by Sheree L. Ross
Thanks to the opportunities created by Peak TV, the once-elusive female gaze is beginning to emerge on the small screen. Below, directors, writers and producers reflect on the female gaze in their work and the challenges of working in a medium in which the male perspective has reigned for so long.
Melissa Rosenberg, creator, “Jessica Jones”
On not writing “female characters:” “It’s not like Jessica is a ‘female detective’; she’s a detective. When it’s a guy, you don’t say ‘male doctor.’ That’s really how I approach this. Certainly, her character is informed by her gender. You go through the world as a woman, you have a different experience, but I never approached it as ‘this is a female character.'”
Rashida Jones, executive producer-director, “Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On”
On absorbing the male gaze: “We all have this internalized, unconscious bias because we live in a world that has primarily been seen through a male gaze. So we have also inherited a lot of that, and it’s really hard to break that habit. We live in a patriarchy and it’s really hard to escape that.”
Emma Frost, showrunner, “The White Princess”
On the male gaze: “The audience ought to be able to identify with a protagonist of either gender as long as that character is written as a human being. The problem has been, historically, the characters that have been constructed as human have always been the male characters. Female characters have been constructed as man’s other, a problem to be solved, a trophy to be won. Everything is about showing off the male prowess in relation to the woman.”
Jennie Snyder Urman, creator, “Jane the Virgin”
On objectifying men: “If we objectify anyone, we kind of make fun of ourselves for it. The humor is that we’re doing it to the men because it’s so often done to women. If we’re doing a slow-motion shot over [hunky male lead] Rafael’s body, it feels jarring because that’s something you normally see done to a woman. You’re so bombarded with what men think of beauty.”
On hiring women to direct 75% of this season’s episodes: “I always talk to the directors and I say this show goes through Jane. Covering Jane and how she reacts to everyone else is as important as what everyone else is saying because it’s filtered through her. … I hired the people who I felt understood that the most. A lot of them happened to be women.”
Moira Buffini, co-creator, “Harlots”
On sex scenes: “We feel a great responsibility towards actresses — and actors too. It is so intimate and invasive. You’ve got to be really careful and respectful of people. With female directors, we sort of knew without having to have the conversation that they would understand that delicacy.”
Ava DuVernay, creator, “Queen Sugar”
On the right way to think about women behind the camera: ”I can’t say what these women brought based on their gender. I just know that women have not historically had the opportunity to bring anything. The fact that they’re there and they’re bringing it is the story.”
Between the phenomenal success of “Get Out” and the failure of “Ghost in the Shell,” might Hollywood finally wise up?
Between the phenomenal success of “Get Out,” the imminent next chapter of the emphatically diverse “Fast and the Furious” franchise, and the recent failure of “Ghost in the Shell,” (among other examples), is there genuine reason to hope that racially insensitive blockbusters might soon become a thing of the past?
Vadim Rizov (@vrizov), Filmmaker Magazine
I think a lot about Bilge Ebiri’s 2013 piece on how the “Fast & Furious” franchise blew up by self-consciously becoming “diverse.” The short takeaway: Universal execs didn’t throw together a super-diverse cast out of the goodness of their progressive hearts, but out of a keen awareness that targeting multipole, oft-underserved demographics was a key, underexploited pathway to making much more money. It’s long been reported that there’s a big gap between onscreen representation and the audiences showing up: Latinos are the biggest moviegoers in the US, which you wouldn’t guess from the number (or lack thereof) of prominently cast Latinos onscreen.
So the examples cited are, sure, apposite, but what we’re really talking about here are two examples of black filmmakers breaking through plus one self-consciously “inclusive” blockbuster — hardly a monster wave, and anyone with a memory of how the late ’80s wave of black filmmakers ground to a halt after a while should be wary that non-white filmmakers are now, finally, about to become an integral part of the Hollywood apparatus, with attendant changes in onscreen diversity to follow; all it takes is one flop for the machine to change its mind (which is admittedly very stupid). So I’m sadly wary that we’re on the way to a more inclusive onscreen future.
Charles Bramesco (@intothecrevasse), Freelance for Vulture, Nylon, the Guardian
While it would certainly be nice if Hollywood got its shit together and stopped casting white people in nonwhite roles, and while I agree that there have been tiny incremental decreases in that practice year by year, I fear it’ll be a long time until it become a complete thing of the past. You trace a positive trend through “Get Out,” “Moonlight,” and “Fastly Furious 8: Fambly Matters,” but we could just as easily draw a less heartening conclusion from a glance at the next few months. By the end of June, we’ll have a film in which Guatemalan-born Oscar Isaac plays Armenian, something called “How to Be a Latin Lover” (gulp) from my beloved Ken Marino, and loads of all-white studio projects.
