I still remember the day Justin came up with the phrase “you offend me you offend my family”. But back then, I didn’t get it. (maybe my hair was too short) I knew we were trying to make fun of the 70s kung fu genre and the bad dubs from Chinese to English, but the phrase just didn’t resonate with me. Don’t get me wrong, I thought Sung was hilarious when he delivered those famous lines but I just didn’t see anything deeper than that. But today that phrase is not only relevant and true to our community, but also specific to our Asian American presence here in this country.
We get offended a lot.
Scarlett, Matt, Politicians, people on the street, and just whole lot of other insensitive situations – are just some of the few scenarios that have come to light in the last few years. But this is not new, this has been happening. Long Duk Dong, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and even though I love Data from Goonies, why couldn’t he speak perfect english? Did Data really need to have an accent to further the story? And it seems everyone forgot that Memoirs of a Geisha is just wrong on so many levels. But who’s fault is this? Is there a nebulous “white” Hollywood conglomerate to blame? Not really. Its just a bunch of writers and producers that have no Asian friends and the only interaction they have is with our “people” is at the Chinese restaurant. At the end of the day, entertainment is just a business and the only agenda is to make money. But because media has such a powerful cultural influence, we think that they should beholden to our feelings. Really? When does any business worry about a tiny group’s feelings if profits don’t suffer? Is it Hollywood’s duty to portray Asian Americans as three dimensional characters? Is “white” hollywood the cultural pioneer that we need? I mean really, do we even want them to have that responsibility?
No doubt there is ignorance, racism, and prejudice in the industry, but I’ll be the first to admit that I can be ignorant as well. I don’t know enough about the anglo-experience to accurately portray a cowboy from the Texas border. So, why do we think that writers and producers in hollywood can or will write about characters from our communities? The responsibility is ours. The burden lies in our own community-from our own artists. I’ve been fighting this fight for over 20 years and we need to make the change. We need to support our artists and continue to cultivate our talent. As an Asian American filmmaker, we have been fighting for too long for that tiny slice of the pie and we aren’t eating. We need to bake our own pie. If our pies taste good, people will come. Fine, if our cha-siu baos taste good, people will come.
We need to tell our own stories.
Look don’t get me wrong, the truth hurts but I’m more hopeful than I’ve been in a long time. We’re seeing filmmakers, producers, writers, coming with craft and ability to tell stories that transcend but still carry the Asian American perspective. Justin and Roger Ebert fought back with Better Luck Tomorrow in Sundance 2002. On the Hollywood side we’re seeing the people that need to be in places of power to make change. And in the future of storytelling, I think Ryan Higa, Michelle Phan, Wong Fu, and others do far more for all the Asian Americans than anyone in the industry is doing for the future. This is commendable and beautiful. Telling their stories on their own terms and not beholden to anyone but their own audience.
When one of us wins, we all win. Since our community is a minority, anything we do, good or bad is amplified and representative of who we are. For example, Jeremy Lin has forever changed the way all Asian ballers are looked at when they stepped on the court. Every time, Fast and Furious 3, 4, 5, 6 plays on TNT, Han is changing the game for all Asian males. There’s a whole generation of young Asian American kids that feel empowered because of what they see on youtube. We don’t even know what they’re going to do! That is real cultural change and totally attainable.
Ok, enough of the Angry Asian man. If you made it this far, you get to hear my own personal agenda.
I have a movie that I want to share with the world. Its called Snakehead and its a story about a bad ass immigrant Chinese woman who builds one of the largest international human smuggling ring in the history of the FBI. She is feared, loved and sought after by the authorities. While this is inspired by true events, my story takes place in modern New York Chinatown filled with rich robust characters that transcend the Asian American experience while staying true to the core of who we are. There is action, drama, and a whole lot of smuggling. I’ve interviewed immigrants, snakeheads, gangsters, law enforcement, and the community to build the layers of this story. I’ve been working on this for over 9 years and after all the ups and downs of my career, I’m finally seeing this come to fruition.
While I am extremely grateful and overwhelmed by the early supporters of our Kickstarter campaign, we’ve decided to add some ambitious stretch goals. We are 15 days in and we have 15 days left. Every couple days, we’ll be adding new special rewards with some of my friends from my own community. (ie Jlin, Jin, Sung, who else?!)
If we get to 75k, I’m going to get to shoot this ocean scene full of helicopters freighters and boats. This was a scene that I always wanted but I figured it wasn’t going to happen because of money.
If we get to 150k we going to do the real impossible, and shoot this on 35mm film.
Most importantly I want you all to help me share this. While money always helps, this campaign has always about building awareness and community. I’d greatly appreciate it if you share this story by following us on instagram @snakeheadmovie, liking our snakeheadmovie Facebook page, or even joining our mailing list. At this point in time, we have less than 200 backers on kickstarter. Even if its little donations, I want to see that number grow. Thank you for your time and support. Keep offending and make your own pie.