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'Tell our stories': Supporting Black, Indigenous, and people of color in film and television

Sacramento's Film + Media's new film-incentive program is providing grants to 12 locally shot productions with diverse casting and crews.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Black, Indigenous, and people of color remain underrepresented in film and television. When they are represented, they're often negatively stereotyped.

Even though BIPOC have made some progress in holding leadership roles of director and film writer over the years, they're still vastly underrepresented compared to their White counterparts.

That's according to the 2022 Hollywood Diversity Report produced by UCLA's Institute for Research on Labor and Employment.

It shows people of color only represented 3 out of 10 film directors, 4 out of 10 lead film actors, and 3.2 out of 10 film writers in 2021. Women remain underrepresented among film directors and writers, too, compared to men. 

Credit: UCLA 2022 Hollywood Diversity Report
People of color accounted for 38.9 percent of the leads in top films for 2021, roughly the same as the 39.7 percent share posted a year earlier, which was an all-time high. At 42.7 percent of the U.S. population in 2021, people of color were again just short of proportionate representation among film leads that year (gray line). As noted in the previous report, people of color have made tremendous progress among film leads over the course of this report series: the group’s 2021 share was nearly quadruple its 2011 share (10.5 percent).

The City of Sacramento is working to change the statistics by supporting BIPOC in film and TV, locally. Sacramento's Film + Media's new film-incentive program is providing grants to 12 locally shot productions.

The pilot film-incentive program launched in Oct. 2021. The goal is to sustain and foster growth in film and TV production, locally. Twelve of the projects received $5,000 production grants and three received $2,500 post-production grants, totaling $67,500.

"I am proud the City is supporting these projects through this new incentive program," said Jennifer West, Sacramento Film Commissioner. "It is exciting to see the diverse stories coming to life. I look forward to helping further uplift local productions and support bringing film productions to Sacramento."

The recipients of the grants represent an array of storylines with diverse casting and crews. Grants were awarded to nine local filmmakers; six were from outside the Greater Sacramento region. The stories include a short film, a television pilot, and 10 documentaries/docuseries.

"We look at our work as making sure there are resources and financial investments that we can offer," said Megan L. Van Voorhis, Cultural and Creative Economy Manager, City of Sacramento. "These 12 grantees that we're making investments in, clearly, the stories that they're telling and uplifiting about activism and how we look at how medicine has played out and how people have been experimented on over the course of histories and how that's contributing to disparities in the medical field today, those kinds of stories are really critical to help make broader change."

Melissa Muganzo Murphy is the President and CEO of Muganzo Entertainment. The production company received 2,500 from the city for a documentary titled "The Big Hysto: A Black Womb Revolution."

The film addresses "the government funded medical racism, sexism, and xenophobic experimentation performed on enslaved Africans in the U.S. during the 18th and 19th century by slave owners who also served as certified medical doctors."

Credit: Muganzo Entertainment

"Sacramento Film + Media's grant was an essential part in me and my team being able to complete our documentary film project and debut it right in the heart of Sacramento at the Esquire Imax," said Murphy. "Representation is important because we have youth who are looking to see themselves in film and television. We even have people, like myself, who are millennials, looking to see themselves, so we can actualize who we are supposed to be."

Juan Berumen, who's a playwright and member of the theater group Campo Santo, was awarded two $5,000 production grants, totaling $10,000. Berumen says the funds will be used for a documentary he's producing about the Chicano Civil Rights Movement.

The film is titled "Harvesting Dreams: Fifty Years of Carnalismo, Chicanismo, and Serving Sacramento." It follows the efforts of a group of Chicano men, who decided to form an organization in 1973 while students at UC Davis.

"We are tired of waiting for mainstream media, Hollywood, and major documentary production companies to tell our stories," said Berumen. "One thing I've learned is that telling our stories, making our stories, and directing our stories is very difficult. It's very expensive. We need to be fully funded. But, we can't sit around and wait anymore for our stories to be told. We've seen our elders pass away without their stories being told. We have to take it upon ourselves to help preserve the legacies of those giants and make sure that our history is preserved."

More film incentive grants are expected to be available in fall 2022. To learn more about the program or for a full list of awardees, visit the Film + Media's website.

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