NBC Asian America took a seat with 4 filmmakers– Jeff Chiba Stearns (“Combined Match”), Nadine Truong (“I Can, I Will, I Did”), Robin Lung (“Finding Kukan”), and Tanuj Chopra (“Chee and T”)– throughout the 33rd Los Angeles Asian Pacific American Film Festival to discuss the challenges they’ve faced when knocking on Hollywood’s gates, what their most significant issues are when “whitewashing” ends up being the focus of movies, and how audiences can motivate better representation in the media they take in.
Note: Full filmmaker bios are consisted of below.When you’re
searching for stories to tell, what are the top things you look for when you first are discovering a story, finding the research study, and deciding to dive right into the topic?Jeff Chiba Stearns(“Mixed
Match”): I think first you have to be extremely interested in the topic. I’m Japanese, English, Scottish, German, Russian. So I prefer to focus a lot of my filmmaking around multi-ethnic identity because that’s a subject of interest for me. In America, multiracial individuals are ending up being among the fastest-growing demographics. I sort of feel like if we can catch these stories now, it type of brings it to the forefront.
So when it comes to “Blended Match,” we’re looking at a movie that explores why there are problems as our genes get more complex. It’s harder to match us when you’re looking for a hereditary twin for a bone marrow transplant. And that’s something I didn’t know about prior to [making the film], however realizing it stems beyond identity, and now it’s moving into the world of medicine and medical health. I think for me, it’s also good that, when you’re making a documentary, that there’s a call to action. We’re doing this to possibly heal the world a bit, you understand? Make it a much better place, or simply in essence with something like “Mixed Match,” essentially attempting to conserve lives, right? Since if we can inform individuals, educate individuals, influence people to join bone marrow pc registries, contribute cable blood of their child when they’re born, these are lifesaving procedures and things we can utilize to cure cancer.
Robin Lung (“Finding Kukan”): For myself, I’ve always been drawn to stories about females, both in fiction and nonfiction. So in my film career, I have actually focused on telling stories about ladies, and it so occurs that the films that I’ve dealt with have actually had to do with females of color. And as I’ve gone through my film jobs, I’ve found out how unusual ladies of color stories are in the media and how crucial it is to record them. That’s primary, but number two is truly: is it a story that will not let me go, you understand? There are a lot of stories that come into my head and I’ll think, “Oh, that would be a terrific movie.” But there’s just specific stories that truly stick to you and haunt you and they won’t let you sleep in the evening. And this is what “Finding Kukan” was, it was a story that literally remained in my dreams, it pushed me out of bed in the early morning. It was really that powerful.
Nadine and Tanuj, you’ve both directed narrative movies [that are revealing in this year’s celebration], however they’re still drawing on real-life experiences. How crucial is identity when it concerns telling your stories – when it comes to casting, writing, developing the vision for your movie?
Nadine Truong (“I Can, I Will, I Did”): For me, it’s not always solely based upon racial identity; it’s likewise about gender identity. [ “I Can, I Will, I Did”] offers a lot with growing discomforts and growing from a location of pain to a location of health, whether that’s mental or physical health. Which all sort of ties in with identity and determining who you end up being. How you react to adversity is something I’ve checked out in my own life, so the movie becomes a reflection of exactly what you learn and how much – you understand, once you have actually had enough space and range, you can also put it on screen and inform that story.
Tanuj Chopra (“Chee and T”): [Identity] is the heart of all work on some level, however it’s something we actively didn’t discuss a lot, to be sincere. We spoke about representation a lot, and with [“Chee and T”], we wanted to do something that wasn’t extremely culturally predetermined. For us, it was more about developing, stabilizing brown guys specifically, and developing a film that’s amusing and interesting and has an all brown cast, and features a wide variety of brown personalities instead of having, like, simply the sidekick character or the additional character. I mean, half the draw for our actors was that they get to play leads in the movie, and these are really great actors you see all the time in tv who don’t get to check out a character fully, and totally take a character through an arc.
I believe our film might be the same film if it starred all black individuals, all white individuals, all Latino individuals. It would be practically the exact same film, with a few specific jokes, and I believe that was very important for us due to the fact that we desired individuals to react to the comedy all over the nation, and not just be limited to culturally-specific humor or things that we’ve type of already seen.
