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The Case for Diverse Casting (Oooh, the “D” Word!)

Hey Tina from GLEE! You may only get one line per episode... and that new exchange student from Ireland totally says more in one monologue than you have all season... but we still love you!!!

Okay, I’m pretty sure I blogged about this last year, but I’ll do it again for the sake of our shiny new Production Blog here.  Yay!  First off, I think the definition of “diverse” is pretty broad.  Like, who isn’t diverse & unique?  As we were fond of saying at my old workplace, every film is a snowflake.

And yes, you are all snowflakes.

Having said that, I do believe that innovation comes out of rebelling against the status quo.  Whatever that status quo happens to be.  Change is good.  Change means growth.

I grew up, and still live in Scarborough, Ontario– which is one of the most diverse and multicultural communities in Toronto– and I dare say, Canada.  This is my reality.  This is my “normal.”

I also went to York University in Toronto, which is one of the most diverse campuses you’ll come across in this country.

So, you can forgive me for believing this to be the status quo.

In fact, it wasn’t until I got out into the “real” world… did I ever feel like I had gotten it wrong.  If you look around at the majority, the status quo of folks who work in the film and television industry, there is a disconnect, at least, between my reality… and the “real” reality.  Through no fault of the majority– mind you.

To be clear, I have never felt folks going out of their way to defend the current status quo, or to keep things the same.  For the most part, I do get the sense that there’s encouragement there.

But that’s not to say that I haven’t encountered sexism and racism in subtle or not so subtle ways.  But you move on, feeling sorry for those people.

No, what I’m saying is that the status quo is comfortable.  It’s easier.

Why fix what ain’t broke?

This is where we differ.

Because things are broken… when I turn on the TV… and I don’t see my my reality.  And I’m not talking about token characters.  Background characters.  I’m talking leads.  Real bonafide leads.  The starring role.

Because things are broken… when I have to resign myself to the fact that I will never be the hero of my story.  My own story.

What do you say to that?

What do you tell your family members in other countries?  This is Canada.  We are all background players in the story of Canada.

That’s where I call bullshit.

Like I said, it’s not personal, right?  It’s business.  And saying the “majority” won’t watch… the so-called “minority”… quite frankly is doing a disservice to the majority.

We watch the stories of the majority.  Why wouldn’t the majority watch our stories?

There are some universal truths– love, life, and loss.

But it’s the nuances and the small differences… that are just as beautiful.  And often overlooked.

I’m casting diverse– meaning… rebelling from the status quo– because first off,  it’s right for the story that we want to tell.  And anything else would be false.

I don’t like saying it, but casting any other way… would be easier.  But I feel that only gives credence to those who would defend the status quo.

But no, I say with pride that I’m putting my money where my principles are.  And man, do I know that principles are overrated in this industry.

And it’s going to cost me.  A lot more.  Out of my own pocket more.  But I’m saying… it’s worth it.  Because if we don’t do it, who’s going to do it?


Because it’s just easier not to do it.

Which is wrong.  So totally wrong.

So one week from now, we’ll be auditioning young emerging & diverse actresses for our child lead of Afghani-American, Sally Khan.  We’re hoping we’ll find her.  But we’ll keep looking if we don’t, because I’m committed to this.

Like I said, principles don’t last long in this industry.  I guess I’m glad, for once, that I’m not really in it.

But a huge thank you to those who have come forward to support what we’re doing.  We are trying to encourage change.  Even if it is one young actress at a time.

Like I said, it could be easier.

But since when is the right path… the easiest?

About littlemissjihadfilm

When 10-year-old, Afghani-American, Sally Khan, discovers that the father she never knew disappeared on September 11, 2001, she becomes convinced that he is a terrorist. Now if she could only figure out what that means! LITTLE MISS JIHAD is a dark comedy, yes, comedy, about faith, tolerance, and a child's imagination running away with her.

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