Things are definitely better now than they were as recently as 2014, but until people of color have been installed in key decision making positions, I fear a meaningful step forward will be impossible.
Manuela Lazic (@ManiLazic), Freelance for Little White Lies, The Film Stage
In our frequent tearful and angry comments against the big monster that is Hollywood, we critics often fail to recognise this industry’s undeniable complexity. Somewhat simultaneously, progress seems always on the cusp of realisation, while signs of Hollywood’s backward ideas about race and identity continue to surface in countless new films, especially blockbusters. In theatres this weekend, a brave spectator — or one into cognitive dissonance — can have herself a double-bill of the ground-breaking “Get Out” and the whitewashed “Ghost in the Shell” remake. Hollywood is a messy place.
Nevertheless, “Moonlight”’s exhilarating critical triumph (with a gobsmacking twist ending on Oscars night) and “Get Out”’s massive commercial success recently may make “Ghost in the Shell” seem like an anomaly, a last misjudged attempt by Hollywood to pursue its long-held tradition of reappropriation and flattening out of racial difference in favour of the majority. It almost feels like real change is taking place, which can explain the vigorousness of the outcry against “Ghost.” Yet while evidently justified, this violent dismissal also risks making us forget about the similar and in fact not so distant scandal of “Doctor Strange,” which followed many others. Despite all the anger that these previous films generated, such attitudes evidently persist.
Hollywood nonetheless always tries to give its audience what it wants, if only because this strategy makes economical sense. And this explains the very existence of a “Ghost in the Shell” remake: the original regained popularity in recent years by becoming more available to Occidental spectators and thanks to the surge of interest in anime. But as the casting of Scarlett Johansson blatantly reveals, Hollywood is a clumsy pleaser. It is willing to tap into different stories, but cannot fully commit to their specificity. In some cases, as with the casting of Tilda Swinton as “the Ancient One” in “Doctor Strange,” traces of Orientalism even emerge, where Asian cultures are not only populated with white people, but also made to look inaccessible, exotic, magical and even dangerous.
Perhaps the solution to Hollywood’s racial problem lies in this very desire to please: critics, and social media users in general, might have the power to guide the big studios on their tedious path to sensitive representation. Through trial and error — that is, unsatisfying attempts at diversity in films, then virulent attacks by spectators in the press and the media- the industry might eventually understand what is so wrong about itself, and finally deliver consistently racially conscious movies. Until then, we shall stay mad.
Kristy Puchko (@KristyPuchko) Pajiba/Nerdist/CBR
Man, I wish. And not just because I’m an alleged and unrepentant SJW, but also because wouldn’t it be amazing if films as original, challenging, and riveting as “Moonlight” and “Get Out” became the standard and not the exception?
Personally, I’m hopeful that the success of these films — as well as the box office success of “Hidden Figures”— will prove to Hollywood once and for all that white-straight-male need not be the default setting for any given story. And I expect we’ll start to see a shift toward more Black actors getting lead roles, instead of the parade of blandsome white ingendudes of which Hollywood seems to have an endless supply. But I’m doubtful the success of these movies will impact Hollywood’s loathsome tradition of Asian erasure, as Asians and Asian-Americans are all too often left out of the race and representation conversation.
It all comes from Hollywood believing only white heroes (often white men) sell movies globally (which is bunk). Yet, this year alone we saw examples of Asian erasure in “The Great Wall,” “Iron Fist,” and “Ghost in the Shell.” While not all are clear examples of white washing, each is a story that relishes in an Asian culture, while centering on a White protagonist. And that reduces Asian people to set dressing, even within their own stories. What needs to happen for this kind to change is not only the failure of such properties, but also the success of ones that dare to recognize Asian and Asian-American stars as more than cameos that’ll help bolster overseas sales. We’ll know a sea change is actually happening there when Asian/Asian-American women can front a story that doesn’t involve martial arts, or when an Asian/Asian-American man can be cast as the lead in a romantic-comedy. Because — as Jack Choi pointed out last year — allowing an actor to be seen as a sex symbol is a crucial step in making him a star.