Nadine Truong: I consider this question a lot, particularly since the question of … well, for instance, in casting, we have this whole whitewashing phenomenon today. We have actually constantly had it. The go-to explanation is constantly that it’s about who we can draw individuals into the film theater, and therefore they cast a certain method. And I’ve constantly felt that to be such a bullsh-t factor. “Avatar” has blue individuals in the films, and we can put inanimate objects onto the screen and it still draws audiences. It’s about the story, actually. Sure, there is “star power” to get individuals into the seats, but at the end of the day, you can have an excellent cast but if the story sucks and the filmmaking is subpar, the motion picture is going to tank. They’re not going to save you from that.
I read one screenplay/week for study purposes. Good to see Hollywood being racist in print. Keep in mind to everybody: do not call us “orientals”. pic.twitter.com/zXxNpJp3ho!.?.!— Nadine Truong(@NadineTruong
) February 4, 2017 I think individuals in Hollywood are very much drawn by the bucks
, but it’s misplaced. Now that the discussions are getting to be a bit mindful, there’ll be allies that will give us our own platforms to inform our stories. Because it’s not about”them”informing our stories; it has to do with providing platforms to people of color, to females to make that happen. We’re not asking to press out”white America “and the movies we already see. We’re just requesting that seat at the table. “There’s so much about representation of Asians in Hollywood, however what about that we have [multiracial identities] Does that count?” Jeff Chiba Stearns: I find it fascinating, being somebody who’s combined Asian … there’s sort of the between that gets blurred where you have actors like Keanu
Reeves and Olivia Munn who have “star power, “and they’re leading actors in Hollywood however they don’t necessarily identify as … well, Olivia Munn may take a stance where she says,”Yes, my mommy is Chinese “and she actively lets that be understood, whereas Keanu Reeves is a bit more quiet about things like that. At the same time … there’s a lot of combined Japanese directors doing great things in Hollywood. Daniel Destin Cretton is one of them, he’s directing”The Glass Castle. “You understand, we’re getting stories being told in that regard by individuals who may recognize as mixed. And I feel like that entire thing with “Aloha “and -exactly what’s her name again? I always forget … Robin Lung: Emma Stone? The popular hapa starlet, Emma Stone? Jeff Chiba Stearns: [laughs] Yeah. This is where perhaps the conversation often diverts. There’s somuch about representation of Asians in Hollywood, however exactly what about
the fact that we have [multiracial identities] Does that count? So the politics of casting: who gets to have a platform to inform their stories? We’ve spoken about financing. Is it hard when you go to people and state,”Here’s the film I wish to make. “Do you have to
make a great deal of compromises to get people to put their dollars where your movies are?Tanuj Chopra: We had to offer a great deal of case research studies of successful movies that were all white casts. The way to contextualize it for investors and funders is to state, like … if I’m making a funny, I put out”Pineapple Express” or”Sideways,”films that have resonance that they can connect to. I do not feel like that’s great. I don’t feel great about it since it’s already putting me creatively on this [level] I have to accomplish. I believe as much as we defend representation in Hollywood and we’re attempting so tough to find that Hollywood dollar, and we’re so explosive about exclusion- exemption and whitewashing are huge concerns in our neighborhoods-but we have actually had a history of making
independent films starring Asian Americans for 15, 20, 30 years. And I encourage our audiences, our buddies, our families to come out and support these films since when we reveal that we have traction, we can reach critical mass in our own neighborhoods and individuals will follow quite fast. To me, I can just look back and mention film after movie after film after movie for the last Ten Years that are fantastic Asian-American stories, from sci-fi to comedy to love stories. Not just”Better Luck Tomorrow,”but you can take it all the way down to “Charlotte Sometimes,” “Useful,””Colma: The Musical,”” Eve and the Fire Horse, “”Journey from the Fall” … I imply motion picture after movie after motion picture -accomplished, Sundance acclaimed photos have come out in our neighborhood, and frequently our neighborhoods are so focused on exactly what Hollywood is refraining