Creative Gold Beyond
the Yellow Ceiling
Observation on the Current
State of Diversity
LEA SALONGA (star of a non-Asian lead role in Les Miserables
and a recent Tony-award winning artist) is told “They don't want
you to audition because you're Asian" - the situation merits serious
review of the factors behind the reasoning. The “Yellow Ceiling
(the almost unexplainable difficulty that artists of Asian descent face
achieving acceptance in race-neutral roles in America) described in Nelson
Handel’s recent Los Angeles Times article profiling Lea Salonga
has been stated as the most prominent obstacle faced talented artists
of Asian descent.
COMMERCIAL SUCCESS for today’s films and television
programs are increasingly dependent on oversea sales - film and television
productions have incorporated Asian influences, increasingly utilizing
international/Asian artists and remade classic Asian movies (The Grudge,
Ring 1 & 2, Shall We Dance, Scorsese/DeCaprio in The Departed and
others). Considering these patterns, it is puzzling why Hollywood still
continues to miss opportunities to utilize prominent artists of Asian
descent in lead roles; for Asian males, leads have declined 35%, only
1% of the directors of TV’s top 40 shows are Asian American (DGA)
and the Asian population are cast in only 2.5% of all TV/theatrical roles
available (SAG) despite representing 3.8% of the general public.
LONG-STANDING CASTING and production pattern started in
the 1920s and continues to the present day where artists such as Anna
May Wong, Sessue Hayakawa, George Takei, Bruce Lee, John Lone, Joan Chen,
Margaret Cho, Lea Salonga and others have long suffered. While proven
box office draws such as Chow Yun-Fat, Jet Li and Jackie Chan have publicly
spoken of their great desire to be offered a greater diversity of roles,
one wonders why they continued to be turned down?
DREAM FACTORY has traditionally shown strange and stereotypical
“yellowface” visions of Asian leading characters in movies/TV
programs such as Kung Fu, Charlie Chan, the evil Fu Manchu, Genghis Khan,
The Good Earth, Dragon Seed, Teahouse of the August Moon, Bugs Bunny Nips
the Nips, Inn of the Sixth Happiness and Breakfast at Tiffany’s,
all roles portrayed by Caucasian actors in yellow cake makeup. What with
authenticity a heated debate in Hollywood, one would hope that such stereotypes
would swiftly decline and instead be substituted with accurate representations.
ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN COMMUNITIES have not exactly made
it easier with various artists of Asian descent (i.e. Lea Salonga/Ms.
Saigon, Anna May Wong/Thief of Baghdad, Lucy Liu/Ally McBeal, Gedde Watanabe/16
Candles, FOX’s Banzai, American Idol’s William Hung, etc.)
being magnets for conflict over multiculturalism, either.
RACIAL DIVERSITY AND MULTICULTURAL WORLD that our children
see every day - in school, at sporting events, at the doctor’s office
– are not currently visible on prime time, when they are most likely
to be watching television. Recognizing that 40% of American youths are
children of color should and must create an environment of plurality.
Given the lack of a clearly defined majority group in today’s Hollywood,
non-traditional casting or blind-casting - as defined by David Henry Hwang
as the point where Jonathan Pryce can play Asian without causing a protest,
but only if James Earl Jones can play Italian and B. D. Wong can play
a Jew should apply to any and all media entities that want to stay successful
– creatively and financially.
WHEN IT COMES TO RACE and culture, people don't listen;
they go in with their minds made up . . . . and then try to batter the
other side with their opinions. This professional attitude was clearly
evident at a recent event where Michael Lynton (Chairman and CEO of Sony
Pictures Entertainment), when asked what the next ten years held for Hollywood
as a business, stated in essence that the people who had run Hollywood
"in 1920" were still running it now and would still be running
it "ten years from now."
