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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board    Screenwriting Discussion    Screenwriting Class  ›  Craracter Description And Race Moderators: George Willson
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Ares
Posted: August 9th, 2017, 12:43am Report to Moderator
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I am writing a script (more like "planning", but let's go with writing).

I feel that I should state my character's race or ethnicity in their introduction because I worry that my script will get whitewashed. Not for every single character though; only the ones that have an important speaking role.

But I worry that I might use the wrong word, cause a cultural misunderstanding, and offend someone. So, I ask, what is the currently accepted classification system? I think that whatever system the US government is using for IDs and Drivers Licenses and other documents will be alright?
Of course any system is going to offend someone, I know that much, but let's go with the one that will offend the fewest possible.

Can a spec have such details or it is generally frowned upon?
(I am going to write down any details that I deem necessary, because I am writing it, but I am curious to know )

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Warren
Posted: August 9th, 2017, 12:51am Report to Moderator
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I don't think any system will offend. Some obviously will but I think you are pretty safe with:

Black
Asian
Caucasian
Eurasian
Indian (From India)
Native American

Did I miss any?


To View All My Scripts Please Use The Link Below

My Website

My IMDb
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Dustin
Posted: August 9th, 2017, 2:48am Report to Moderator
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Do whatever you like. I'm not sure of the number of times Tarantino uses the word 'nigger' in his scripts, but I know it's a lot. Some people were offended by it - mainly white lefties (or do I have to say Caucasian lefties?) - but you shouldn't let that worry you. It didn't do him any harm.
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Heretic
Posted: August 9th, 2017, 7:47am Report to Moderator
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You can and should include such details if you think they're important.

The U.S. census recognizes White American, Black or African American, Native American or Alaska Native, Asian American, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, and two or more races.

If in doubt -- "Asian" is a pretty vague category, for instance -- you can always say Japanese, Filipino, Malaysian, Polish, Scottish, Japanese-American, Polish-American, etc.

Short of using outright racial slurs, I highly doubt any particular ethnic terminology in the action lines will cause offense.


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Steven
Posted: August 9th, 2017, 8:20am Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Dustin
Do whatever you like. I'm not sure of the number of times Tarantino uses the word 'nigger' in his scripts, but I know it's a lot. Some people were offended by it - mainly white lefties (or do I have to say Caucasian lefties?) - but you shouldn't let that worry you. It didn't do him any harm.


True, but Tarantino always has his characters say it in dialogue. Could you imagine if he used "nigger" as a description when introducing a character? That would be completely different, haha.
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Bogey
Posted: August 9th, 2017, 8:28am Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Dustin
Do whatever you like... not sure of the number of times Tarantino uses the word 'nigger' in his scripts...


Seriously? Never use that word as a description.  
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eldave1
Posted: August 9th, 2017, 10:31am Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Ares
I am writing a script (more like "planning", but let's go with writing).

I feel that I should state my character's race or ethnicity in their introduction because I worry that my script will get whitewashed. Not for every single character though; only the ones that have an important speaking role.

But I worry that I might use the wrong word, cause a cultural misunderstanding, and offend someone. So, I ask, what is the currently accepted classification system? I think that whatever system the US government is using for IDs and Drivers Licenses and other documents will be alright?
Of course any system is going to offend someone, I know that much, but let's go with the one that will offend the fewest possible.

Can a spec have such details or it is generally frowned upon?
(I am going to write down any details that I deem necessary, because I am writing it, but I am curious to know )



One thing you have to consider is whether or not - in terms of your story - the country of origin matters.

For example:

Latina/Latino can be used or even Hispanic. But if  Country of origin it is important to your story - then you might want to use something that is more specific - e.g., Mexican, etc.

Sometimes names are also enough. I am currently writing a script with a Vietnamese character. His name his John Nguyen.  I didn't think I needed to indicate he was Vietnamese.




My Scripts can all be seen here:

http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts
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Bogey
Posted: August 9th, 2017, 1:29pm Report to Moderator
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Words that are universally racist should never be used in a character description. Dialogue - sure, if it fits the characters.

There are racist terms for many of us based on origin, religion, race, etc.
Those words don't describe a character unless used by a character in dialogue to describe another character.

Also, even if you agree that the n-word is only offensive to white people (which I know for a fact is not the case where I live),  then you would also recognize that most of the film industry gate keepers are white. Why on earth would you risk offending them unnecessarily?
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ReneC
Posted: August 9th, 2017, 2:31pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Ares
I am writing a script (more like "planning", but let's go with writing).

