You look like us, sound like us but are not us.

I decided in this post to really focus on something that is perhaps more specific to the US but will later expand upon why I feel it is also applicable internationally.

Being an Asian, more specifically Chinese person in the US currently, I’ve had comments come up a couple of times during conversations when people mention it’s a great time to create content because Asian voices are on frequent display at the moment. Examples stemming from films like Crazy Rich Asians, Blue Bayou, Shang-Chi, The Farewell and the list goes on

From my observation, I believe that the support and funding here is gearing toward more specifically Asian-American stories rather just than just under an all encompassing Asian blanket. That is where I feel the distinction lies and thus it is challenging as an outsider/ foreigner to come in with stories that do not fit into that particular fold.

It is important to highlight that this exposure on Asian-American stories are long overdue, as being a minority in a country like the US it is crucial for them to finally share an integral part of their culture in this evolving media landscape. However my question is that are all stories coming out of this canon necessary to be told by a particular person of a particular background? Do I need to check of all the required boxes to be qualified to tell stories of a certain nature?

This is where I bring my case globally, where now it would seem that director’s in their statement for grant proposals often time has to reflect how they identify with the story and if key elements align it might aid in the commissioner’s decision whether you get funding or not which in some manner validates the “authenticity” of the story you’re trying to tell. This ranges from racial and sexual identity to socioeconomic backgrounds.

I guess then the question I would put forward is that was Ang Lee any less qualified to do Brokeback Mountain because he was not a white man who reared sheep in rural Wyoming? Was it difficult for Kathryn Bigelow to identify with the inner struggles of the adrenaline junkie Sergeant First Class William James in the making of The Hurt Locker? Is it impossible for Wong Kar Wai to create a degree intimacy and truth in the relationship between two gay lovers while filming Happy Together?

I think these are questions we should be putting forth in evaluating the quality of the storytellers and the potential they have in the depths they are able to reach within themselves in creating this world rather than the checklist they fulfill. Because if we do not do that, we have films that often time work well on paper but no longer challenge the quality of craftsmanship in storytelling that would reach to a wider audience. This is why in my opinion that it is more apparent these days to quantify the types of film we have made and target it specifically at the audience it was meant for. Woke films for woke audiences and genre films targeted at specific fandom. This bleeds down to the desperate need for intellectual property (IP) because it is material that has been already tested and we know the product we are selling and to whom they were meant for (which then comes down to the size of this audience). There is a line I heard with regards to treating on-set extras that I will repurpose to this specific argument: “If you treat your audience like cattle, they will act like cattle.” This means to say that the diet moviegoers depend upon is what is put out into the distribution ecosystem which then informs the content that gets distributed because everyone wants to make a calculated gamble.

I know I say this with a degree of detachment from the real-world but I think is relevant to the times we are in trying to make movies.

To those that hold the powers in deciding if a project gets made or not.

Take a leap of faith, that’s all I ask.

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