Sunday, December 7, 2014

The 8 Best Screenwriting Contests to Enter in 2015

My list for 5 Screenwriting Contests worth entering in 2014 was a big hit last year, so I decided to do a follow up and amend some of my criteria. I still believe that writers should mainly look for contests with industry connections and to avoid contests with high entry fees, low prize money, and no Hollywood success; but after some more thinking, I felt that I should also just look straight at the prize money too. After all, if you win and you don't end up selling your script, then at least you can hold your head up high with your $10,000 or more check.

The following are my top eight picks for screenwriting contests in 2015.

1. Nicholl Fellowship: This is the most prestigious screenwriting contest that you can win, and even placing in the semi or quarterfinals may give you access to getting read by a Hollywood manager, producer, or agent. The contest is run by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the same people who give out the Oscars), and it has uncovered such screenwriters as Susannah Grant, Ehren Kruger, and Andrew Marlowe. Not only will winning a Nicholl give you bragging rights for life, but the prize is a fellowship of $35,000, which gives you one year to complete at least one more original feature film screenplay. Five winners are chosen. If you are limited on money and can only enter one contest this year, this is the one. http://www.oscars.org/awards/nicholl/index.html

2. Universal Pictures Fellowship: This fellowship is similar to ABC Disney's former screenwriting program in that it grooms writers to enter Hollywood and is sponsored by a major entertainment entity. While this contest is free to enter, the most difficult aspect (besides just having an amazing script) is that it requires letters of recommendations from industry professionals. That may be a barrier for those who aren't in Hollywood, but if that's not a problem, then I highly recommend applying: http://www.nbcunicareers.com/universal-pictures%E2%80%99-emerging-writers-fellowship

3. Bluecat Screenplay Contest: I was a finalist for this contest in 2010, and after winning, the head of the contest, Gordy Hoffman, was kind enough to meet with me and give me notes and I was also contacted by independent producers who heard about my placement. In addition to its professional benefits, the cash prizes are pretty high. The grand prize winner receives $15,000 and finalists each receive $2500. But what truly distinguishes this contest from all others is that ALL ENTRANTS receive script analysis. Buying this service from professionals would cost you at least $50, so the fact that it’s included in the entry fee is an amazing deal. http://www.bluecatscreenplay.com

 4. Script Pipeline: In 2010, I was a grand prize winner of the contest, and I had a great experience with it. Immediately after winning, I was read by various managers and production companies, and even though a few years have passed, Script Pipeline still sends me writing opportunities and shares my work with production companies. Plus, I also received other goodies such as writing software and a subscription to their Writers Database. It looks like recent winners will receive those same benefits, but now the grand prize is huge--$20,000! Also, I recommend their coverage service, which costs extra but is worth it. I find their readers to be very insightful. http://www.scriptpipeline.com/home

5. TrackingB: TrackingB is a relatively new screenplay contest (it was started in 2007). Although its entry fee is high ($75-$125) and there is no prize money, its batting average for the success of its winners is incredible and it has a good reputation amongst writers. For instance, my friend was a finalist for TrackingB, and although she had placed in other contests, it was TrackingB that led to her getting signed by a major Hollywood management company. The other benefit to entering this contest is that if you enter two scripts or more, they give you free access to the trackingb.com website for one year. If you’re not too familiar with the site, it provides Hollywood job listings, script sales, industry news, and other information you would probably not know unless you worked in the industry.http://www.trackingb.com/?page_id=861

6. Page International Screenplay Awards: The grand prize is $25,000. Enough said. http://pageawards.com/the-contest/


7. Final Draft’s Big Break Screenplay Contest: The Feature Grand Prize is $15,000 plus a ton of swag, which includes a fancy awards ceremony, an Ipad, and script coverage. http://www.finaldraft.com/products/big-break-contest#winners

8. Scriptapalooza: The first place winner gets $10,000, and each script is read by either a production company, manager, or agent. http://www.scriptapalooza.com/home.php

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Mark Wahlberg's past is even worse than what we thought

Mark Wahlberg (courtesy of FanPop)
By asking for his record to be pardoned, Mark Wahlberg put his violent past as a young adult back into the spotlight. As I previously blogged, 16-year-old Wahlberg assaulted in Asian man with a wood stick, knocking him unconscious. Later on that night on April 8, 1988, he assaulted a second Asian man while slurring things such as "slant eyed" and "gook." The second man's beating was so brutal that he lost his eye. Twenty-six years later, movie star Wahlberg is asking Massachusetts for an official pardon.

After doing more research, other disturbing details about Wahlberg have emerged.

WAHLBERG NEVER APOLOGIZED TO THE MAN HE BLINDED
In 2006, ABC interviewed Wahlberg to see if he had ever contacted the man who he blinded to make amends, and he admitted that he hadn't. "I did a lot of things that I regretted and I certainly paid for my mistakes," Wahlberg says. "You have to go and ask for forgiveness and it wasn't until I really started doing good and doing right, by other people as well as myself, that I really started to feel that guilt go away. So I don't have a problem going to sleep at night. I feel good when I wake up in the morning."

It's, um, nice that he doesn't have a problem sleeping at night, but what about his victims? How is he sleeping so well without ever asking them how they were after his abuse?

WAHLBERG TERRORIZED NEIGHBORHOOD BLACK KIDS, CALLING THEM "N*GGERS"
Before the attack on the Asian men,  a teenage Wahlberg and his white friends followed Jesse Coleman, a twelve-year-old African-American boy and his brother and sister who were walking home in Dorchester, Massachusetts on June 15, 1986. One of Wahlberg's friends yelled to the Colemans, "We don't like n*ggers in the area so get the fuck away from the area." Wahlberg and his friends then chased the Colemans, who by now were fleeing scared, and the white boys pelted rocks at the Colemans while all yelling "Kill the n*gger, kill the n*gger." Finally the Colemans ran inside of a Burger King, and Wahlberg and his friends left.

The next day, Jesse Coleman, his teacher, and other classmates took a field trip to the beach. While there, Coleman saw Wahlberg and his friends. As the class returned back to school, Wahlberg and his buddies followed Coleman and threw rocks at him, his teacher, and his classmates. The teacher called an ambulance which scared the boys away, and in the legal document, Coleman along with numerous others stated that they were fearful of Wahlberg and his friends.

On The Smoking Gun's comment section, a woman stated that she was related to one of the victims. She said that the victim was still emotionally and physically scared by Wahlberg's bullying. I attempted to reach her to find out if Wahlberg had ever attempted to reconcile his behavior, but I have yet to receive a response. However, I was able to confirm a link between her and one of the victims listed in the legal document.