Here’s hoping someone soon will finally realize the untapped potential of the internet’s crush John Cho, or that some clever producer will run with the swoons Dev Patel has stirred from his surfer-bro “Lion” look. Because here is the rare case where objectification could actually help in representation.
Richard Brody (@tnyfrontrow), The New Yorker
The “Fast and Furious” franchise has a diverse cast; so do the most recent “Star Wars” entries, and so does “Captain America: Civil War”; and these films’ successes have hardly ushered in a new era in empathy and justice. Or, rather, unfortunately, not at all. Big-budget, mass-market films are effects, not causes. The commercial success of these movies with diverse casts and the failure of “Ghost in the Shell” may give studio executives the hint they need. On the other hand, “Life” was a failure, too (the capital letter matters). On the third hand, one of the things that makes “Get Out” a great movie is its depiction of racial identity as a matter of historical consciousness and personal experience.
Tentpole movies don’t offer much of either — for people of any ethnicity; the amount of human experience that filters into these films is pretty slender overall. That’s why the diversity of casts needs to be joined by diversity behind the camera — executives, producers, directors, screenwriters; otherwise, the diverse casts (though important in themselves, as opportunities for the actors) will have little effect on the films’ substance.
Christopher Campbell (@thefilmcynic), Nonfics, Film School Rejects
The sad thing is that “Ghost in the Shell”s disappointing box office may not be seen as the result of the casting controversy, and maybe it is not entirely. But we’ve seen so many movies that have had similar issues, including “Gods of Egypt” and “The Great Wall,” unable to financially back up the offenses in terms of being what audiences want, that it has to be getting to Hollywood. Unless they see the success of films like “Get Out” and “Fast and the Furious” being enough to counter the films deemed insensitive, like “Ghost in the Shell,” which is a box office failure, and Doctor Strange, which is not. And they may be doing well enough outside America where the controversies don’t alway carry over, that they don’t care. Maybe the only way to tell if anything was learned with “Ghost in the Shell” is to see what happens with “Akira.”
Tasha Robinson (@TashaRobinson), The Verge
I don’t think we’re ever likely to be entirely rid of tone-deaf adaptations, for the same reason we’ll never be rid of bloated blockbuster sequels or dumbed-down copycats of hit movies: at least half of Hollywood is always chasing what looks like the safest payday, by trying to plug “bankable” stars into everything, regardless of appropriateness or optics. What the success of films like “Get Out” and “Hidden Figures” gets us that I find heartening is a new set of profitable stars. There’s always going to be some clueless money-minded Hollywood exec pushing Tom Cruise or Matt Damon for the lead role in a President Obama biopic, because “Their films make money, and making money is what’s important.” But as actors like Michael B. Jordan, Janelle Monae, Octavia Spencer, and Mahershala Ali gain more cachet as Hollywood moneymakers, we’re more likely to see their names come up in conversation. The success of films like “Get Out” and “Hidden Figures” — or, on another scale entirely, the admirably diversity-minded “Star Wars: Rogue One” — isn’t just a boon for people who want to see themselves reflected onscreen, and it isn’t just a boon for people who want to point to “diverse” films and say they make money and have an audience. It’s also a boon for producers and directors and casting agents who want to widen their net, and need to be able to point to past successes when they’re pitching future projects. The more “bankable” stars of color we have, the less likely we are to live in a world where Scarlett Johansson is seen as the only possible star for an action film about a tough woman, regardless of that woman’s race.
by Adrijana Lazarevic
August 1, 2016
Ease your workload (and your mind) with these free templates for everything from storyboarding to contracts to accounting.
[Editor’s Note: No Film School asked Adrijana Lazarevic to collect these 99 templates because of her expertise working with filmmakers at Filestage.io.]
No one really feels like doing paperwork, but let’s be honest: no good film comes without organization and planning. That’s where templates can help you out. I work at a startup that creates software for filmmakers, and we see how busy you are every day, so we collected the most helpful templates, guides and checklists out there to make your life a little easier. They really help save time for what matters most: letting your creativity flow and producing breathtaking movies that won’t be forgotten.
The categories covered in this list are: Script Prep/Pre-production, Storyboard/Mood Board Templates, Shot List Templates, Script Breakdown Sheets, Budgeting, Accounting, Personnel/Cast Forms, Insurance Forms, Equipment Documents, Production/Shooting, and Music Releases.
