Three CAA clients outline their involvement with the agency’s diversity initiatives.
Editor's Note: As a follow-up to yesterday's story on Christy Haubegger, this story highlights some of her protégés at CAA.
Writing since 2010, Francis has collected credits that include Seven Seconds, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Castle. She's currently developing a musically driven show for Apple about Detroit in the 1960s, and a series for Gaumont based on the 2004 French crime thriller 36th Precinct.
Francis is in the mentorship program, which matches up-and-coming diverse writers with established showrunners. "I fortuitously got matched with Akela Cooper [Luke Cage], who has an encyclopedic knowledge of pretty much everything that's happened in the world and every kind of work situation that you can imagine."
They meet twice a month, and Francis calls for advice as needed. "It's a really fantastic opportunity to speak with a showrunner who can tell you what to expect: when you get this phone call, this is how to handle it. When this actor is not cooperating as you would like, this is how to handle it."
The diversity database has been another boon. "You say you can't find a diverse writer? Here you go, look them up," she says. People have contacted her on Facebook and Twitter as a result, offering projects. "It sort of exploded who might reach out to you," she notes, which helps increase the variety of voices telling stories. "That's just better for television and audiences as a whole."
Owens has been with CAA since 2014, and he's wasted no time. His credits include Luke Cage, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and The Defenders.
Recalling the CAA Writers' Boot Camp, he says, "As much as I hate meeting new people, it was really good meeting new people who were also starting out at the same place as I am." It was also good to hear from black-ish creator Kenya Barris, "who offered some good dos and don'ts when you're in a [writers'] room for the first or second time."
Owens is also in the mentorship program, which paired him with mentor Misha Green, creator of Underground. "We have a similar lens through which we are looking — both being younger, both being African-American — so a lot of our experiences seem to be similar, just in the conversations we've had and the questions that I ask her."
He's eager to be a mentor, too, when the time comes. "We have to help one another," Owens says. "There still aren't as many of us working in the industry as people would hope.
"But I think it is getting better, especially hearing stories that people who've come before me have told. Eventually you want to get to a point where you don't have such things as diversity hires and diversity initiatives. You want everyone to be represented and on equal footing. We're working on it."
CATALINA AGUILAR MASTRETTA
Born and raised in Mexico City, writer–director Mastretta has lived in Los Angeles for 10 years. She has made several films, including Everybody Loves Somebody, and directed three episodes of the Starz series Vida. She's currently working on a pilot for Amazon.
"I love Christy," she declares of CAA's head of multicultural business development, Christy Haubegger. "She goes out and makes the arguments for all of us who may not be the traditional storytellers, and who have not traditionally had a space to tell our story in Hollywood. Then when we go into those rooms, it's so much easier and welcoming."
Mastretta has participated in a number of events, including CAA Amplify.
"That was very interesting to me, because even there, I believe I was the only Latina immigrant in that room." At her next event, she wasn't the "only" anymore. "We did a panel of Latinas in the industry, part of the push for Latina Equal Payday. To be surrounded by women who share my experience was so inspiring.
"Usually, you have to be the ambassador for your point of view, or your group's point of view. Here, you're allowed to be who you are."
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 1, 2019