New California Law Could Help Fight Whitewashing in Hollywood Films

Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus members in California recently celebrated the passing of a new legislation that aims to reduce whitewashing in Hollywood.

California lawmakers passed new diversity provisions in the new extension of California’s film and television tax credit on July 16, requiring production companies to report the diversity of their workforce.

The legislation, which not only encourages diverse hiring but also better sexual harassment reporting, was pushed amid recent revelations of misconduct, discrimination and whitewashing in the movie industry.

Associated Press reports that Assemblyman Rob Bonta, who chairs the Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus, and other members of the caucus were united in pushing for the diversity provisions to be added to the film tax credit.

Worth as much as $330 million a year, the program assigns qualifying production companies tax credit based on jobs each company creates.

Feature film and television projects applying for the credits will now be required to report diversity statistics to the state and submit their policy prohibiting harassment and retaliation.

Bonta, the first Filipino American legislator in California history, cited the films “Ghost in the Shell” and “The Great Wall” that cast white actors in leading roles he said should have gone to Asian actors. He noted that the films were “hurtful” to the Asian Pacific Islander community.

In an interview with AsAmNews, Bonta said that the legislation would help create “more above the line jobs for writers, producers, actors.”

“Whitewashing in Hollywood has existed for far too long,” he was quoted as saying.

“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 tax credit had earlier been scheduled to expire in 2020 but 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.”

Bonta then noted, “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.”

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