from doing for us and not supporting exactly what we’re making. Robin, your documentary focuses on among those forgotten voices. Someone who became part of producing a film and then was basically removed from the narrative. How do you set about pitching that to individuals in the very first location when they might not already see there’s an issue?Robin Lung: I’ve been fortunate that individuals have actually acquired this story and have actually been helpful, however in the”mainstream,”I still don’t have a broadcast partner. The story’s made, but I’m understanding that it’s thought about a specific niche audience, that Asian Americans are”niche.” Tanuj Chopra: Do they believe your film is strictly for Asian Americans? Is that how they’re trying to market it? It seems like a universal story to me. Robin Lung: My punch line now toattempt and offer it is:”White men like it too!”Because in my audiences, I’ll have white males come near me and state, “Thank you for informing this story.”However I believe as soon as you state” history”and then there’s” Asian”connected, there’s a knee-jerk response that only a particular section of
the population is going to view it. I believe it’s lazy choice making by gatekeepers who aren’t actually taking risks.”As Hollywood starts to awaken, there are people who can
deliver. We’ve shown there are people who can deliver. “But I believe there’s a confident indication that television is starting to get up and it’s financial. I had a talk with the head of variety at HBO and a television author at a retreat, and they stated that in television, if a series does not have a varied cast, it will not last after its very first season. It’s known now in the tv world. They’re working with varied authors and they’re purposely putting
believe ultimately Hollywood is going to get up. I imply,< a href =http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/oscars-2017-hidden-figures-overtakes-la-la-land-to-be-highest-grossing-best-picture-nominee-a7567331.html >“Hidden Figures “outsold “La La Land” at package office. Tanuj Chopra: And look at”Moonlight”and “Go out.”Robin Lung: Yeah, things are going to begin improving. I’m of a confident mindset about it. Tanuj, you named all these fantastic movies. The good idea is we have this huge slate of fantastic stars, fantastic directors, people who are very skilled , so that as Hollywood begins to wake up, there are people who can provide. We’ve proven there are people who can provide. We talked to John Cho throughout the festival and we asked him about” Better Luck Tomorrow”and its tradition, and he stated he had mixed feelings since he hoped”it would be the very first of 20’Much Better Luck Tomorrows,'”however he doesn’t think that it was.Tanuj Chopra: It’s funny,
I was seeing”Better Luck Tomorrow”[ at the celebration’s opening night], and there’s a lot”Better Luck Tomorrow”in” Chee and T. “There are shots-whether knowingly or subconsciously-in the cars and truck having a discussion, on the grass like in” Better Luck Tomorrow”… Ithink I made another”Better Luck Tomorrow “in fact! Nadine Truong: You remixed it! [laughs] < source media ="(max-width: 480px)" srcset=https://media3.s-nbcnews.com/j/msnbc/components/video/201705/d_ov_aa_johncho_170504.nbcnews-ux-360-200.jpg >< source media ="(min-width: 480px)and (max-width: 767px) "srcset =https://media3.s-nbcnews.com/j/msnbc/components/video/201705/d_ov_aa_johncho_170504.nbcnews-ux-440-240.jpg >
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< img src=https://media3.s-nbcnews.com/j/msnbc/components/video/201705/d_ov_aa_johncho_170504.nbcnews-ux-1080-600.jpg title=”John Cho
: Variety Happens Naturally As Long As We Produce the Stories We Desired to Inform “> John Cho: Diversity Takes Place Naturally As Long As We Produce the Stories We Want to Inform autoplay Tanuj Chopra: However to act on John Cho’s remark … John Cho made”Better Luck Tomorrow “and then went into deep space. There in fact have been a hundred more “Better Luck Tomorrows” made. I’ve seen equally accomplished films come through the festival every year and it’s just that the media has to put more of a spotlight on our filmmakers, on indie filmmakers. Nadine’s made three movies. This is her third film! We have actually made a hundred “Much better Luck Tomorrows” because “Better Luck Tomorrow.”
Tanuj Chopra: Individuals have gone to Sundance, people have actually followed Justin Lin’s path. And not that Sundance is the only marker of anything, however there are individuals who have actually replicated this. In 2015, Andrew Ahn’s film “Medical spa Night.” There’s simply … every year there has actually been another “Better Luck Tomorrow.”