WONDER HOW LONG IT WILL TAKE the rest of the world to
understand, as Steven Spielberg, Lucy Fisher and Douglas Wicks have appropriately
noted that “the creative process of casting has traditionally allowed
filmmakers the freedom to choose the most talented, skilled and renowned
actors for each role. . . Criticizing a film because of an actor's birthplace
or race is as ugly as it is wrong.” We hope that their insight will
be an invaluable catalyst to identify much-needed changes in Hollywood’s
mentality while providing opportunities for prominent artists of Asian
descent in future non-traditional/color-blind casting choices in future
SOON will the Asian Pacific American communities see non-traditional
choices similar to those being offered to the Black communities such as
Bernie Mac/Ashton Kutcher’s “Guess Who,” Ving Rhames
in “Kojak,” Denzil Washington in Shakespeare’s “Julius
Caesar,” James Earl Jones/Leslie Uggams in “On Golden Pond”
and Cedric the Entertainer/Mike Epps/Regina Hall/Gabrielle Union in “The
Honeymooners" that were previously denied? With five films opening
at #1 featuring a Black American in 2005, as of March 28, a pattern for
success can be seen.
SMALL SAMPLING OF THE CREATIVE GOLD beyond the yellow
ceiling to choose from include Sandra Oh, Lucy Liu, Daniel Dae Kim, Kristin
Kreuk, Zhang Ziyi, Ming-Na, Parminder Nagra, Ken Mok, Ken Watanabe, Gurinder
Chadha, Aishwayra Rai, Teddy Zee, John Woo, Alex Tse, Will Yun Lee, Wayne
Wang, Jackie Chan, Ang Lee, B.D. Wong and M. Night Shyamalan.
State of Diversity
Despite steady but modest
gains over the last seven years, women and minority writers still
lag behind their white male counterparts in jobs and pay for film
and TV work, according to an industry study to be released today.
study by the Writers Guild of America, West, found that minorities
accounted for about 10% of the 3,015 employed television writers
in 2004, while women made up 27% — even though those groups
represented more than 30% and 50% of the population, respectively.
film, women represented 18% of the 1,770 employed film writers in
2004, while all minority groups combined accounted for just 6% of
the total, virtually unchanged since 1998.
AUGUST WILSON'S INCENDIARY WORDS
that "culture has not always been valued; it certainly has not been
valued by white America” still ring true today? Acknowledging his
words that the media is a powerful conveyor of cultural of cultural values
and a tool to disseminate information, how can we as a creative community
create, build and implement programming that allow media outlets (as alluded
by Robert Brustein – The New Republic theater critic) to accomplish
what it does best, to be a unifying rather than a segregating medium?
HOPE THAT AN IMPORTANT FIRST STEP will include
the upcoming nationally televised and technology-driven event - AAA
Celebrations (aka “Hollywood’s Celebration of Asian
American Artistry") - where Hollywood’s elite celebrates
the artistry and influence of artists of Asian descent, and offers them
the full recognition that’s long been overdue.
WHAT WOULD HAPPEN in the above-listed AAA Celebrations
if one could witness a medley of David Henry Hwang’s version of
Flower Drum Song sung together by Lea Salonga/Sumi Jo/Vanessa Williams/Jackie
Chan, the energy when Dan “The Automator” Nakamura/Linkin
Park/P.O.D. performs together, when Yo-Yo Ma-Silk Road Project/Twelve
Girls Band/Kitaro/Ahn Trio interweave their “East meets West”
aural magic and/or when B.D. Wong/Maggie Cheung/Sandra Oh/Keanu Reeves
are playing characters in a Shakespeare play – all on one night.
Could a monochromatic Hollywood be blossoming into dazzling array of blazing
colors of artistry reflecting multiple cultures for all to behold!
WRITERS Calvin Jung
Actor and Activist: Co-starred in "The Formula" with Marlaon
Brando and George C. Scott,"Lethal Weapon 4 with Mel Gibson and Danny
Glover, "The Challenge" with Toshiro Mifune Dir. by John Frankenheimer,
"The Day After" with Jason Robards, "RoboCop" with
Peter Weller. Among the shows "Sly Fox" w/George C.Scott and
Hector Elizondo, 1976 Season Phoenix Repetory Theater w/ Meryl Streep,
John Lithgow, Off-Bdwy "FOB" David Henry Hwang playwright, "Museum"
playwright Tina Howe. Founded Metro-Project in NYC, non-profit summer
lunch feeding program for Chinatown and Lower East Side. Mayor's Task
Force Rep. to Chinatown community. Ran Theatre Arts Program for Neighborhood
Youth Corp. NYC Presently performs his one man show as part of "Great
Leap" for Music Center Education Division in the LAUSD system. "Great
Leap" has been cited and honored by Ex- President Clinton for their
role in advancing multi-culturism in arts.