Much of your planning happens well before production, including trying to get investors on board and starting to determine who your audience will be. Here are some templates for early steps, including a form for “optioning” a story that you want to produce, and a director’s worksheet that lays out what you’d like to see happen in each scene.
1. Director’s Worksheet – Film Contracts
2. Guide to Formatting a Screenplay – Final Draft
3. Literary Option & Purchase – Sonnyboo
4. Ultimate Creative Brief – Filestage
5. Cinematography Pre-Production Checklist – Film Contracts
6. Buyer Persona Template – Filestage
Storyboard/Mood Board Templates
Storyboarding is a cornerstone of the filmmaking process. A storyboard is a sequence of drawings that paint a picture of the your storyline, showing the structure of, and vision for, key scenes. We’ve also included a moodboard sheet for establishing the visual style of your film.
7. Moodboard Template – Filestage
8. Storyboard – Filestage
9. Storyboard – Sonnyboo
10. Storyboard – Filmsourcing
11. TV Storyboard – Film Contracts
Shot List Templates
Organization is the key to a successful shoot. With the help of a shot list, you can easily arrange single shots within any given scene. You can determine, for example, the number of shots necessary to capture a particular action most effectively. Give it a try with one of these practical templates.
12. Shot List – Film Contracts
13. Shot List – Learnaboutfilm
14. Shot List – LAvideoFilmmaker
15. Camera Shot List – Filmsourcing
16. Camera Shot List Advanced – Filmsourcing
Script Breakdown Sheets
Here you can find helpful templates providing detailed descriptions of scenes, and the equipment and personnel assigned to each one. This way, you never lose sight, and can make sure everything is going according to plan.
17. Script Breakdown Sheet – Studiobinder
18. Breakdown Sheet – Michael Wiese Books
19. Script Breakdown Sheet – Sonnyboo
While making a film, you or your producer have to keep a lot of things in mind and, before you know it, you can easily go over budget. This compilation of templates will help make sure that you don’t lose sight of your financial statements. Some of them additionally provide examples of budgeting.
20. Sample Budget – Sonnyboo
21. Budget and Invoice Template – Fstoppers
22. Film Budget Top Sheet – Making the Movie
23. Questions & Budget Creation – Michael Wiese Books
Once you have a budget, you have to actually do the accounting. Maintaining an overview of your finances and money flow is crucial. Check your financial resources by making notes of their movement. These forms will help you keep track.
24. Amount Received – Film Contracts
25. Cash or Sales Receipt – Film Contracts
26. Promissory Note – Film Contracts
27. Daily Cost Overview – Film Contracts
28. Cash Flow Sheet/PO Log – StudioBinder
29. Final Cast List SAG-UBCP – Film Contracts
30. Check Request – Film Contracts
31. Invoice Template – Going Freelance
32. Simple Invoice Template – Steve Hall Video
33. Expense Report – HowtoFilmschool
From general contracts and agreements to crew templates, many of these forms are necessary to lay out a foundation for the business behind your film and get a good team on board.
Cast & Crew Lists
34. Crew Contact List – Filmsourcing
35. Cast and Crew List – Studiobinder
36. Cast List – Film Contracts
Crew Deal Memos, Contracts and Agreements
37. Crew Deal Memo – New Brunswick Filmmakers’ Co-Operative
38. Writers Deal Memo – Film Contracts
39. Deal Memos – Film Contracts
40. Producer Contract – ISP Group Inc
41. Producer Video Release & Contract – Film Contracts
42. Contractor Agreements – Film Contracts
43. Photographer Work For Hire – ISP Group Inc
44. Producer Agreement (Short Form) – Film Contracts
45. Producer Agreement – Sonnyboo
46. Producer’s Royalty Attachment – ISP Group Inc
47. Executive Employment Agreement – ISP Group Inc
48. General Proxy – ISP Group Inc
49. Consulting Agreement – ISP Group Inc
50. Investor Suitability – ISP Group Inc
51. General Partnership Agreement – ISP Group Inc
52. Joint Venture Agreement 1 – ISP Group Inc
53. Loanout Agreement – Film Contracts
54. Basic Actor Info Sheet – Sonnyboo
55. Casting Sheet – Film Contracts
56. Cast Scene Number Breakdown – Film Contracts
57. Cast Deal Memo – Film Contracts
58. Actor Contract – Sonnyboo
59. Freelance Actors Contract – Film Contracts
60. Personal Release – Film Contracts
61. Talent Release – PremiumBlog
62. Actor Release – Film Contracts
63. Freelance Performer Agreement – Film Contracts
64. Actor Player Casting Agreement – Film Contracts
65. Nudity Rider for Casting Agreement – Film Contracts
So you found the most suitable locations to portray your vision. Now, as with everything else, you need to do the paperwork and take care of business These templates have you covered.
