In Downtown Manhattan, the first East Coast Asian American Writers Network dinner was held on January 13, Variety reports.
Fifty young writers, industry executives, filmmakers, actors, and other creative minds gathered to network, share work experiences, and raise their voices about the lack of Asian American representation in entertainment.
Amazon co-hosted the event alongside several other organizers including writer and co-founder Mary Park. Producer Toni Wang made sure the cuisine at the dinner was made exclusively by local Asian American caterers.
The New York event was inspired by its west coast version, the Asian American Writers Brunch in Los Angeles, which was founded in July 2019. The first brunch, according to a Variety article published in August 2019, was held specifically for Asian American female writers.
After reading about the first brunch, Park reached out to one of the brunch’s co-founders, Jennifer Hsu, hoping to start a New York version. Hsu then contacted Michelle Sugihara, executive director of the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (CAPE), to help coordinate.
At the dinner, Park spoke on the lack of Asian American representation in the entertainment industry. During her speech, she referenced the lack of Oscar nominations for The Farewell, a 2019 film that deals with a family’s decision to not tell their beloved grandmother about her impending death. Park also criticized other award shows, such as the BAFTAs, for its lack of diversity.
“We need to change that, and we need to change that now,” Park said in her speech according to Variety. “Asians get things done.”
Diana Son “Dirty John,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “Blue Bloods” and “13 Reasons Why” gave a talk and Q&A. The talk was moderated by Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, a television writer and consulting producer of Law and Order: SVU.
Cullen praised more concrete measures to increase Asian American representation, including the Television Diversity Tax Credit Bill. It offers incentives for networks to hire television writers and directors of color.
The process took “years” of convincing representatives, but Governor Andrew Cuomo recently signed the bill into law, Cullen said.
Networking events help Asian American writers find jobs. Hsu said she has eight similar events planned for this year.
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