This summer, Zachary Price joined the Bunche Center in the newly created position of Assistant Researcher. Dr. Price has a Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara in Theater and Dance, an M.F.A. in Playwriting from the New School University, a B.S. in performance studies from Northwestern University, and experience in story development at Spike Lee’s 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks. He brings both scholarly understanding and practical experience to his work on Race and Hollywood, the Center’s major research initiative.
We recently had an opportunity to sit down with Dr. Price to discuss his background and the Race and Hollywood/Hollywood Advancement Project.
Ed. What is Race and Hollywood/Hollywood Advancement Project?
ZP. One of the main goals of the project is to produce a definitive analysis of the diversity [or the lack thereof] in the film and television industries. Through the Hollywood Advancement Project, we hope to be able to advise people within the industry on best practices around issues of diversity as well as generate scholarly publications for an academic audience.
Ed. What is your role on the project?
ZP. I’m working primarily as a researcher on the Race and Hollywood Project and I target funding from various sources to support the mission of the Center. I also assist in organizing and collaborating with the graduate student researchers who are a major part of the team.
Ed. What is the Center hoping to accomplish with this project?
ZP. Many people believe that because we have a few people of color who are visible in the industry that we’ve reached parity. We believe in this race-less, multicultural reality. But when you look at the data – and you can’t argue with the numbers – minorities and women are still underrepresented. However, the numbers only tell one part of the story. So I develop theoretical and conceptual frameworks to further flesh out the kind of statistical modelling that we are doing. The project looks at representation across the board, not just in terms of talent, but also above and below the line. We’re trying to get the broad strokes of what the industry really looks like and ultimately have a role in changing it.
Ed. As a scholar, what are your other research interests and how do they tie into Race and Hollywood, and Performance Studies, which was your emphasis in school?
ZP. I felt it was not enough to write about race and representation using performance theory. I wanted to put those theories into practice and affect change. I see the Race and Hollywood Project as a way of being involved as both a scholar and a practitioner. That’s also how I became involved with the Odyssey Project.
Ed. What is the Odyssey Project?
ZP. The program is a collaboration between UCSB’S Department of Theater and Dance and the Santa Barbara County’s Department of Youth Probation. It was a way to work with the Santa Barbara community. We work with juvenile offenders for a 6 week summer session where they collaborate with UC students and local artists to explore the heroic and mythological elements of the Odyssey through the arts. The program is going into its 4th year and has received funding from several foundations and is targeted for a major NEA grant. I collaborated with Professor Michael Morgan, the only African American Professor in the Department, and served as assistant director, fight choreographer, and mentor in this program. I also associate produced a short documentary film about the program.
Ed. Fight choreographer?
ZP. My dissertation “Transcultural Performance Disciplines: Embodying AfroAsia Through Martial Arts in Theater, Film and Everyday Practice” involved the martial arts, jazz, and dance. It was an amalgamation of my research interests [which include Black Performance, AfroAsian Studies, Ethnography, East Asian and U.S. Cultural Studies, Media Studies, Dramatic Literature, and Studies of Embodiment], and my experience in Aikido. The dissertation looked at performance as a strategy for political survival and transformation.
Download the Hollywood-Diversity-Brief-Spotlight-10-2013.
For background information on the Race and Hollywood Project, Click Here.