WHEN WAHLBERG WAS "MARKY MARK" HE BEAT UP HIS NEIGHBOR

Wahlberg's violence didn't end as a teenager, after he destroyed a man's eye, or after serving time, like he has so often claimed in the press. Even fame didn't stop his violence. When he was 21 and known to the world as "Marky Mark," he was arrested for viciously kicking the shit out of his neighbor, and according to the court document, he did this "without provocation or cause"from the victim. Wahlberg kicked his victim in the face, which left injuries so severe that the victim had to have his jaw wired shut.

Are we seeing a pattern here? And these are from the times he was actually arrested. I contacted Wahlberg for a statement, but he has not yet to respond.

WAHLBERG WANTS A PARDON BECAUSE IT AFFECTS HOW HE MAKES MONEY

In December of 2014, Wahlberg applied for an official pardon, and many people have wondered. Why was his record not expunged if his discretions happened as a teenager? Why is he applying for pardon now?

In Wahlberg's pardon application, he addressed these questions. The document stated that although Wahlberg was a juvenile, he was tried in adult court. He stated he plead not guilty but that a guilty verdict was entered because he had confessed to facts that sustained the charge. He chose not to appeal, even though he had the right to. He cited that it was a violation of him to be charged as an adult.

Wahlberg went on to say that the "more complex" answer of why he wants a pardon was that he wants recognition that he is a different person from the night of the attack. He hopes that if he obtains a pardon, this will inspire and motivate troubled youths that they too can change. This sounds noble on the surface, yet, it really doesn't make any sense. He's already a wealthy entertainment icon, and people look up to him. It doesn't seem like his criminal past is hurting him. In fact, he often talks about it in his media appearances as if he's proud of his Cinderella story.

He also said the other reason for the pardon was that because of his past he cannot work for law enforcement agencies to help at-risk youth. He stated he's ineligible for jobs such as a parole officer. Huh? Does it make any sense that a man who lists numerous philanthropic endeavors with troubled youth needs to get hired by the LAPD? Is his other jobs of being a millionaire actor and producer not enough? This is the guy whose life is literally the basis for HBO's Entourage.

No, those noble reasons don't make as much sense as the one that having a criminal record impacts his ability to make money outside of the entertainment industry. According to his pardon application, "…My past convictions still legally impact me to this day. For example, prior record can potentially be the basis to deny me a concessionaire's license in California and elsewhere." Well, losing an eye and living in fear because a white man called you a "n*gger" during your childhood can hurt your future earnings too, so this argument isn't strong enough, no matter how many decades have past. Plus it should also be noted that he never mentioned that he deserves a pardon because he did right to the victims because oh wait, he never did.
Excerpt from Mark Wahlberg's Pardon Application, posted by NBC Bay Area 

SOURCES:
The Smoking Gun: http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/crime/back-day-marky-marks-rap-sheet-0
The Smoking Gun: http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/Mark-Wahlberg-pardon-petition-876321
The Daily T.Lo: http://www.tloclub.com/2014/12/mark-wahlberg-beat-asian-man-so-hard.html
The Week: http://www.tloclub.com/2014/12/mark-wahlberg-beat-asian-man-so-hard.html
NBC-Bay Area: http://media.nbcbayarea.com/documents/wahlberg.pdf 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Mark Wahlberg beat an Asian man so hard that he lost an eye, wants a pardon

I force myself to try to separate entertainment from the human beings underneath, but sometimes, I  get annoyed knowing that some stars seem to never be held accountable for their lascivious actions while there are normal people in the United States who get murdered for selling loose cigarettes or walking around at night in a hoodie. I suppose that I'm just ranting, but this headline from The Week this morning really got to me.

"Mark Wahlberg Should Not Be Pardoned."

I agree with the article and the headline, but it was the fact that Mark Wahlberg was requesting a pardon that really irked me. For those who do not know the back story, when Mark Wahlberg was 16 he drunkenly beat an Asian immigrant with a wooden stick until the man fell to the ground, unconscious. Later that same night, he found another Asian man that he called "gook" and "slant eye," and he beat that man so hard in the face that he LOST HIS RIGHT EYE.

Mark was arrested, convicted, and served 45 days in jail. This year, twenty-six years later, he applied for an official pardon because he changed his life and spent the rest of his days serving the community. On his pardon application, he stated that he believes the story of his turnaround will inspire others to do the same.

There is no doubt in my mind that Mark Wahlberg is an inspiration to many for his work in the arts and his philanthropy, and although I've never met him, he seems like a nice, humble guy. But a pardon should not be granted because his violent action, no matter if drunk or high, no matter if young, should never be forgotten. He didn't steal a loaf of bread, make moonshine, or get in a fist fight. He violently beat two strangers and nearly cost them their lives, and he left one of them with a visible, physical reminder of that horrific night 26 years ago. Although America may be laughing along at Ted or Pain and Gain, I really doubt his victims are.

No, Mark Wahlberg, Roman Polanski, Mike Tyson, and celebs who were never formally convicted. Time does not erase your reprehensible actions. The fact that he thinks Hollywood success deserves an earning of forgiveness, not him trying to make right with the victims, their families, and the Asian community says a ton about how fucking entitled and insensitive successful people are. Pardons are rarely given, and if they are, they are for non-violent offenses.

Even if his victims forgave him, which there is no evidence that they have, Wahlberg shouldn't have asked to wipe his slate clean because he doesn't deserve it. No matter how rich, famous, and likeable you've become, you must face your demons, not erase them.

"Mark Wahlbeg should not be pardoned" from The Week

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I will never be cool with Asian jokes. Never.

I grew up in Coffeyville, a small town in Southeast Kansas. Being Chinese-American, I stuck out amongst my peers, and as a youth, that's a terrible thing because it puts a huge target on your already insecure back. To grasp an idea of how much my Asian eyes and tan skin contrasted with everyone else's physical appearance, here's a fun fact. According to Wikipedia, the racial population of Coffeyville in 2000 was 75.76% white, 12.12% African-American, and .60% Asian. Yes, that's right. People who looked like me made up less than 1% of the town.

When I was a child, I still remember when kids I didn't know would pull out their eyes or call me "ching chong" or "chink eyes," and when I'd look scared and uncomfortable, they'd bust up laughing, feeding off the excitement of their bullying. These kids were clearly laughing at me, not with me; and their tireless "You eat dogs and cats!" "You can't drive!" "You all look a like!" jokes seemed to blur together. These strangers knew nothing about me, but because of my race, they felt that they had all the verbal ammunition in the world to hurt me.

I remember shielding from my family and friends the bullying I received because I saw my friends were harassed too--for being gay, for being black, for being poor, for being fat, etc etc. All of us were picked on for something, and we all came to the conclusion that if we kept our heads down, then the jerks would leave us alone. Or better yet, we victims would move on one day and never have to deal with our bullies again. After all, they and we were all kids. Nobody knew better then, right?