Founding partner of convergenz/solutions, a Los Angeles-based new media
brokerage and marketing consultancy focused on entertainment and technology.
Clients include major and independent film studios, music labels, international
cultural arts commissions, community technology foundations, digital asset
management software providers and online broadcast networks.
Past member of the Board of Directors of the Screen Actors Guild, Board
of Directors of the Harvard-Radcliffe Club of Southern California, Board
of Directors of the Legal Aid Society of Orange County, individual member
Beverly Hills-Hollywood Branch of the National Association for the Advancement
of Colored People and Community Advisory Committee of the Los Angeles
Community Redevelopment Agency's Crenshaw Corridor Redevelopment Project
(8th Council District).
Co-founder and CEO of Murphy Boyz Entertainment Group and Productions
This former President/Vice-President of He has negotiated deals with the
top industry professionals. He is the creator and executive producer of
the "BIG BLACK COMEDY SHOW"
Founder and CEO of NuMedia Vistas, Inc., a Web broadcasting company, that
is dedicated to providing Web based channels for those videographers,
film makers and animator unable to gain exposure via the studios, record
labels and cable/TV companies. NuMedia Vistas also opens content delivery
opportunities for education and business. His talent, along with being
an MBA with over 20 years in the computer industry, provide NuMedia Vistas
with the ability to forge a video/audio delivery system that marks a new
chapter in content delivery. The global reach of the Web provides NuMedia
Vistas capabilities other media delivery modes cannot match.
(Good and Bad)
representations often continues incorrect and false stereotypical
images from the past. This can be seen with the recent debacle of
the false imprisonment of Wen
Ho Lee and in the Jet Li character in Romeo
What is ironic is that there has been major films from the past
that has featured a US Asian/Asian Pacific American actor in an
interracial romance/marriage with a white woman (Crimson
Kimono) and where where the US Asian/Asian Pacific American
male "won" the white woman from his white male competitor?!?! (i.e.
Ric Wilson, M.D.
Cardiologist; one of the founding members of the legendary group Mandrill;
Harvard College alumnus.
Founder of US Asians
( http://us_asians.tripod.com), an online portal that documents the history
and current events within the Asian Pacific American communities. His
background includes working with and/or at MGM Grand Arena/Las Vegas,
Hollywood Park Race Track, Alan Tam/Wynners, Alex To, Star East, Don Was,
Brian Wilson, Van Dyke Parks, Paul Jackson Jr., Sam Phillips, Pediatric
Aids Project, Tower of Power horn section, members of Toto, Rob Wasserman,
Hermes Pan, Celeste Holm, Bobby Van, Peter Finch, Liv Ullman, George Kennedy,
Olivia Hussey, Sally Kellerman and Keiko Agena.
Entertainment journalist - A former senior editor at Billboard Magazine,
Chang previously was an assistant managing editor at Crain Communications
and a news editor at Dow Jones Newswires.
Former EVP of Virgin Records, President of New Rivers Music – Record
Label of Twelve Girls Band
Anthony C.C. Mar
Anthony C. C. Mar, founder and managing Director of Anthony Mar Advisors
specializing in business transition strategies by generating cash, profits
and capital. He also is an expert in crisis management of finances and
personnel. Anthony is a seasoned executive and has served as CEO, CFO,
Controller, and Board Member with businesses and nonprofit institutions
across the country and throughout the Pacific Rim. His accomplishments
also include serving as the past and current Chairman of the Annual Children’s
Fairyland (a historic outdoor park enriching children through fairytales)