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OPEN DOORS - Changing Hearts and Minds: The PGA Joins With Amnesty International To Promote Stories of Inclusion

Posted By Dan Halperin, Wednesday, April 3, 2019

In an ongoing effort to widen the scope of PGA programs and panels, the Guild’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee joined with Amnesty International USA for a thoughtful panel presentation at the ArcLight Hollywood. Powerful storytellers and representatives from the world-renowned organization discussed the need to reframe the portrayal of vulnerable populations in film and television.

The panelists were: Neal Baer (EP, Designated Survivor, The Beast, Under the Dome, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, ER), Ilene Chaiken (EP, The Handmaid’s Tale, Empire), Rafael Agustin (Jane the Virgin, Illegal), Melinda Hsu Taylor (EP, The Gifted, The Vampire Diaries, Lost), Angela Kang (EP, The Walking Dead) and Scott Budnick (EP, The Hangover 1-3, War Dogs, Due Date, They Call Us Monsters).

After opening remarks from our National Executive Director Vance Van Petten on the PGA’s long-standing support for diversity and inclusion both in front of and behind the camera, Amnesty International offered to share its decades of data and research with the entertainment community.

“My parents were refugees who fled the Communist takeover of China, so I’ve always been drawn to narratives about outsiders who build lasting community in new surroundings and who find unexpected strength when overcoming adversity,” said Melinda Hsu Taylor. “And while I’m a science fiction/fantasy writer, my real-life immigrant heritage absolutely fuels and informs my aspirational approach to the genre storytelling, inclusive casting and far-flung settings of my work on shows like Lost, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, The Vampire Diaries and The Gifted.”

The current refugee and asylum-seeker crisis is the largest in recorded history. Persecution, conflict or the threat of violence has forcibly displaced 68.5 million people worldwide. It is a critical and timely topic, one that is increasingly being addressed by the creative community.

“The Central Americans at our border are not migrants; they are asylum seekers. And there is nothing illegal about seeking asylum,” stated Rafael Agustin, a writer for Jane the Virgin, who recently sold Illegala pilot based on his experiences in a community of undocumented immigrants.

Amnesty leadership noted that refugees are most commonly portrayed in one of two ways: as villains or as victims. The group claims thes

“Television has the power to tell stories of immigrants that can change the heart, which is the only way I know of to change made-up minds,” said Neal Baer, a former pediatrician, now TV writer, director and producer, known for his work on ER and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and current showrunner of the new Designated Survivor.

Margaret Huang, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA

Margaret Huang, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, emphasized her organization’s willingness to work with content providers to present accurate and hopeful depictions of the immigrant population. “When it comes to talking about refugees and asylum seekers, the power of storytelling is needed now more than ever to convey the humanity behind the headlines. Content creators are critical in changing hearts and minds by bringing these stories to America’s living rooms. We are proud to offer the collective research and on-the-ground expertise of our global teams to help guide the stories you tell.”


- Banner image: PGA members lead discussion on reframing portrayals of the immigrant population.

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