In college, I continued to face assumptions about me because of my race, but now it was no longer meant to be mean but it still bothered me nonetheless. These tiny aggressions came my way through  digs brought upon by people I barely knew: classmates, teachers, friends of friends. "You're fake Chinese!" "You're a banana! Yellow on the outside and white on the inside!" "Did you not understand the assignment because English is your second language?" (How can I be accused of being wannabe white and yet also so Asian that I couldn't speak English correctly?) However, because these people were not trying to be cruel like my schoolyard bullies, I tried to play off their questions and comments by being cool, accepting. I laughed it off. I even made Asian jokes myself to fit in, but all the while, I avoided making stereotypical jokes about other groups. I knew how shitty it felt, so why would I pay that negativity forward? Yet, despite my own need to be respectful of others, I couldn't help but wonder: why was my race always the punchline? Why was I never treated with the respect and dignity that I gave to other people?

As the years went by, I learned to be more assertive with respecting myself. This was ironic to me because from a young age I could champion various other issues such as women's rights; but when it came to putting my foot down by not laughing or tolerating sophomoric Asian jokes, this proved to be a harder endeavor. After all, I had accepted the jokes before. Why was I so "sensitive" now? As an adult, shouldn't I be more able to relax and  just let things go?

The answer is no. Forcing people to accept things that truly bothers them doesn't mean that they will stop being bothered. It only means that they'll resent the other party, and the offending party won't know they're doing anything wrong so they won't stop. It's a lose-lose. By speaking up, you're starting a conversation. Sometimes the other person is willing to listen; other times, he or she is a dick and tells you to shut up. The latter happened to me recently.

Years ago I worked in an office with comedian Andrew Santino, who later became the star of ABC's Mixology, and according to IMDB, he is in the pilot of CBS's much hyped How I Met Your Mother spin-off How I Met Your Dad. I was one of nearly 15,000 of his Facebook fans until I saw him post a picture of an Asian woman taking a selfie using a selfie stick. The picture was hilarious, but it was the caption that made me cringe. "Check out this oriental...I mean continental breakfast #selfrie." The use of the slur "oriental" bothered me, but it was that combined with the hashtag of "selfrie" that really took this post to another level on the racist scale.

Did he assume this young woman, dining alone in an American restaurant, was not a native English speaker? Because after all, we Asians all cannot pronounce words correctly, right? I mean, that's exactly what my seventh grade bully would convey when he pulled his eyes and bowed at me while saying, "Flied Lice! Flied Lice!" To those who think the image of my seventh grade bully bowing is funny; yes, it kind of is in hindsight because it's so fucking stupid. But that's the point. These tired Asian jokes are so fucking stupid and juvenile that a seventh grader did them first.

Analyzing Santino's action further, this girl appears to be dining alone, not with him. She's not his friend. She's some random "oriental" that he, a celebrity, snapped a secret photo of and then belittled by calling her a racial slur and making fun of her assumed accent to 15,000 people. If that's not cyber bullying, I don't know what else is.
Andrew Santino: "Check out this oriental...I mean continental breakfast #selfrie"
I debated not saying anything because it was his page, therefore it's his house to do anything he wants. Plus, he's a comedian. He's obviously making a joke. I should've just let it slide, right?

But I couldn't. As I age, the more I'm able to understand why stereotypical racial jokes are so bothersome. It's not just that they are mean, but they are disrespecting who a person is at his or her core. What they look like. What their family looks like. Their family's history. Their culture. No matter who you are or what you want to be, your race is part of your identity; and it is something that you cannot change. Ever. When Santino made fun of that girl's vanity, it was funny because she chose to bring a selfie stick into a crowded restaurant. That was her choice. But mocking her race, or someone's sexual identity, or a person's disability, those are things beyond a person's control and therefore below the belt.

After considering the pros and cons of opening myself up to the scorn of a comedian's fanbase, network, or of him himself, I finally posted an even-tempered message: "She's being ridiculous, but was it necessary to use the slur "oriental." That's as mean spirited as calling her a "gook" or a "chink" and I really didn't expect that from you..." Although Santino never responded, one of his fans, Keven Meyer, fairly quickly told me that he'd get me a "warm glass of shut the hell up" and another guy, Afshin Kargar, sarcastically said I "must be fun at parties." I tried to get Meyer and Kargar to explain why they thought Santino's caption's use of the slur was okay, but they didn't respond to my questions either.
And that's the thing, no one but me and a few others seemed bothered by Santino's caption (although I did think it was awesome that the majority of comments by his fans made fun of the girl's action, not her race.) And this Facebook post was nothing compared on the grand scale of the history of Asians being disrespected, only to have their voices dismissed when expressing their frustration. Filmmaker Laurie Tsou shared a story of how surprised she was when a white filmmaker pulled at his eyes when talking to her at a film event. She told him she was offended, and he responded with a lengthy email criticizing her for being upset. Recently in Seattle, a theater group performed The Mikado in yellowface reminiscent of Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's; and when an Asian-American writer criticized the production, angry commenters attacked her instead. Gwen Stefani set the trend of a white woman using another race as "cute" props with her Harajuku Girls, and according to Time, these four women were contractually obligated to follow her around and only speak Japanese in public. When Margaret Cho called out Stefani for her Asian "minstrel show," Stefani never apologized, and according to Time, to this day, Stefani continues making money on her line of Harajuku products. Ironically enough, Stefani and her band No Doubt pulled the music video for "Looking Hot," where they portrayed cowboys and Indians, after they were slammed by Native Americans. So what does this message say? That other groups can demand respect, but Asians just have to take it?
Stefani paved the way for white women to use minority women as props. Photo courtesy of MTV
My hope is that we're now in an era where more people will speak up when these aggressions and micro-aggressions occur, not just to Asians but to people in general. After all, respect and kindness should always be fought for; and unoriginal, unspecific, and unfunny stereotypes should no longer be defended and distributed to mass audiences. That crap is not entertainment. It's outdated and lazy and audiences deserve better.

Thus I will continue to not "be fun at parties," as Afshin Kargar said; but I will never shut up like Kever Meyer wanted either.

To further reiterate how  these "jokes" can indeed cross a line, I will leave you with this scene from The Nutty Professor, which is a pretty accurate representation of what it feels like when someone rips you to shreds all in the name of "comedy."

