Support Jo Koy’s Easter Sunday, Hollywood Needs To Be More Inclusive, It’s Smart Business Practice
Jo Koy’s Easter Sunday is history in the making as it presents to audiences (over 3,000 theaters across the U.S. and Canada, and eventually hundreds more globally) on the big screen the theme of Filipino family and culture. It’s the first such movie produced and distributed by a major Hollywood studio (Universal Pictures).
While it is a celebratory time for our community to relish in this moment, support the film at theaters or eventually by streaming, it should also be a time to be thinking about why has it took so long for a movie like this to come out, why are minorities still underrepresented in Hollywood and our stories rarely told. It’s important to have this discussion now in order to ensure that this movement of Asian-themed film-making is not crested, that we don’t have to wait 10 or 20 years for another Easter Sunday-type movie to be created.
There was Joy Luck Club, Crazy Rich Asians prior to Easter Sunday that featured a mostly all Asian cast centered on the topic of Asians being themselves. As far as big production “Asian oriented” films in the U.S. – that’s it, and so few of them that it can hardly be considered a movie genre. This has to change.
The good news is at least Hollywood is aware that the public is aware of this systemic inequality. But now the powers-that-be must act and correct this marginalizing of minority communities, especially since the nation’s population is at over 40% minority.
Major step toward inclusion in New Academy Standards
The Academy set a new representation and inclusion standard for films to qualify for the 2024 awards that could make a difference. What are the new standards? These standards address on-screen representation, themes and narratives. Films can qualify for an academy award:
*if they either have a lead actor from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group,
*have 30% of secondary and minor roles from at least two underrepresented groups,
*or a storyline or subject matter centered on an underrepresented group.
Films must also meet certain criteria in terms of the diversity of creative leadership and project teams, marketing, as well as the production company’s access to opportunities.
So based on these standards, as an example, Easter Sunday would qualify and meet all the benchmarks the Academy has set for 2024.
Given the importance of awards in the film industry as a means of validating artistic excellence as well as a major marketing and financial boost, already major Hollywood studies are starting the process of meeting these standards and are being transparent by releasing disclosures that such standards are being met. These new guidelines will not only give opportunities for otherwise ignored talent of people of color seeking jobs as actors, directors, screen writers – it will open up more organizations involved in job placement and recruiting that help to place diverse talent onto movie sets and behind the movie set as production professionals.
Incentive for inclusion is there, data shows this
According to UCLA’s Hollywood Diversity Report, films with more diverse casts perform better at the box office. Eight of the top 10 theatrically-released films in 2021 featured casts that were greater than 30% minority, while films with less than 11% minority actors were the lowest box-office performers.
The bottom line is that diversity in Hollywood is not just about it being a moral and correct thing to do, it’s good business practice for Hollywood to move in the direction of inclusion especially in today’s global market with American films making tons of money from audiences all over the world.
And this is made more possible through better technology such as streaming and other digital platforms. Companies that do not ride this wave of inclusion, quite frankly, will be left behind.
In the case of Easter Sunday, in the first two weeks with theater showings alone in the U.S. and Canada, already this movie made $10 million. The movie studio spent $17 million to create Easter Sunday.
Now when it hits the global market, especially in the Philippines, in the long haul Easter Sunday will turn out to be a smart and profitable move for Universal.
Hollywood knows inclusion is good for business, and that is why according to the same report, there have been improvements in diversity.
Continue to put pressure on Hollywood
Even as new standards are set within Hollywood and the numbers show that inclusion is good for business, we still must put pressure onto Hollywood to see to it that old business practices change.
Any reform in any industry takes time to implement and be accepted as normal business culture. We are still seeing the highest echelons in the industry from the directors and producers top screen writers are still grossly minority-underrepresented.
Another significant area: in financing films — a big make or break determinant of a film’s potential success — we also see that minorities are still given far less in money to make a film. What does this do? It’s basically built-in preference for minority projects to be second tier. This has to change. Why? Just look at the data, again, minority inclusion films do well.
Support Easter Sunday
Changes in Hollywood is coming. To expedite that such fair and equitable changes happen, it’s imperative that movies like Easter Sunday succeed, and in a big way. We encourage our community to watch Easter Sunday not just for its entertainment value, but for empowerment of our community as well.