HOLLYWOOD - As a child performer, Mark Reed was exposed to the Hollywood industry by his cinematographer father and uncle, Jeff Konekamp. (Konekamp won an Oscar for his work on the 1970s disaster film, "The Towering Inferno.") At the age of 16, Reed began his own Hollywood career as a stuntman. After leaving the industry to raise a family, Reed returned in 1997 with a string of appearances on TV. Reed landed roles in "The Toon Town Kids," "Purgatory," "The Magnificent Seven" and "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman." This year Reed will star in his biggest role to date in "The Reawakening" with Michael Greyeyes.
Despite his acting experience, Reed has another function today in Hollywood that looms larger than what he's done as a performer. He is the chairman of the Native American Caucus for the Screen Actors Guild. After serving on the board for the EEOC (Equal Opportunity for People of Color), Reed was nominated for the chair of the Native American Caucus in November 2002. Since then Reed has triumphantly reached out to Native members of SAG. Through a suggestion box, Reed discovered what issues members wanted addressed and included them in the monthly meetings.
Reed invited producers, writers, casting agents, publicists and directors to meetings and Native SAG members were able to express their voice, and ask industry professionals questions regarding their careers and Native entertainment. Now a success, Reed is happy that Native performers have a door opened to them through the Caucus.
A major concern for Reed is that Native performers are falling from the radar of the industry. An article in The Hollywood Reporter earlier this year reported that Native American acting parts on TV and film have dropped 2 percent this year from an 8 percent increase in 2001. Even though there is change in diversity from the major studios at CBS, ABC, NBC and FOX, it hasn't changed the fact that Native performers are not seen. Reed has stated that, "Native representation onscreen is responsible by the representation of writers who write their own perception of Native performers." A representative from the Writer's Guild who visited the Native Caucus denies this even though the statistics seem clear. The percentage of Native writers is also very small in the Writers Guild.
Reed is also trying to meet with the SAG board to raise the issue of health care and benefits for Native performers. He doesn't want to stop there. By reopening a 1946 proposal resolution for African American performers and using it as a model for Native SAG members, Reed hopes his new proposal resolution will grab the attention of the SAG President, actress Melissa Gilbert to further support Native members.
Reed suggests that Native America has to express their views on representation in the media. He suggests writing letters to the Diversity departments at the major studios and demand proper representation. Or, you can write to Reed at email@example.com.
The Native American Caucus will resume their monthly meetings after a screening of the ABC miniseries "DreamKeeper" on Nov. 12. The diversity department at ABC is opening their doors to Native performers to watch this television event that will air in December. In January, the Caucus will have a mixer and invite more casting directors to meet Native SAG members. Reed hopes to continue his work in helping the voice's of Native performers to be heard in Hollywood.