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Superstar legal author John Grisham backpedals on his child pornography statements

Today John Grisham issued an apology on his Facebook for statements he made in regards to child pornography punishments. In case you missed it, Grisham said the following during an interview to promote his new book Gray Mountain:
"We have prisons now filled with guys my age. Sixty-year-old white men in prison who've never harmed anybody, would never touch a child," Grisham said to The Telegraph. "But they got online one night and started surfing around, probably had too much to drink or whatever, and pushed the wrong buttons, went too far and got into child porn."
Um, I've been drunk numerous times in my life, but I have never "accidentally" just wandered on to a child pornography site. In fact, if someone wants to view that type of illegal material, they have to go on a perverted fishing expedition; one that doesn't just happen by pushing "the wrong buttons." In Grisham's The Telegraph interview, he then shares a story of a friend who was caught in a child porn sting to illustrate how absurdly excessive punishments are for people who watch child pornography:
"His [Grisham's friend's] drinking was out of control, and he went to a website. It was labelled 'sixteen year old wannabee hookers or something like that'. And it said '16-year-old girls'. So he went there. Downloaded some stuff - it was 16 year old girls who looked 30. He shouldn't ’a done it. It was stupid, but it wasn't 10-year-old boys. He didn't touch anything. And God, a week later there was a knock on the door: ‘FBI!’ and it was sting set up by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to catch people - sex offenders - and he went to prison for three years."
Uh…Does Grisham think it's okay that his drunk friend wanted to get with teenage hookers? How can he condone the behavior of this friend, and how can he sympathize with viewers of child pornography? Those viewers are the reasons that the industry that exploits and abuses children exists because if there was no audience, there would be no demand. Therefore, viewing child pornography is not a victimless crime; and Grisham thinking that just because his friend didn't "touch anything" meant he wasn't participating in an exploitive endeavor truly baffles and grosses me out. 

See Grisham's apology below. Although he appears to want to wash away his previous statements, I doubt anyone will ever forget them. I never will. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Off-duty cop kills neighborhood dog, gets released; owners are ticketed for "animal at large"

It seemed like a normal Thursday evening on the 6900 block of East 18th Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a neighborhood full of families and young working adults. Parents played with their children in their yards, and other people relaxed outside, enjoying the hot end days of summer.

However, September 11, 2014 was not like any other day. On this early evening, the sound of two gun shots burst through the air, causing parents to grab their terrified children and hurry inside.

According to eyewitness Amber Hobbs, a man and woman were walking their dog when a 75 pound pit pull terrier mix named Titus came up to greet them. What happened next shocked her.  "No threat was present when the man pulled his gun out and shot the other dog!" Hobbs said. "Then he leaned over the dog and shot it in the head! Children were all out in the neighborhood, including my niece and nephew. The owners of (Titus) came out to call their dog and saw him dead. All the shooter said was, "That's your dog?" The owners were of course hysterical."

The owner of Titus was Nicholas "Nick" Blazek, a young man with big brown eyes who works as a machinist. He had loved his faithful companion since Titus was a puppy. Blazek lived with his girlfriend, Sarah Slane, a pretty woman in her twenties with long red hair and an infectious smile. In an interview with Tulsa World, Blazek recalled Titus as a "friendly dog who would sleep in bed with them." As they stared in horror at their dead dog on the street, it was clear to neighbors that they had lost a family member.
Slane and Blazek (photo courtesy of Facebook)
Titus with a family friend. (photo courtesy of Slane's Facebook)


Titus was gunned down by an off-duty police officer who Slane states she had not seen in the neighborhood prior to the shooting. On Slane's Facebook, she states that the officer's name is Adam Lovell, but the Tulsa Police Department ("TPD") has not confirmed this. Because the name of the shooter was not released publicly, I was unable to locate him to obtain his statement.

Although owners Blazek and Slane did not see the shooting, another eyewitness came forward to share a story similar to Hobb's. Grant Holm, told Tulsa World  that he saw Titus run towards the off-duty police officer with "his tail wagging." Holm said to Tulsa World, "Titus went to the (officer's) large dog and appeared to be greeting the other animal from a submissive posture with its head down. The officer pulled on his dog’s leash, rearing the animal up onto its hind legs. Titus then moved to fill the void created by the officer pulling on the leash. The man, as smooth as you please, reached behind him, pointed (a handgun), put it up to the dog and shot it in the head or neck area, and Titus immediately went down. As Titus lay in the grass, moving his legs and yelping, he (the officer) bent down, aimed at it and shot it in the head with everybody in shock." Like Hobbs, Holm said that the shooting frightened the neighbors and that the officer didn't ask any questions before pulling out his gun.

The alleged shooter (photo courtesy of Slane's FB)
According to news sources, when the police arrived on the scene to investigate, the off-duty police officer stated that he felt threatened by the dog so he acted in self-defense. He was then let go. Slane took a photo of the alleged shooter (see right), and behind him is his female friend and his dog, an adult German Shepherd. Based on the size of the German Shepherd, one had to wonder why the shooter did not allow his own dog to protect him from Titus if Titus really was posing a threat.

After the off-duty police officer was let go, Blazek and Slane on the other hand were issued a citation for animal at large. The reason being that Titus had escaped their yard. Slane said, "The off-duty officer said absolutely nothing to us. He wouldn't give us his name or any info. There were no apologies or a flicker of emotion. The officers that showed up on the scene were rude and automatically on his side. They didn't want to listen to us or our witnesses, but when it came to hearing him they all surrounded him and gave him time to explain."

Blazek and Slane were devastated by the loss of Titus, and the next day, Friday, September 12, they filed a complaint with the police department's internal affairs. "This is a Tulsa Police Department problem," Slane said. "He is a crazy, trigger happy officer. If he wasn't being looked at as an officer, but as a civilian, then why wasn't he arrested or charged with unlawful use of his weapon as city ordinance states? We hope that they (the Tulsa Police Department) do their job properly and follow through with criminal charges, remove him from the police department, and that he is not able to bare arms again. We plan to file a civil suit if internal affairs doesn't follow through with justice."

Although it is not being implied that a life of an animal is equivalent to a life of a human being, this story eerily echoes the stories of Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri and Trayvon Martin of Sanford, Florida. In all three cases, men shot and killed because of perceived threats in situations that witnesses state did not warrant gun fire. The Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin cases were divisive in America because of their racial nature, and some chose to see Brown or Martin not as unarmed victims but as "thugs" who appeared dangerous. Like Titus, these victims were guilty of nothing but looking a certain way and coming across the wrong person; and like Titus, despite witness accounts, the law tended to favor the word of the shooter instead of the voices of the witnesses. 

Overall, these shooting show how fear can spring from anything and that no person is truly safe because unnecessary fear in the hands of those with guns can lead to unnecessary violence. And the scary thing about these three situations is that the three shooters supposedly were devoted to "serve and protect," but if they are so quick with their guns, who will protect the citizens from them?