66. Location Contact List – Film Contracts
67. Location Scouting – Filmsourcing
68. Location Fact Sheet – PremiumBeat
69. Location Information Sheet – Film Contracts
70. Cinematography Location Information Form – Film Contracts
Contracts & Releases
71. Location Contract – Film Contracts
72. Production Location Contract – Film Contracts
73. Location Release – PremiumBeat
74. Production Location Release – Film Contracts
75. Location Agreement – Sonnyboo
Keep in mind that life doesn’t always have a bright side. Especially when it comes to accidents or health problems. Therefore, always insure your crew, yourself and the equipment. These templates will get you started.
76. Insurance Claim Worksheet Personal – Film Contracts
77. Actor Insurance Claim Worksheet – New Brunswick Filmmakers’ Co-Operative
78. Insurance Claim Worksheet Damage – Film Contracts
79. Insurance Claim Worksheet Automobile Accident – Film Contracts
80. Injury / Illness Report Form – Film Contracts
A movie is usually not made by a smartphone in one hand and a music player in the other. You need a whole bunch of stuff, plus, you have to deal with it. Cameras, recorders, lights, a whole set, and so on; all this has its price and needs to be paid attention to. These forms can help.
81. Box / Equipment Rental Inventory – Film Contracts
82. Equipment List – Dependent Films
83. Video Equipment Rental Agreement – Film Contracts
84. Special Camera Rigging Authorization – Film Contracts
You’ve got your cast & crew, locations, and equipment and now you’re onto the shoot: the time when staying organized is most crucial. To avoid slip-ups, interruptions or any other negative factors that make your life as director harder than it should be, use these forms. This list includes call sheets, your essential tool for communicating requirements with everyone on set.
85. Production Tracking Form – Film Contracts
86. Filming Notice – Filmsourcing
87. Production Requirement – Film Contracts
88. Shot Log – Film Contracts
89. Scene / Take Log – Film Contracts
90. Daily Production Report – New Brunswick Filmmakers’ Co-Operative
91. Continuity Log Sheet – Filmsourcing
92. Actors Production Time Report – Film Contracts
93. Call Sheet – Filmsourcing
94. Call Sheet – Cast and Crew Call
95. Call Sheet – StudioBinder
96. Call Sheet Cast – Film Contracts
Imagine movies without any music—unthinkable! Music is an essential part of a film experience. But, just as films have their patents and rights of use and enjoyment, sounds and music do too. And the legal use of music can be complicated. Here are some of the papers that help you do things right.
97. Sound Report – Filmsourcing
98. Music Reference – Filmsourcing
99. Music Release – New Brunswick Filmmakers’ Co-Operative
Legacy institutions like The Washington Post have massive archives full of truly amazing stuff. And increasingly, their current employees are going digging for cool finds to revisit—for instance, a new project to highlight coverage of women written by women.
Poytner reports on the WaPo effort, which started with the notion of picking out profiles of women, before developing the concept a little further:
On Tuesday, #womenbywomen debuted with social cards, a hashtag and a new presence on the Web. There’s Donna Britt on Alice Walker from 1989, Sally Quinn on Alice Roosevelt Longworth from 1974 and Lynn Darling on Maya Angelou from 1981. There’s also Martha Sherrill on Madonna from 1991, Marjorie Williams on Sandra Day O’Connor from 1989 and Elisabeth Bumiller on Gloria Steinem from 1983.
In a Medium post announcing the move, the Post’s Julia Carpenter encourages readers to go hunting for additions to the list and share them on Twitter under the hashtag. If you want to get really wild, you can expand your explorations to the Google newspaper archive. Just don’t forget to come up for air every once in a while, of course.
Article Source Jezebel
FilmCloud Distribution Announces Independent Film Signings during South by Southwest Film, Music and Interactive Event
AAHollywood(TM) Market Films Now Available on FilmCloud Distribution’s Global Streaming Platform
Austin, TX – FilmCloud Distribution, LLC announced at SXSW that it has acquired several new titles during the film festival from indie filmmakers, adding to the platform’s growing library of multimedia content. Independent Filmmakers are excited about FilmCloud’s distribution model and their ability to generate revenue from distributing their films through FilmCloud Distribution.
