Kaitz Commentary: Hollywood Creative Forum Stories from the Diaspora Explained

The Walter Kaitz Foundation’s Hollywood Creative Forum
 Expands its Lens and Explores Untold “Stories from the Diaspora”

Storytelling, as an invaluable and universal form of human expression, is language. It is how people share culture, narrate history, venerate their heroes and pass on legacy. As we continue our work to advocate for a more inclusive entertainment industry, we recognize the significant opportunity for studios and networks alike to collaborate with culturally diverse talent to tell stories that represent the vast experiences of seemingly disparate people and how their stories impact the world in which we all live.

Michelle Ray, executive director of the Kaitz Foundation, reflects on the how and why the Forum was created and offers her thoughts on the significance of this year’s theme. Ray also shares how this year’s virtual event fulfills the promise to connect diverse talent with the executives who have the power to greenlight projects for major networks and studios.

A HISTORY OF ADVOCACY

The Hollywood Creative Forum was launched in 2009 to help increase opportunities for diverse content creators in the entertainment industry.  At the time of its launch creators, diverse media outlets, and viewers across the country were continuing to voice a decades-long concern about the lack of representation of ethnically diverse characters and stories in film, television, and the then nascent streaming services.

Recognizing that the only way to improve representation was to get more diverse content into the distribution pipelines of major studios and networks, the Forum was designed to provide an environment where vetted and talented creators were matched with development executives in one-on-one meetings.  By bringing the creators directly to the networks and studios, we are able to demonstrate the abundance of talented storytellers and untold stories that were available to Hollywood.

Over the years, the Forum has expanded in many ways, from introducing expert led KaitzTalks to developing and maintaining strong corporate partnerships and alliances all of which has contributed to rich discussions and invaluable knowledge sharing and networking opportunities.  This year, the expansion continues as the Forum focuses on global storytellers and those here in America.

WHAT INSPIRED THE “STORIES FROM THE DIASPORA” THEME

Stories from the diaspora are not other people’s stories, they are our stories and the stories of the collective. We wanted to focus on stories of humanity and across the globe. We not only wanted to see them, and hear them, but also to share them with those in our industry.
Director Steve McQueen’s seminal anthology, Small Axe was a huge inspiration and immediately helped to inform our focus. This cinematic triumph shares the stories of the Afro-Caribbean diaspora in the United Kingdom in the wake of the Windrush era.  McQueen, who is of Afro-Caribbean heritage himself, carefully crafts untold narratives of a people’s experience in a new land. If you are an immigrant in this country, or any country, you bring your stories with you. You just need an opportunity to get your story told. I don’t think there is a shortage of stories, rather we just need to support the storytellers.

At the end of the day, good stories are good stories, and should not be limited because of geography, and certainly not because we perceive they are not of importance.

THE FORUM’S PROMISE TO CONTENT CREATORS

The Walter Kaitz Foundation has unique access to network executives, showrunners, studios, and other decision-makers who greenlight projects.  Our charge is to create spaces for diverse creatives to bring their stories forward.  This year’s virtual environment has afforded us the opportunity to broaden this experience in a marketplace that opens the door for more inclusive storytelling.

We hope you will join us in August and stay tuned to the announcements of speakers and discussion topics in the coming weeks.