I feel that I should state my character's race or ethnicity in their introduction because I worry that my script will get whitewashed. Not for every single character though; only the ones that have an important speaking role.



Go ahead and make your cast multicultural or multiracial, but unless it's integral to your story you don't really have control over whether or not your script gets whitewashed. It might help in some cases, and in others the producer or casting will simply ignore it.

As for what is politically correct, just read scripts and see how others are doing it. If I denote race, I do it across the board, even my Caucasian characters, unless it only matters for a specific role and then that's the only one I will specify race for. I've only ever done it twice, and both times the race, or at least the culture, was integral to the story.


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Warren
Posted: August 9th, 2017, 8:19pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted Text
“Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.”
         - Mark Twain


I like it, so I'll steal it.

So true.


To View All My Scripts Please Use The Link Below

My Website

My IMDb
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ReaperCreeper
Posted: August 10th, 2017, 12:09pm Report to Moderator
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I usually stick to not mentioning race at all unless it's important to the character's role or development in the story.

Examples:
-A racist skinhead character will obviously be white (or Latino for comic effect, I suppose) and it should be specified.
-A Black Panther revolutionary in a period piece drama will obviously be black.
-An interracial couple, who would likely experience culture clashes or different couple dynamics than single-race couples, should probably have their races specified.
-If you're making social commentary about affluent, predominantly white suburban neighborhoods, you should probably specify their race.

It's true that Hollywood usually takes "unspecified" or "color-blind" characters in screenplays to automatically mean "white," and that sucks.

But to be honest, I think you'd have very little control over it once you sell. Maybe I'm pessimistic and it's not like I've sold anything before anyway, but I've been led to believe that it's just the nature of the beast. Changing that would be a far more complicated undertaking than just being a diverse writer.

As for the n-word and other such terms, they can be used freely in dialogue if the context necessitates it, just like any other word. But I would definitely not use it in direction or description. That's just nasty. Seeing how Tarantino's been mentioned, he uses words like "black" or "white" to describe his characters, never the N-word outside of dialogue.

-Julio
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Ares
Posted: August 10th, 2017, 7:07pm Report to Moderator
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Thank you all so much for the interesting replies!

I think I have the answer

I am just curious though. I have seen some Script Sale Agreement templates online. Some seem to give everything, while others state that things like re-writes, additions, changes, etc, must be done by the orinal writer. Well, probably they won't sit down and negotiate with you if you have just your average everyday Spec, but I bet that people like Troy Duffy, Diane Thomas, Joe Eszterhas and many others could get much better deals for their specs than us the "common" spec-writers.

Anyway, writing something that good is unlikely, so I will have to add these details and weave an artistic net in my stories so that the producers and casting people will see the characters as I do. Alternatively I will have to go to California and do the movie myself.

Also, businessly speaking, a diverse cast should have a greater marketing potential, because more people will be able to identify with the characters. At least in theory. But then again I do not live in the USA to know.
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eldave1
Posted: August 10th, 2017, 7:09pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Ares
Thank you all so much for the interesting replies!

I think I have the answer

I am just curious though. I have seen some Script Sale Agreement templates online. Some seem to give everything, while others state that things like re-writes, additions, changes, etc, must be done by the orinal writer. Well, probably they won't sit down and negotiate with you if you have just your average everyday Spec, but I bet that people like Troy Duffy, Diane Thomas, Joe Eszterhas and many others could get much better deals for their specs than us the "common" spec-writers.

Anyway, writing something that good is unlikely, so I will have to add these details and weave an artistic net in my stories so that the producers and casting people will see the characters as I do. Alternatively I will have to go to California and do the movie myself.

Also, businessly speaking, a diverse cast should have a greater marketing potential, because more people will be able to identify with the characters. At least in theory. But then again I do not live in the USA to know.


From my research - they are a wide variety of agreements - you can check out the WGA for the standard. Just remember - anything can be negotiated.


My Scripts can all be seen here:

http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts
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Ares
Posted: August 10th, 2017, 8:43pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from eldave1


From my research - they are a wide variety of agreements - you can check out the WGA for the standard. Just remember - anything can be negotiated.


Exactly!
And if I like something other than scripts and movies, that's Legal stuff.
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Dustin
Posted: August 11th, 2017, 3:05am Report to Moderator
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Aside from the non-negotiable.
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