Sept. 3, 2018: TO411DAILY - How California’s Asian-American Legislators Made the Film Tax Credit’s Diversity Provisions Happen

September 03, 2018

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Asian-Americans are typically seen as a silent or invisible minority in both politics and entertainment, but they were the surprising drivers behind the unprecedented diversity provisions contained in the new extension of California’s film and television tax credit.

The API caucus, which at 12 members is the largest it has ever been, stood firm as a voting bloc in demanding the addition of the diversity provisions, which most notably involve requiring applicants to report the diversity of their workforce, including the key above-the-line positions. The event, which came about in part through the friendship and collaboration between assemblymember David Chiu and WME partner Theresa Kang-Lowe, was a demonstration of the impact that underrepresented individuals can have in generating change.

“[The new legislation] wouldn’t have happened but for the partnership of an African-American budget chair [state senator Holly Mitchell, who authored of the bill], Latino majority leader [Ian Calderon] and the API caucus pushing for diversity,” says Chiu.

Inclusion in entertainment has long been a pet cause for the San Francisco legislator, but he can point to an incident in the not-so-distant past as a formative moment — Feb. 28, 2016 — that galvanized his latest efforts. “I was at the hospital, my wife was in labor, and the television was on,” he tells THR. “It was the Oscars, and the host [Chris Rock] brought onto the stage three little Asian kids and proceeded to make fun of them. I was watching this and thinking about the future of my son. Is he going to be the butt of jokes, and what do we have to do to change that?”

Mitchell delivered a key take-away in her podium remarks. “If you don’t think elections matter, look at the contents of this bill,” she said. “Quite frankly, if there wasn’t a woman of color chair of the budget committee or an API caucus with strength in numbers and leverage, who could make this a top priority, maybe [this legislation wouldn’t have happened]. So if these issues are important to you, then elect people who share your core values, can take these policy issues to the table and make it happen for all of us.”