Indie filmmakers are excited and encouraged by the new distribution model. “FilmCloud looks good,” proclaims Fedor Lyass (Moscow, Russia by way of LA) filmmaker and director of photography of the highly anticipated Hardcore Henry. “You are doing the right thing!” Dallas’ award winning director Jacolby Percy (Richetus Cry) agrees, “I really like the layout. The overall look is sleek, easy to use, and doesn’t have a lot of clutter like most streaming sites. Being able to navigate and find what you’re looking for is always a priority when your film is shown on any platform.”
FilmCloud has opened its AAHollywood market segment for FREE viewing during SXSW and through April 1, 2016. A limited number of quality independent films are immediately available for streaming on any device, anywhere in the world.
AAHollywood(TM) is FilmCloud’s trademarked market designation for its “All Americans’ Hollywood” or North American market, representing the diversity of the independent filmmakers throughout America; specifically African-American, Latin American, Native American, Asian-American, as well as independent filmmakers of European descent who support and tell the stories of America that are inclusive of All Americans.
Go to www.myFilm-Cloud.com and click on the North American continent to see the current and growing library of films. FilmCloud has a backlog of films currently under quality review. Those approved will proceed to contract and then on to FilmCloud’s global distribution platform.
FilmCloud Distribution LLC will be hosting its second event for independent filmmakers in Austin, Texas during SXSW at Coopers Old Time Bar-B-Que, 2017 Congress Ave, 78701. Come out and learn about the FilmCloud’s platform, Saturday, March 19th, at 11am – 12:30 pm.
Filmmakers may add their independent film to FilmCloud’s streaming platform today at no cost.
About FilmCloud Distribution LLC
FilmCloud is a minority, women owned company that operates a globally focused distribution platform for multicultural independent filmmakers. They are intensely focused on helping the filmmaker generate revenue and viewers for their films.
Article Source Dallas Weekly
Tuesday, Mar 22, 2016 02:35 PM CST
Justin Lin: If we want more diversity in Hollywood, “the general public has to demand it”
The “Fast & Furious” director’s plan to support Asian American artists is one of several new diversity programs
Paula Young Lee
In 2016, the fact that Hollywood made a sequel to #OscarsSoWhite has energized longstanding conversations regarding systemic racism and sexism in the entertainment industry. In its wake: a rash of new initiatives aimed at diversifying television, film, and theater. As the squeaky wheels of progress turn inside the Hollywood machine, a few film directors are doing their part to pull it into the 21st century.
Director Ava DuVernay (“Selma”) founded the film distribution collective, Array, and hired women and people of color for the currently-filming production of the OWN network television series “Queen Sugar.” “Star Trek: A New Hope” director J.J. Abrams’s production company, Bad Robot, will henceforth require that women and people of color be submitted for writing, directing and acting jobs in proportion to their representation in the U.S. population. A new non-profit, We Do It Together, aims to finance and produce films, documentaries, TV and other forms of media that will challenge stereotypes regarding women, and its advisory board includes directors Catherine Hardwicke, Hany Abu-Assad, Amma Asante, Marielle Heller, Katia Lund, Małgorzata Szumowska, and Haifaa Al Mansour, among others.
In 2010, YouoffendmeYouoffendmyFamily (YOMYOMF), the Asian-centric blog and entertainment website founded by director Justin Lin (“Fast and Furious” series, currently filming “Star Trek Beyond”) initiated a competition, “Interpretations,” which asked aspiring Asian-American filmmakers to develop and shoot a 3-minute short around a four-line script. A resounding success, it is being run again this year, with a script written by Tony-award winning playwright David Henry Hwang. The four lines are:
Don’t do that.
I have my doubts.
What is it?
(Confused? Here is a funny example of how it works.) The winners get the opportunity to craft a project for the initiative’s lead sponsors, Comcast and NBC Universal (NBCU).
In a recent interview, Lin told me the more the public gets behind these works and artists—both in front of and behind the camera—the more we’ll see things start to change.
“After I made ‘Better Luck Tomorrow’ and started taking meetings in Hollywood, I quickly learned that Asian Americans weren’t even in the conversation as a minority, since there wasn’t even a significant enough audience, and especially an audience for Asian American content,” he said. “I think it’s changing now with shows like ‘Dr. Ken,’ ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ and ‘Master of None,’ but obviously when we look at the film side, there’s still a lot to be done.”
