Middle Eastern writers pen open letter asking Hollywood to 'take more chances on us'

The letter notes that only 0.3 per cent of employed screenwriters in the US are of Middle Eastern descent

The Middle Eastern Writers Committee, a recently established group within the Writers Guild of America West, has penned an open letter asking the industry to “take more chances on us.”

The letter was signed by more than 50 members of the committee, including The White Tiger director and screenwriter Ramin Bahrani, Mr Robot producer and writer Sam Esmail, and Mitra Jouhari, who has written for several renowned series including Three Busy Debras and Big Mouth.

In the letter, the committee notes the guild’s 2020 inclusion report that reveals only 0.3 per cent of employed screenwriters in the US are of Middle Eastern descent, behind all other ethnic groups. This was also true for television writers.

“Because of this, we find ourselves at a cultural inflexion point, and we’re asking for your allyship to improve this number,” the letter reads. “Identifying the problem is the first step – taking action is what should follow.”

The letter, which begins with greetings in Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish and Armenian, notes the success of shows such as Ramy and Chad but says “these stories are typically few and far between.

“We’re often branded as one-dimensional, naive foreigners with funny accents, stereotypical, shady businesspeople, and too often, our identities seem to be intrinsically tied to the War on Terror and being America’s number one enemy.”

The letter invites the industry to keep the conversation going.

“Reach out to us. Get to know our work. And most of all, take more chances on us to both tell our own stories and contribute to the ones being crafted in writers rooms all over town.”

Formed in August 2020, the Middle Eastern Writers Committee is co-chaired by two-time Emmy-nominated television writer Paiman Kalayeh, known for his work on Big Hero 6: The Series, and Brother Nature writer Cameron Fay.

The committee aims “to boost visibility and employment of Middle Eastern writers within the film and television industry, while celebrating and promoting accurate portrayals of Middle Eastern characters in all areas of media.”

Updated: August 31st 2021, 9:21 AM