The WGA West's latest inclusion report found that Middle Eastern screenwriters and TV writers accounted for 0.3% of employed scribes in the two fields.
Members of the Writers Guild of America West’s Middle Eastern Writers Committee has urged the industry to increase their outreach, improve their knowledge and “take more chances on us” in an open letter.
The letter, signed by more than 50 members of the committee including writer-director Ramin Bahrani (The White Tiger), writer-director-producer Sam Esmail (Homecoming) and actor and writer Mitra Jouhari (Three Busy Debras), noted that their union’s most recent inclusion report found that just 0.3% of employed screenwriters and 0.3% of employed TV writers are Middle Eastern, behind all other ethnic groups measured in both categories. “Because of this, we find ourselves at a cultural inflection point, and we’re asking for your allyship to improve this number,” the letter reads. “Identifying the problem is the first step – taking action is what should follow.”
“Reach out to us. Get to know our work. And most of all, take more chances on us to both tell our own stories and contribute to the ones being crafted in writers rooms all over town,” they wrote Monday in an open letter to the industry. But they noted: “How can we get in the rooms to tell other stories if we’re not even being hired to tell our own?”
The letter further notes the recent success of Hulu’s Ramy, TBS’s Chad and DC
“But we hope that through diversifying our storytelling and creating a larger community within the industry, we can find our common ground and together cultivate more positive and nuanced representations of MENA cultures on TV and the big screen.
“We all want to see change. But we know we can’t do it alone. So, let’s keep this conversation going. We look forward to partnering with you, ensuring that our voices are heard and that we’re represented across the industry. Feel free to reach our Committee directly through our WGAW Inclusion & Equity staff liaison.”
The Middle Eastern Writers Committee was formed less than a year ago, in August 2020, and is co-chaired by Big Hero 6: The Series writer Paiman Kalayeh and Life-Size 2 scribe Cameron Fay. Its goal is “to boost visibility and employment of Middle Eastern writers within the film and television industry, while celebrating and promoting accurate portrayals of Middle Eastern characters in all areas of media,” according to the union. The Committee also seeks to be a resource for productions looking to portray the Middle Eastern community in the US and internationally.