Tales From the Field: Stories From Mumbai and Johannesburg

Writers described their trips to India and South Africa at a powerful panel discussion titled “Tales From the Field,” held June 14, 2011 at the Writers Guild of America, West. Saying that there was nothing more powerful than “direct experience,” Hollywood, Health & Society Director Sandra de Castro Buffington had shepherded the group on an inaugural trip in May to Mumbai and Johannesburg, staying one week in each location.

In Mumbai, the group witnessed the immense amount of poverty, disease and hardship that afflict the community, and encountered children as young as 8 serving as heads of households. The writers also recalled their visit to a massive city dump where slum dwellers try to scratch out a living from any items of garbage that they can salvage.

“It’s a level of courage that we don’t see in just ordinary life,” said Karen Tenkhoff, development partner for Walt Disney Feature Animation.

Despite it all, the panel members were amazed by the resiliency of the community in Mumbai. Many of the local residents still managed to watch television (even if they had to “pirate” electricity to do so), and the panelists hoped that the power of TV and future storylines could be used to improve their health and lives. ➻ Watch video

Panel members:
• Dr. Zoanne Clack, co-executive producer, Grey’s Anatomy
• Jennifer Cecil, co-executive producer, Private Practice
• Michael Nash, director, Climate Refugees
• Karen Tenkhoff, development partner, Walt Disney Feature Animation
• John Max Burnett III, executive producer/co-creator, The Troop
• Carol Barbee, consulting producer, Hawaii Five-O
• Sandra de Castro Buffington, director, Hollywood, Health & Society; moderator