“Interpretations” is the first initiative for the nonprofit YOMYOMF Foundation, which supports Asian American talent, and more programs are on the way. Lin says he started the foundation because he knows talented artists are out there, they just need opportunity and mentorship.
“I’m the child of immigrants. My Taiwanese parents came to America with no money and supported my brothers and me as small business owners in Orange County, which is close to L.A. but about as far away from Hollywood as you can be. I didn’t know anyone in the industry, but had a great deal of people help me along in my path,” said Lin. “I made a lot of mistakes along the way, but feel incredibly lucky to be in the position I am now and to be able to play a small part in trying to support talented, aspiring young filmmakers out there through a program like ‘Interpretations’ who, like me, had the desire and passion, but no connections to the industry.”
Lin also says if we want to see more diversity in film, “the general public has to demand it.”
“It’s about supporting the many talented artists and filmmakers out there trying to create work from that marginalized point of view,” he said. “Go out and buy tickets to their movies and plays, support their crowd sourcing campaigns, show the industry that there is a viable audience for this work.”
The pronounced under-representation of Asian-Americans in the entertainment industry has not gone unremarked. The Asian American Arts Alliance of New York, for example, just announced the launch of a new theater fellowship aimed at supporting young artists and directors of Asian descent by providing them with a stipend, mentorship, and other forms of support. When marginalized groups have limited access to opportunity, it shows up in various ways, including the ongoing drama of #OscarsSoWhite. As the Economist explains:
Oscar nominations have not dramatically under-represented black actors. Instead, they have greatly over-represented white ones. Blacks are 12.6% of the American population, and 10% of Oscar nominations since 2000 have gone to black actors. But just 3% of nominations have gone to their Hispanic peers (16% of the population), 1% to those with Asian backgrounds, and 2% to those of other heritage.
Given that Asians are not only are 60 percent of the world’s total population but Asian-Americans are also the highest income and fastest growing racial group in the U.S., it is statistically improbable that they are barely a blip at the entertainment industry’s most prestigious award ceremony.
YOMYOMF announced the second “Interpretations” competition this past weekend at the annual film fest organized by the Center for Asian-American Media in San Francisco. CAAM Fest, explains YOMYOMF creative director Phil Chung, “has been supportive of Justin from the very beginning when he came here with his UCLA feature, ‘Shopping for Fangs’,“ and so there has been a longstanding connection between Lin and the organization. “Seeing the packed 1,400 seat Castro Theater for CAAMFest’s opening night,” Chung tells me, “was a visceral reminder that there is a huge audience out there hungry for Asian American content–stories by, for and about our communities.”
A few television executives have already figured out that this audience is out there. Karen Horne is Senior Vice President of Programming Talent Development & Inclusion for NBC Entertainment and Universal Television. For many years, she explains, Comcast and NBC Universal have supported CAAM Fest, so partnering with “Interpretations” was a natural segue. The company’s diversity push (opportunities linked here) date back to 2000, when NBC “initiated a diverse staff writer initiative that has given start to many people like Mindy Kaling, Alan Yang, Danielle Sanchez-Witzel and many, many more,” she emphasizes. “Our initiatives go far beyond my department as well. It is company-wide and is a part of our DNA.” The winners of “Interpretations” will be featured at NBCU’s Short Film Festival finale in October.
Horne couldn’t promise me that NBC Universal would pick up where ABC left off and build a new comedy around John Cho, of the late, lamented sitcom “Selfie,” but did affirm that casting for new shows under development is “still underway, and I’m enthusiastic that this year, we will see more diversity across the board.”
The key phrase is diversity across the board. When all the other factors are taken into account, the tiny number of Asians in popular media is especially egregious, but Natives and people of Middle Eastern descent are so marginalized they often don’t even get mentioned in “diversity” conversations. The point is that Lin, DuVernay, Abrams and other directors are implementing their convictions, taking financial risks, and using their focused spheres of influence to change cultural perceptions. The result? Great visual storytelling and fantastic entertainment. Let’s demand more of this.
Paula Young Lee is the author of “Deer Hunting in Paris,” winner of the 2014 Lowell Thomas “Best Book” award of the Society of American Travel Writers. She is currently writing outdoor adventure books for middle grade and young adults. Follow her on Twitter @paulayounglee