By Louis Chan AsAmNews National Correspondent
A panel of Asian American Hollywood veterans and the creator of #StarringJohnCho campaign expressed optimism that the future is brighter for Asian American representation in Hollywood.
The conversation led by KABC news anchor David Ono was part of the Asian American Journalists Association convention held in Las Vegas last week.
“Media, mainstream, digital have been covering every utterance,” said Janet Yang about the news coverage of Chris Rock and Sacha Baren Cohen’s jokes about Asians during the Oscar telecast. Yang, a Hollywood producer, whose films include The Joy Luck Club and People v Larry Flynt, was among the contingent of Asian Americans who met with the Academy after the telecast.
The meeting followed a sharply worded letter from 25 Asian Americans working in Hollywood to the Academy expressing their concerns. The letter which was leaked to the media set off a firestorm in Hollywood.
Quoting Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker and former Governing Board member Freida Mock, Ono said through that letter Asian Americans were “‘allowed to put a spotlight on this issue and talk openly about it.”‘ Mock drafted the letter to the Academy that was signed by 25 Asian Americans.
Soon after the letter and the meeting, 70 Asian Americans were invited to become voting members of the Academy.
Just before that came the #StarringJohnCho campaign which lead to more discussion about the lack of Asian American
representation and opportunities in Hollywood.
It was “a reaction that was smart, witty and caused dialogue,” said actress Tamlyn Tomita, who will have a regular role
in the upcoming Epix Channel series Berlin Station which debuts October 16.
“We’re crying out for opportunity to audition, to go into the room to be seen as main characters and not just
the sidekick,” Tomita Said.
The man behind #StarringJohnCho was William Yu, a marketing strategist based out of New York.
Yu is a self-described film and TV nerd. He also knows what he’s doing and was invited by his employer to talk
about his viral campaign to his co-workers.
RELATED: The Man Behind #StarringJohnCho
“#Starringjohncho would not have lived if it was just a hashtag,” said Yu. “We stimulated that conversations with the
movie posters. As a strategist, for me, it’s about where is the white space in this issue that will be different.”
Interestingly, Yu said 35 percent of the conversation triggered by his campaign took place outside of the United States.
In the last five years, the American movie market has declined and the world market has started growing.
“Hollywood doesn’t have the same hold,” added Yang. “Consequences are going to be huge.”
China and Legendary Pictures, which is owned by Chinese, is right in the middle of the latest whitewashing controversy. The Great Wall will star Matt Damon, a heroine who saves China from evil Monster in the 10th century.
“This has been the Hollywood paradigm for decades and no one has challenged it including China,” said Yang.
Both Hollywood and China need each market and both have been trying to cater to the other.
Yang is hopeful Damon will not be the only hero from the film. According to her, there will be five heroes in the film.
It’s not yet known if any will be Asian, but she says every studio and network now has a diversity program.
Television has learned that diversity sells and studios may be coming around too.
The panelists urged the journalists in the audience to further the issue with their coverage.
“You have the power to continue the conversation a little more loudly,” said Tomita. “This is just the beginning.”
(note from the editor: This article has been updated to correct where Yu is based and to provide more details about Mock’s background).
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