The Casting Society of America will hold two town halls for Native American and indigenous actors – the most under-represented members of the entertainment industry. The events, which will be held October 21 in New York City and October 22 in Los Angeles, are part of the CSA’s ongoing Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion in Casting Initiative – a series of conversations and classes designed “to effect concrete change in how actors in historically underrepresented communities are afforded access to job opportunities.”
“As Native Americans, one of our biggest obstacles is just being seen as present-day human beings,” said DeLanna Studi, chair of the SAG-AFTRA Native American Committee and a town hall panelist. “We are an important part of our shared American story, not only of the past, but of the present and future as well. We have a responsibility to ensure that this vibrant and vital part of our shared experience is not lost or set aside. As Native people, we are often called the ‘Vanishing Race’ or the ‘Disappearing People.’ One of our biggest burdens and greatest opportunities is educating the industry about who we really are: to break past these stereotypes and to move our communities forward.
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“We live in a digital age where the majority of all of our information comes from on-screen images. In addition to our families, our communities, and our education system, how we learn who we are and how we relate to others is powerfully influenced by the media. Especially now. Which is why this Town Hall is important. It is imperative that Hollywood stories move beyond stereotypes and reflect the great diversity and vitality of who we are as Native Americans today. We are still here, and we are thriving.”
“I think that the entertainment industry has been responsible for perpetuating some harmful and potentially dangerous stereotypes,” said CSA president Russell Boast. “Events like this provide an opportunity to address current issues and are a crucial step towards accurate and authentic portrayals in the media.”
According to the CSA, the goals of the town halls are tor actors and casting professionals “to better understand the practical issues they encounter in their respective professions, and to share goals and aspirations,” and “to discuss how CSA might better and more consistently work to increase audition opportunities and advocate for Native American and Indigenous actors.”
“This Town Hall event will be the first step toward achieving those goals,” CSA said, “and will be followed by additional events that may include a Business of the Business Event, a series of free workshops, and a taped open call, where participating actors will receive video footage for their audition reel.”
The New York town hall, which will be held at the Actors Equity headquarters, will feature a panel including casting directors David Caparelliotis, Claire Burke and Stephanie Klapper; manager Marc Shaer; and actors Studi, Tanis Parenteau, Jake Hart, and Ty Defoe.
The Los Angeles town hall, which will be held at SAG-AFTRA’s headquarters, will feature a panel that includes casting directors Rene Haynes and Angelique Midthunder; actors Sheri Foster, Kimberly Guerrero, Q’orianka Kilcher and Tokala Black Elk; and writer Jason Gavin, who chairs the WGA’s Native American & Indigenous Writers Committee.
The CSA says the events are open to union and non-union artists who are professional and professionally trained actors and those actively pursuing professional careers as performers. Actors who identify as Native American or Indigenous are encouraged to attend, as are casting professionals, talent agents and managers.
CSA will also live-stream the event through Facebook Live and will be taking questions and comments via Twitter.
As part of its initiative, the CSA held a similar town hall in June for senior actors that tackled the age-old problem of ageism in the entertainment industry. It also held another town hall last October that addressed issues facing actors of Middle Eastern, North African and South Asian descent. And in 2017, it hosted an open casting call for transgender actors, as well as an open call for performers with disabilities to showcase their talents in front of professional casting directors in cities across the country.