Looking ahead, what do you wish to see grow out of this celebration and influence what’s happening at that “mainstream” box office?Robin Lung: I hope that Asian-American audiences continue to grow, and I believe all of us need to work to build those audiences. Our media matters, and supporting motion pictures and going to enjoy movies and getting individuals out there to see diverse programs is really important. Nadine Truong: I ‘d like in the future -I mean, truly, right now- to see a lot
more lobbyists behind the camera and in powers of position who are females of color, particularly Asian-American ladies in really effective seats to make these stories take place. Tanuj Chopra: I hope that Asian-American artists and voices do not need to make any more compromises in their production, and that they‘re fully funded to execute their vision at the greatest level, just like other indie or function movie. I hope the resources are there to enable Asian Americans to express themselves at the greatest quality of craft. Not just to shoot digitally, like shoot on film. Shoot with the crew and cast you wish to deal with. I hope the voices in our neighborhood get the dignity of that level of treatment. And I concur: I hope we have more women-ladies of color, Asian-American female stories, Asian-American queer, transgender stories. I believe we’re missing out on out on a lot of stories and point of views today and it makes me ill when I take a look at the numbers in Hollywood. It makes me sick to my stomach when you take a look at who’s getting tasks and who’s not.”Rather typically our communities are so concentrated on exactly what Hollywood is not doing for us and not supporting exactly what we’re making. “Jeff Chiba Stearns: I think the National Movie Board of Canada< a href=http://variety.com/2016/film/news/national-film-board-of-canada-commits-50-of-production-budget-to-films-by-women-1201725856/ > announced that HALF of all the movies they’re going to
fund are going to be directed by women, so there are initiatives in location that are taking place, which is fantastic. You know, movies are altering, it cannot help but keep changing. Distribution is changing, it cannot kept but keep altering. So the way individuals consume their media is going to keep altering … so if less people are going to theaters, then things are going to have to begin waking up and possibly that’s
the revolution. That’s the way we’re going to tell our stories and get it out to the mass population. It’s not so much about the big Hollywood blockbusters anymore. Maybe it’s going to move. When? I do not know. I believe individuals are discovering stuff now, and that’s fantastic. I believe due to the fact that you have initiatives with< a href =http://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/hbo-announces-apa-visionaries-short-film-contest-focused-asian-american-n640226 > HBO and NBC and, I don’t understand about Netflix, but I do notice they’re buying more material that’s created by varied filmmakers … so individuals are discovering it. And that discovery is amazing for individuals who might not know that it exists. We still have a ways to go, certainly, however I believe it’s moving. Possibly that revolution is starting -slowly, however we’ll arrive. Nadine Truong: And those variety programs are truly terrific, but my dream is that they’ll not be required anymore at some point, that we’re so integrated and these stories are offered to the broader audience, and the broader audience desires to see it and to see those different perspectives and voices. This discussion has been modified for length and clarity.
The Filmmakers: Jeff Chiba Stearns(director,” Combined Match “)-Jeff Chiba Stearns is an Emmy-nominated and Webby acclaimed animation and documentary filmmaker. He founded Vancouver based boutique animation studio Meditating Bunny Studio Inc. in 2001 and has actually given that produced 9 short and feature animated and documentary.
Jeff’s work has relayed around the globe, screened in
numerous international movie celebrations and amassed over 35 awards. “Mixed Match”is Jeff’s 2nd function length documentary. Nadine Truong (director,”I Can, I Will, I Did “)-A German-born Vietnamese filmmaker, Nadine Truong made her MFA degree in Directing in 2009 from AFI. In 2006 she was a proud fellow of the Los Angeles Asian American Pacific Movie Festival’s ‘Armed With A Video Camera Fellowship’. Furthermore, she got the San Diego International Asian Film Festival’s prominent George C. Lin Emerging Filmmaker Award in 2010. Her feature credits include”Someone I Used to Know”and” Elder Job. “Robin Lung (director,”Finding Kukan” )-Robin Lung made her directorial debut with”Washington Place: Hawaii’s First House,”a 30-minute movie about Hawai’i’s historical governor’s estate and house of Queen Lili’uokalani( aired December 2008). She was the associate producer for”Patsy Mink: Ahead of the Majority,”Hawai’i system producer for”Vivan las Antipodas!,” and system producer for NOVA’s”Killer Tropical cyclone.”In 2015, she was a documentary fellow at the NALIP ARC filmmaker residency. Tanuj Chopra( director,”
Chee and T “) – Tanuj Chopra’s first feature film, “Punching at the Sun,”a story about South Asian teens maturing in Elmhurst, Queens has actually premiered at Sundance and Tribeca Film celebration. Range called the fiery launching” a display of talent that’s distinctive, original and iconoclastic.” Other titles he has directed consist of:” Chee and T,””Grass, “” Instructor in a Box,”and the web series,” Nice Girls Crew.”He is presently part of
the 2017 Fox Director’s Laboratory.