful day when she saved me, lifted me up when I meant nothing to anyone in this town.