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New Law in California Hopes to Put Breaks on Whitewashing

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By Ahmed Sharma
AsAmNews Staff Writer

Members of the legislative Asian Pacific Islander Caucus in California are celebrating the signing of new legislation that hopes to decrease whitewashing in Hollywood.

“Whitewashing in Hollywood has existed for far too long,” said Rob Bonta to AsAmNews. He is Chair of the Caucus and the first Filipino American elected to the Assembly,

“Roles that are typically for Asian Americans given to Caucasian Americans. We see this and some of my legislators are going ‘is this really happening? It’s 2018! How is this still going on?’”

The bill requires production companies to report the diversity of their workforce.

“Studios are also going to be required to report the programs they’ve put in place to promote diversity.  We want to create more above the line jobs for writers, producers, actors, Bonta said.

The API Caucus was united in pushing for the language to be added to the Film Tax Credit. 

The credit which is designed to encourage filmmaking in California had been scheduled to expire in 2020 before the legislature extended it another five years.

“This is just the start. We have an on-going intent to promote more diversity and fix whitewashing. Most roles should be available for any ethnicity, but when there is a specific ethnic requirement, those roles should be given to one who fits that ethnic group.” He explained further, “that authentic, nuanced, true, powerful story of Asian Americans can be told only by Asian Americans: By those who have that spiritual and cultural connection.”

A recent article in The Hollywood Reporter says Sony’s Quentin Tarantino and Disney have already reaped the benefits of this tax credit for their upcoming films Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and the latter’s Captain Marvel.

“We wanted to make sure we were competitive so that the internationally renowned Hollywood film production companies [we have] continue to stimulate the economy, create good jobs, and encourage [actors] to stay close to their families,” he said.

Indeed, Bonta and his legislative team have taken a big, historical step in their push for diversity, authenticity, and breaking the status quo in Hollywood. Akin to Bonta’s election as the first Filipino American legislator in California history, “when something has never been done before, there’s no blueprint or model for how to do it and people think if it’s never been done, it’s impossible.” However, in pursuing the impossible, they have achieved something purposeful.

In 2012, Robert Bonta was elected as a member in the Legislative Assembly for his district in California. “In the past, many Filipino legislators ran and failed. And for decades there had never been a Filipino state legislator (in a state where Filipinos are the largest subgroup.)”

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