A Moment to a Movement - Asian Representation in Film and TV

A Moment to a Movement: Asian Representation in Film & Television

October 28, 2023 A DGA Asian American Committee Event

On October 28, DGA members and guests gathered in the Guild’s Los Angeles Theater for the Asian American Committee’s (AAC) event, A Moment to a Movement: Asian Representation in Film & Television.

The afternoon kicked off with a welcome from DGA Past President and current Secretary-Treasurer Paris Barclay who said, “For over two trailblazing decades, the Asian American Committee has empowered members to lead, uplift each other, and demand their stories to be seen and heard. Today we celebrate that movement — one of community, creativity, and change. Their work uplifts not just the Guild, but the members who need this recognition and provides a community where they can truly celebrate their voices and feel seen. The Committee’s dedication moves us closer to a shared goal — a more equitable industry where all voices are heard.”

Barclay then introduced AAC Co-Chair Kai Kim and Alternate Co-Chair Larry Teng, who spoke about the history and ongoing work of the Committee.

“During the time of us first being part of this Committee, we would list every show that had an Asian American in it,” recalled Kim. “We reached a point where we stopped doing that in our meetings because there were so many shows and so many of us doing things and it was absolutely amazing to reach that point. Today’s panel is a part of that. To see and watch what happened over the past few years is really amazing.”

Kim and Teng then welcomed AAC Co-Chair Maureen Bharoocha to the stage, where she served as the moderator of the peer-to-peer round table discussion with Directors Kabir Akhtar, Adele Lim, Dan Liu, Dinh Thai and Anu Valia, highlighting the contributions of Asian American Directors in the film and television industry while also exploring the current state of Asian American representation on the screen.

Akhtar jumped right into the heart of the conversation with the statement, “There is no longer a question about doing a show that is Asian-centered, but, also, we should not only be directing Asian content. We all have many other experiences and ultimately that door opens to Asian content being directed by Directors of other ethnicities and we all get to learn from each other.”

Speaking from her experiences as a writer on Jon M. Chu’s Crazy Rich Asians and the Director of Joy Ride, Lim acknowledged recent progress saying, “In the last few years, people started to realize you can put Asians as the center heroes of the story and people will still show up and it will still be a success. It is still very much of an uphill battle from a moment to a movement. But, the movement really involves everyone here and showing up with your A game and pushing, pushing, pushing.”

“We are getting more opportunities,” agreed Liu. “You just see our membership increase [in the Guild] and in the Asian American Committee. Part of that increase in Directors and people who work on set is that everyone has a responsibility to keep that authenticity of portrayals.”

While sharing the group opinion, Thai suggested there was more to accomplish  “We need to tell our own stories. For example, filming in Chinatown in Los Angeles is different from Chinatown in San Francisco. You can take an analogy and put it across all cultures. It’s just a little more expensive and a little more time consuming to tell our own stories because we are so unfamiliar in that territory. But we, together, have to push together.”

Valia shared her thoughts on gleaning from the material when coming into a television project. “You have to do that, or else you won’t do a good job. I have my own personal influences and as a TV Director, you have to be influenced by the material, you have to listen to it. As Directors you have to bring your own aesthetic, choices, and taste.”

During the last segment of the discussion, Bharoocha conducted an audience Q&A where attending members had the opportunity to learn more from the panelists on craft, career advice, and directorial techniques.

Following the discussion, the panelists and audience enjoyed a reception in the DGA Atrium.

See video from this event in the gallery below.

Kabir AkhtarKabir Akhtar
Akhtar’s directorial credits include episodes of the series, Never Have I EverResident AlienThe Mysterious Benedict SocietyCrazy Ex-GirlfriendThe Sex Lives of College GirlsBH 90210The UnicornMumbai CallingSaved by the Bell and Grown-ish; the pilot episode of Primo; and the relaunched edition of Unsolved Mysteries. Akhtar was nominated for the 2020 DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Children’s Programs for his “Opening Night” episode of the series, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series; and he also won a Primetime Emmy for his editing work on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Akhtar has been a DGA member since 2006 and serves as a co-chair of the Asian American Committee and is the first South Asian ever to be elected to the DGA’s National Board. 
Adele LimAdele Lim 
Lim made her directorial debut with the feature film Joy Ride. Prior to this, she was best known for writing Jon M. Chu’s Crazy Rich Asians — the first film by a major Hollywood studio to feature a majority cast of Asian descent in a modern setting since Wayne Wang’s The Joy Luck Club in 1993  and the animated fantasy adventure inspired by Southeast Asian culture, Raya and the Last Dragon, directed by Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada. Prior to her work in features, she wrote on and produced series including Private PracticeLethal Weapon and of Starcrossed. Lim joined the DGA in 2021. 
Dan LiuDan Liu 
Liu’s directorial credits include episodes of The Walking Dead and its spin-offs, Fear the Walking Dead and The Walking Dead: World Beyond; as well as episodes of For All MankindShadow and BoneKung FuNCIS: Los AngelesStar Trek: Picard, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Shadow and BoneLa Brea, Kung Fu, and NCIS: Los Angeles. Liu has been a DGA member since 2017. 
Dinh ThaiDinh Thai 
Thai’s directorial credits include episodes of Wu-Tang: An American Saga, Warrior, New Amsterdam, The Good Doctor, In The Dark, American Born Chinese, Under The Bridge, Career Opportunities in Murder and Mayhem; as well as multiple commercials. He has co-written and directed AZNBBGRL, a Vietnamese American pilot for Freeform. Thai joined the DGA in 2020. 
Anu ValiaAnu Valia 
Valia’s directorial credits include episodes of She-Hulk, The Afterparty, And Just Like That, Shrill, Love Life, Never Have I Ever, MixedIsh, AP Bio, Love Victor, At Home with Amy Sedaris, First Wives Club, Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens and The Other Two; the pilot for Big Door Prize; and the 2017 Sundance Film Festival Jury Award-winning short film, Lucia. She is currently in post on her debut feature, We Strangers. Valia joined the DGA in 2018. 
Maureen BharoochaMaureen Bharoocha (moderator) 
Bharoocha’s directorial credits include the feature films The Prank and Golden Arm; and episodes of Saved by the BellDrama Club and Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin. She was previously a segment Director for three seasons on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Bharoocha has been a DGA member since 2016 and serves as a Co-Chair of the Asian American Committee and co-created of the Women’s Steering Committee’s WSC Squad Mentorship Program.  

About the Asian American Committee:

The Asian American Committee (AAC) was created as a networking group to provide a forum for interests and issues that concern Asian-American Guild members. Through outreach efforts in the entertainment industry that emphasize career development and skills enhancement, the committee provides a variety of networking opportunities as well as screenings, seminars and discussions with industry professionals. The current AAC Co-Chairs are Directors Kabir Akhtar, Maureen Bharoocha and Kai Kim.

Pictures & Video

photos by Howard Wise

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