Before the incident, Slane respected the police, but now she views them with suspicion. "I have always stood up for the police, gave them respect, and felt they were here to serve us; but that is no longer how I feel," she said. "We are in fear they have doctored all they can to protect their own, we are in fear of "unexplained harassment," and we are always looking over our shoulder now; and it's a shame to fear the ones we should fear the least."

Officer Leland Ashley, a media representative of the Tulsa Police Department (TPD), stated on Monday September 15 that the off-duty police officer was not put on administrative leave because of this incident and that the case is not being investigated further. "The officer was off duty (a citizen) who stated he felt threatened when he shot the dog. His actions were not  TPD related," Ashley said. 

So it appears that Blazek and Slane will not see justice for Titus, at least not from the police department. While NFL players like Ray Rice, who commit domestic violence, can be removed from their positions because of their actions in their personal life; apparently that is not the case for a police officer that has such a fearful temperament that he would open fire in a neighborhood full of children to protect himself from a happy-go-lucky dog. Regardless of being on or off duty, the police department should investigate his gun use.  

Because the officer has not been identified, the community in Tulsa will just have to wait and hope that the shooter will not "feel threatened" again. But the main question here is: when will he finally be held accountable? If video emerges of the Titus incident? If he takes the life of a human being? Or if concerned citizens contact Tulsa Police Department's Internal Affairs themselves, asking for them to consider the danger of allowing an officer with poor judgment to wear a badge? If you are one of those concerned citizens and want to act now, please click here and let TPD know that you want justice for Titus and that you want Tulsa to be a safer place.
The ticket issued to Blazek courtesy of Blazek's Facebook

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Social Media Shaming Has Turned Normal People Into Bullies

I ride the Los Angeles Metro daily; and often times, I sit next to men who lounge with their legs spread wide, while I, small and polite, sit squished and uncomfortable. I contemplate saying something, but really, what is there for me to say? If they pushed their legs together, I wouldn't all of a sudden spread my own because I unfortunately or fortunately was taught to "be a lady."

Thus, the idea of a Tumblr such as "Men Taking Up Too Much Space On The Train" sounded  delightful at first. This blog has received quite a bit of media attention, and initially, I liked the idea of people taking photos of space hogs, the blog posting them, and then the world judging these men for their space entitlement. After all, justice!

But after the initial satisfaction of "justice" subsided, I wondered what it would feel like to actually be one of those strangers who was shamed on social media. Perhaps the guys on "Men Taking Up Too Much Space..." don't care that much because the phenomenon is so common, but what if you're singled out for just being yourself?

That's what happened to Balpreet Kaur, a Sikh woman with facial hair. A Reddit user snapped a photo of her and posted it onto the site with the caption, "I don't know what to think of this." Although his caption attempted to play dumb, the user's intent was to say, "Look at this person. Let's make fun of her." Kaur learned of her newfound internet fame, and she responded, explaining that her religion does not allow her to alter her body and thus she does not remove her facial hair. Miraculously, the Reddit user apologized, and the internet rallied behind Kaur, a stranger shaming victim who didn't allow herself to be a victim.
A Reddit user tried to shame Balpreet Kaur, but she would not be victimized. (Courtesy of Jezebel)
However, not everyone is so lucky. Sophie Wilkinson of The Debrief shared how humiliating it felt for her to be one of the girls featured on "Women Who Eat on Tubes." A stranger snapped an unflattering photo of her eating a salad while riding the subway. He then posted it to the "Women Who Eat" Facebook group. Wilkinson described what it was like finding her picture: "Though the group information states it ‘doesn’t intimidate or bully’, I felt victimised. And hurt. Was it really not the original poster’s intention to humiliate me by accompanying the photo with the caption ‘Good to be contributing more than rubbish chat!’?" Wilkinson reached out to the photographer, and she asked him to take the photo down. He appeared apologetic in his reply, but to her surprise, he reposted her image along with their interaction. Apparently, he wasn't an unaware bully, he was a flat out Cobra Kai bully.

And we all know how bullying stories end. Let's not be those kinds of people.

That's why we all need to stop snapping photos of strangers and posting them publicly to mock and shame them. It is legal to snap photographs of others in public without asking permission, but this isn't a legal issue. This is an ethical problem. Sure, journalists and street photographers have been snapping pictures of strangers for decades, and paparazzi have been harassing celebrities since forever. But does that make it right for us to shame strangers? After all, there's a fine line between holding someone accountable versus just being mean.

Recently, a comic/actor, who was the star of an ABC comedy and had over 14,000 Facebook fans, posted a photograph of a young Asian woman using a long handle device to snap a selfie. The woman was having breakfast alone, and from the photograph, it appeared that the actor was seated at the table next to her. Her action was ridiculous, and his post was an interesting commentary on our narcissistic culture. However, there was a darkness that came with the posting when he captioned it, "Check out this oriental...I mean continental breakfast. #selfrie." Thankfully, his fans mostly made selfie jokes in the comments section, but I cringed when the dog eating reference emerged. That's when I commented that it wasn't necessary to use the Asian slur nor bring her race into the equation, and immediately some guy told me to "drink a warm glass of shut the hell up."

I replied to the milk guy, and he did not respond. The comic also never addressed my initial comment. My desire for a dialogue about the ethics of a celebrity humiliating a stranger never came to fruition. I should note that I know that this comic is not a racist and that he was making a joke, even though it was one I didn't like; but the meanness of alluding to a stranger as an "Oriental" and making fun of how she speaks by posting "selfrie" just can't be denied.

Overall, the internet has made it too easy for us to succumb to our inner bullies. A general rule before posting a photo of a stranger--would you be comfortable if that person confronted you about your photo and caption? If so, then post away. If not, don't be a cruel coward and hide behind your computer because nowadays, you're going to be found out anyway. Accountability is a two-way street.

Friday, September 5, 2014

An open letter to XVALA and Cory Allen Contemporary Art

This is an open letter to XVALA and Cory Allen Contemporary Art:

It was announced recently that you would be conducting an "art show" in Florida that would exhibit unaltered, life size nude portraits of celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence, Scarlett Johansson and Kate Upton that were obtained by a hacker who leaked those pictures online. You knowingly acquired these photographs from a crime, and you know that these stolen images have humiliated the victims.

In your press release, you (XVALA) stated, "We share our secrets with technology, and when we do, our privacy becomes accessible to others."

The way you spin the art show, it actually sounds as if you are making a point about the vulnerable position that technology has put people in, but then I remember that all you are doing is republishing stolen nude photographs that have gotten a lot of press. You aren't creating anything new, but you are victimizing the victims in a new way. Calling that "creative" is a bit of a stretch. If you really wanted to make a statement, you would put yourself on display, but you are obviously too much of a coward to do so.

