Hard News by Russell Brown


Really seeing more of ourselves on screen

Television is not, as we all know, reality. And "reality television" is sometimes especially not. But we do rely on it to reflect some version of ourselves. Done right, it helps us define who we all are.

It's odd to think that until Shortland Street launched in 1992, there were basically no Pacific Islanders in prominent screen roles. In doing do, it sometimes ran ahead of reality: when Caterina de Nave pushed for the character of Sam Aleni, there was actually one medic of Pacific Island  heritage in the whole country.

Shortland Street has since been a leader in both portrayals of people with disabilities, and in using actual disabled people on screen. One such person is Philip Patston, who's one of the prime movers behind a push to get more diversity on screen, not only in programming but in advertising too.

To that end, he and others set up Unique Extras, a talent agency for the different and differently-abled. Having done that, they're now in the next phase: demonstrating public support for what they do.

You'd be doing a service to a stronger community if you were to go here, click on the link to affirm your support for "more diversity on screen" and complete the short survey on the landing page. You're helping make the case, basically.

Also on that page -- spoiler! - is a short video I helped Philip with last year. I was worried about whether I had anything to say, but looking at it now, I seem surprisingly lucid. I guess my key point was that the public very often leads the broadcasters in this kind of progress -- we're ready long before they think we are:

Prove me right.

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