Although you got a lot of attention for your exploits, lazily enlarging stolen salacious celebrity images isn't art. Never once has a true artist equated publicity with artistic expression. No,  all you're doing is showcasing revenge porn so at least cut the bullshit with the pretentiousness because it's not fooling anyone.

According to CNN, the Federal Bureau of Investigations has publicly stated that they will prosecute anyone who publishes the leaked photographs. Knowing that the FBI is coming after you once you exhibit your show provides the only audience satisfaction to what you're doing. I can't wait to hear your "artist" spin on what it's like in jail. Maybe then you'll have something worthwhile to say.
The iCloud hack is now being investigated by the FBI. (photo courtesy of Twitter)

Sunday, August 31, 2014

You be the judge: Are home warranties scams?

In July of this year, I had a problem with my garage. The door wouldn't open with the clicker, and when I tried to open it manually, it felt heavy. I spoke with a maintenance technician over the phone for advice, and he stated that whenever a door felt heavy it was usually because the cables had come loose. With some help from my parents, I was able to pry open the unusually heavy door, and I saw that my side cables had popped off, just like the maintenance technician had predicted.

Soon, I contacted my home warranty company, First American Home Warranty (AKA
First American Home Buyers Protection). I placed a service request, and I listed that my door was stuck and I indicated that it was due to the cables having popped off. (See below.) First American arranged for a garage technician to come to my home.

For those unfamiliar with home warranties, a customer pays a yearly fee to have covered problems with his or her home fixed. However, each time a service call is completed, the company charges a fee. In First American's case, they charge a yearly fee of $384, and their service fees cost $60. I was aware of this pay structure, but I was not aware of their policy of sending out repairmen, knowing that they will not cover the problems but still charging the $60 fee. 

The day that the garage repairman came, he assessed that my hinge needed to be replaced and that the cables needed to be redone. He informed me that First American did not cover these issues, and he had me speak with a First American representative who confirmed this and said I had a right not to use his services. The repairman told me that my repair and part would cost $165 plus I had to pay the First American service charge--total $225. I asked him how much I would have had to pay if I had called him directly for service. He said he would have charged me the same--$165. I would not have had to pay a service fee. I told him that I refused to pay the service fee because I had to pay full price for repairs. He said that if I refused to pay the service fee I would have to speak with First American later. 

When the repairman finished his work, I paid him for his service and for the part. Then I contacted First American, and I told them what happened. They said even if my repairs were not covered by First American that I still owed the $60 because they had sent someone out on a service call.  I asked them why they had fulfilled the request since I had explicitly stated in my service request that I was having problems due to my cables, which were not covered by First American. They refused to answer this question directly. I then asked for the statistic of how often they send out requests knowing they would not fulfill the requests. They also ignored this question. Finally after nearly one month of back and forth nonsense, I paid the $60 and chose to not renew with this company that has received hundreds of negative reviews on blogs such as Pissed Off Consumer and on review sites such as Yelp.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Darth Vader surfing and a mermaid riding a unicorn--welcome to the world of artist Sean Boyce

Wandering around the 626 Night Market on August 16th, I was impressed by many of the artists who had set up booths. For instance, I was attracted to the chic sexiness of Eddy Lee's female portrait work, and I liked the hyper energy of the watercolors of Geoff Pascual. A third artist who caught my eye was Boston-native Sean Boyce. His paintings, which included Darth Vader surfing and a mermaid riding a unicorn as angry Godzilla looked on, was brightly colored, psychedelic, and influenced by surfer and pop culture. It was as if Lisa Frank was on mushrooms while strolling on Venice Beach. I loved it.

"Since my arrival at Los Angeles, my work has become much more fanciful and whimsical," Boyce said. "I have taken the mermaid motif that I picked up first in the nautical lore of my hometown Cape Cod and have rode with it quite far to expand the mythology to Martians, unicorns, sea monsters, Godzilla, all kinds of pop surrealistic subjects."
"Dream at Point Dume" by Sean Boyce
After the 626 Night Market, I connected with Boyce through Instagram. He has a portfolio of his artwork on the site, and Instagram is one of his many tools he uses to get his work out there. In addition to social media, Boyce often exhibits at Venice Beach, usually on the weekends. He has also exhibited his work at galleries, art fairs, art walks, cafes, bookstores, and libraries.
"Duxter Skates Venice" by Sean Boyce
Boyce started drawing at a young age. According to his biography, he studied culinary arts and worked as a chef in the 1990s to support his family. When the time was right, he left the cooking world to become a full time artist.

"I started drawing at age five, my dad and mom taught me how," Boyce said. "I read h.w. Hanson's history of art when I was young and became obsessed with Michalangelo's Statue of David. I then got into Spiderman and was obsessed with comic books. My mom took me to two comic book conventions in New York City when I was seven and eight years old. I have been avidly studying artists, filmmakers and musicians my whole life. I am self taught, but an artist can never avoid being taught something by his peers through the course of his travels."
"The Kiss" by Sean Boyce
Boyce takes his influences from various disciplines: paintings, music, and film, for instance. Some painters that have influenced his style include Salvador Dali, Van Gogh, and Eddy Lee (check out my interview with Lee here.), and musicians include Kiss, Aerosmith, ZZ Top, Gucci Mane, and Far East Movement, among others. Films include Blade Runner, Monty Python and The Holy Grail, and Repo Man.
"Lucky Surfing" by Sean Boyce
Boyce's next project is inspired by his experience at the 626 Night Market. "I  will begin a horse racing painting now inspired by my times at 626 Night Market at Santa Anita Racetrack. It's also inspired by the fabulous horse racing paintings of Degas," Boyce said. Additionally, he plans to do a yachting painting "with a bunch of men involved in various nautical actions."

To connect with Boyce or to purchase his paintings or prints, you can find him on Facebook or Instagram.
"Darth" by Sean Boyce

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

How much does category choice on Amazon matter in terms of book sales?

A fellow writer sent me the following question about self-publishing, and I wanted to share it and my answer with my blog readers:

How much do you think category choice on Amazon has mattered in terms of book sales? 

When it comes to self-publishing, category matters. For instance, all three books of my series  The Red Lantern Scandals has been in the top 100 list of Asian-American literature, and they were also briefly in the top 100 list of erotica titles. The books' placement in these lists helped me in regards to sales because being in a top 100 list helps you get noticed, and when it comes to book sales, one of the main battles is having readers find you amidst all the thousands of other titles out there.

The Red Lantern Scandals focuses on the lives of four millennial Chinese-American women in Los Angeles. While there is graphic sexual scenes in the books, the series could have easily been categorized under Women's Literature or even under the Thriller category because of a mystery element that is a thru line of the series. However, if I had chosen to categorize my books in those broad categories, I would have had to compete with mainstream titles that sell 100,000 to a million copies. If I went niche, I could make it on a top 100 list by selling much less than that and not having to compete with as many titles. That's why I  made the marketing decision to categorize my books as Asian-American erotica, and I believe it was that niche category decision that gained the books and myself attention.

One thing I should add to all writers, though, is to not miscategorize their work. That's worse than competing with traditionally published titles. For instance, if your book is marketed as African-American Christian fiction, but it turns out your work is not intended for Christian audiences, you will anger your audience and get bad reviews. Thus, although you should always try to be strategic, being honest with what you are selling matters the most.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Eddy Lee's artwork will take your breath away

The artist Eddy Lee
On August 16, 2014, I attended the 626 Night Market in Arcadia, California; and I stumbled upon the booth of artist Eddy Lee, who currently lives in Los Angeles but who originally hailed from Washington state. I was blown away by the beautiful, effervescent and dreamlike images of women he created, and I wanted to learn more about him.

Lee lists his artistic influences as David Choe, Audrey Kawasaki, Basquiat, Egon Schiele, Jim Lee, Michelangelo, Carravaggio, and Bernini. After receiving a BFA in studio art from the University of Washington with an Art History minor, he had a brief stint working in graphic design doing band posters and various projects for the indie music scene up in Seattle. He later made his way to Los Angeles. During the summer, he sets up on the Venice Beach boardwalk as well as various events in Southern California such as the 626 Nightmarket and DTLA artwalk. In the fall and winter, he usually paints in the studio working on commission requests or ambitious large projects.


Courtesy of Eddy Lee's Instagram
In addition to setting up his work at public arenas, Lee also showcases his art on Instagram. "I feel the best possible way you can help yourself as an artist is simply take that risk and put yourself out there" Lee said. "Artists are the most critical of their own work. By putting yourself out there you learn from the feedback, if what you're doing is moving in the right direction or not. It's scary at first because you are opening yourself up to be criticized and judged, but all that is crucial and necessary for growth. It also helps you interact with people as most creative types tend to be socially awkward. If a gallery takes you in, awesome. If not, find an event, an art fair, artwalk, sidewalk, anywhere you can find. Just get the work your work out there."
Courtesy of Eddy Lee's Instagram
Lee is fortunate enough to be a full time artist, and with this blessing also comes the responsibility of constantly working  instead of just waiting around for inspiration.

"Being a full-time fine artist doesn't afford me the luxury of sitting around waiting for inspiration," Lee said. "I find inspiration from simply getting up each day and doing the work, even when I'm not feeling anything creatively. Some of my most gratifying works were done on days where I didn't want to paint. In that sense you do have to treat it like a 9 to 5 job, it requires that kind of discipline. It does take a lot of work but at the end of the day it's a charmed life, I do what I'm most passionate about for a living and I do it on my own terms."
Courtesy of Eddy Lee's Instagram
Lee's next project is work that he will showcase at the upcoming 626 Night Market which will occur in September. He will also be showing at a Downtown Los Angeles event called "Pancakes and Booze."

"I'm always up for helping other aspiring artists in whatever way I can," Lee said. For anyone who would like to reach him in regards to art work or advice, he can be reached at eddyleeart@gmail.com

For more information, check out Eddy's website, Instagram, and Facebook

Friday, August 22, 2014

After seven years of hard work, University of Kansas alumni sees his comic book dream come true

To connect with CW Cooke, find him on Facebook.
CW Cooke and I were classmates at the University of Kansas, and since graduation, he has gone on to write comics, work the independent comic book scene, and create worlds for various companies. After years of hard work and effort, his first series, Solitary: A Superhero Prison Story, is going to be distributed to the public, thanks mostly to a successful Kickstarter campaign. CW's campaign not only surpassed his original goal by several thousand dollars, but it was also named a Kickstarter Staff Pick.

CW was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to share how he successfully crowdsourced his project and how other comic writers can get their foot in the door like he did.

TL: What inspired you to create Solitary: A Superhero Prison Story?
CWC: Inspiration started at a very young age for this one, honestly, and kept coming in different ways. I've wanted to make comic books my whole entire life, and started out creating crappy X-men and Superman ripoff comics. Over the years, I had great teachers and professors and friends who inspired me or gave me the push that I needed to make comics. And as I couldn't draw well at all, I took a chance at writing. And I've always wanted to tell my own stories and I've always wanted to have this ongoing piece of me out there for the world to digest.

TL: You have worked with such publishers as Big Dog Ink, Devil's Due, Action Lab, Arcana, Viper, and Bluewater. How did you form those relationships? What works did you publish with them?
CWC: A lot of the relationships were built over time. Most started by emails or letters or mail that I sent, submissions that I sent out, and just meeting various publishers and editors at comic book conventions. Big Dog Ink was a company that I met at a local comic book convention and lucked into handing them some of my work. Bluewater was the first company I worked for and they gave me a chance based on an email submission I had sent. That opened a number of doors and then blind submissions and request emails or interest emails were sent to the various other companies (and honestly, I probably sent emails and letters to every single comic book publisher out there, some more than once).

Check out Solitary's FB page
TL: Why did you decide to do a Kickstarter?
CWC: Kickstarter was chosen out of necessity. Putting together the book as I have been, I spent a bit of my own money and funds were becoming tight due to bills and various other issues coming up. Kickstarter was essentially a last option, to ensure that the people I'm working with get paid and get compensated for their time, their effort, and their hard work.  I had a lot of help and suggestions from Devil's Due in determining what amount would be necessary to get certain goal levels and how to ensure people got paid what they deserve. Exceeding the goal and continuing to do so has been a wonderful, amazing, and far less stressful aspect of the whole thing. Getting to the goal was tough and terrifying. Surpassing and getting higher and higher makes me think people are excited for the book and excited to see the story unfold (now I just hope I don't screw that up). Everything above and beyond will go back into the book and will take care of the rewards and shipping. The additional amounts will ensure that the book keeps running for as long as possible. Now I just hope people KEEP picking it up!


TL: Now that crowdfunding has become trendy, it seems to be harder to stand out in the crowd and get people to open their wallets. Why do you think your Kickstarter succeeded? What advice would you give to other writers/comic book creators when it comes to fundraising?
Artwork from Solitary
CWC: I think mine succeeded because it's a story that hasn't really been told (I hope). I'm a big fan of the mash-up and throwing two ideas as disparate as Superman and Death Row just seemed too incredible to pass up and too bizarre not to try (and like I said, I hadn't really seen anything like it where the hero was behind bars and that's how the story starts). I think the other lucky bit has been that Orange Is the New Black is a huge thing right now and I lucked into that being around when my Kickstarter started. Not to mention the countless other just strange and lucky coincidences that happened and helped get this thing out there. I also think the cover seals the deal with a lot of people and the image of the electrocution. I have had preview copies of the book for a little while and those two images are what catch people's eyes first. Beyond that, I think my honesty and my truth helped a lot. That's the first and best advice I can give to people. Be honest. Be open. Giving the people what they want is nice and having a brilliant and strange new idea is wonderful. But if people don't trust you or think you're a used car salesman, it might not work out. To say I'm lucky is one thing, but you have to build on the luck and you have to do the work and you have to show people that you are willing to do the work and put in the time to build the audience. It's been a long time coming, and I still owe a great deal of it to luck.

TL: Publishing a comic book requires multiple components such as hiring an illustrator and editor. How did you put Solitary together?
CWC: I've been putting it together in one fashion or another since I was 8 years old, but since 2007, it has been the major focus of what I've been doing. I've found and started with a number of different artists on interiors and put together a large number of pitch documents. I've pitched it to various different comic companies since 2007 and I've changed the title, the artist, and large portions of the story at least 3 or 4 times each (if not more). This final iteration, this final version, took the time to get here. Carl Yonder, the cover artist, has been with me for a long time and has helped struggle and fight with me to make this better. I found him and the interior artist, Nando Souzamotta, on websites like Digital Webbing and then built a friendship/relationship/working relationship from there. Carl & Fake Petre, the colorist team, were found for me via Devil's Due and I have zero issue with that as they do incredible work. And I can't, for one second, do anything but say how great Devil's Due has been. Josh and his team have been a blessing, have helped with heavy lifting like marketing and getting the word out and spreading the news everywhere they can. Getting them to pick the book up was a wonder and just luck, like I mentioned before. It was from a blind submission to them via email, and Josh got back to me, told me how much he loved it, and that's where we are now. And I can't forget Alex for his logo and design assistance, Kit for her amazing help in getting stuff done, Johnnie for the lettering, and Shawn for his editing. I know I've been the voice and face, but there are so many amazing people behind the scenes (and I'm probably forgetting somebody).

TL: Now that your passion project is finalizing, what are you working on next?
CWC: I have SO many things going on right now. I have at least 4 active pitches out there at any given moment, two that I'm currently working on getting out there and hopefully both will be out there as creator-owned ongoing series as well. We shall see. Beyond that, I have a number of different stories I have to tell. I have science fiction, horror, romance, action, everything. I love comics and want to create for the rest of my life.

TL: Thank you for the great insight into how to break into comic book writing. You really provided some valuable resources. Is there anything you would like to add before you go?
CWC: It's been a hell of a ride so far and I'm just so happy for my friends, family, and fans for helping get me there. I'm especially happy to chat with you again as it's been FAR too long! But yeah, it's been a strange, wonderful trip, and I have one last thing to add for all the creative types and people who want to create or want to work in a creative field: Never give up. You might hear a million people telling you no and a million people telling you that you can't do it, but if you keep trying and keep working and keep growing as a writer or artist, you just might have a shot. Giving up means you won't do it. Trying means you just might. It took me 7 years of hard work, edits, changes, rewrites, and absolute luck to get where I am.

If you'd like to donate to Cooke's Kickstarter, click here. There's still one day left to contribute! You can also connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Hollywood doesn't want to give people of color starring roles, #BoycottExodusMovie

Ridley Scott's latest film, Exodus: Gods and Kings, a Biblical story set in ancient Egypt, is the latest Hollywood film to be accused of "whitewashing." The royal and high class Egyptian characters are played by white actors such as Christian Bale and Sigourney Weaver, and the slaves and lower class characters are all played by black actors. If this were a story about slavery in the United States, this would make sense. However, in Egypt, no one was white so the choice of casting has been met with an understandable firestorm of criticism. Many on Twitter have used the hashtag #BoycottExodusMovie, and I learned of the story from a discussion of a Huffington Post article that was on my friend's Facebook timeline.

Seeing this type of casting again and again bothers me, and although I am resigned to the fact that Hollywood has a right to tell whatever stories it wants to tell, I also feel that all of us people of color have the duty to not support these filmmakers.
Photo courtesy of HuffPo. For the complete story, click here.
Hollywood movies cost millions of dollars, and they employ professionals to make decisions that affect the representation found on screen. Besides Exodus, another questionable big  movie casting choice was the casting of white actress Rooney Mara (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as the Native American Tiger Lily in Peter Pan. The part of Tiger Lily could have easily gone to an up-and-coming Native American child star, but instead they chose to cast a white woman.  In the same article, entertainment news source Variety said that "The world being created is multi-racial/international..." and that the film would star Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund, and Rooney Mara.

To tout a movie as being multi-racial and then listing three white actors as its stars is ridiculous, and
I find it even harder to believe that the Exodus movie could not find any actors of color to play the Egyptian royalty. This casting may have been based on the bankability of the white stars. However the whole process is a Catch-22. If you only cast white people in big parts, how will one ever find a minority star?

To say there are not any great minority actors is complete bullshit. There are many who are relegated to small parts or theater, while some white actors with connections are given starring roles. I won't name names but I often roll my eyes at how many bad white actors are repeatedly given work while quality minority actors aren't even given a chance. A recent study published by USC found that white actors make up nearly 75% of the speaking characters in movies, and my own study of leading actors on broadcast comedies provided equally abysmal diversity numbers.

Noah's movie poster (courtest of Godawa)
I'm actually going to be so bold and say that white casting is a conscience decision that involves more than just money or lack of finding the right actors . Old school filmmakers don't want to see casts of color, and no one has held them accountable for this racism. If this accusation sounds crazy, look at the recent film, Noah, another story based on the Bible. This film received heat because it chose to create a non-diverse world when it had a setting that would've allowed a multi-ethnic cast. When asked about this lack of diversity, its writer Ari Handel cemented the idea that Hollywood just doesn't want to see ethnic faces:

“Either you end up with a Bennetton ad or the crew of the Starship Enterprise," Handel said. "You either try to put everything in there, which just calls attention to it, or you just say, ‘Let’s make that not a factor, because we’re trying to deal with everyman.’

Let's digest for a moment what this guy said. Regardless of the offensive shade that he threw towards Bennetton and the Starship Enterprise, he acknowledged that the film deliberately chose to go non-diverse to make the issue "not a factor." In his and his colleague's eyes, he felt that white people represented "everyman" and that casting all white was the best choice to reach his audience. Although I doubt the Exodus filmmakers would put words like that on the record, I think it's important to let audiences know that this is the mentality of those making these kinds of whitewashed movies. Whitewashing in movies is a filmmakers choice, and if this choice does not agree with you, then let the filmmakers know by not watching their films.