NBCU SHORTS FEST, the industry’s premiere diversity short film festival, is a nationwide search for talent focused on discovering the next generation of content creators. This bicoastal festival seeks narrative works made within the last two years in the categories of DRAMA, COMEDY, WEB SERIES and Comedic PILOTS. The goal is to not only scout up and coming directors, writers, and actors, but to introduce them to top industry executives, agents, and tastemakers while awarding prizes ranging from camera packages, monetary grants, pitch meetings, and holding deals.
Past Alumni have go on to direct episodes or to act as artistic directors of our cable network series, shadow directors on NBC Primetime Series, been cast as series regulars for new NBC pilots or have sold their shorts as series to major cable networks.
I had the pleasure of attending CAPE and Oriental Dreamworks’s “Why Stories Matter: Creating Social Change Through Art & Entertainment” on the Dreamworks campus. Moderated by author and cultural critic Jeff Yang, the panel featured actress Kelly Hu; playwright and TV writer David Henry Hwang; and CRAZY RICH ASIANS Screenwriter, TV writer & Producer Adele Lim.
As a newly-minted TV writer, I’ve found myself attending more panels than I can count this past year, hoping to gain some insight into navigating the strange business I work in. Most of these panels are specifically tailored for new writers, often covering aspects of the business new writers wouldn’t think to ask about. The panelists are always eager to be helpful, but many of their answers seem restrained and carefully constructed. Understandably, no one wants their words coming back to bite them later on. But it also means you’re never sure if you’re getting a truly honest answer.
That’s why I was pleasantly surprised by the open, honest and sometimes blunt approach by the panelists as they shared their own personal experiences. Jeff started the panel with the acknowledgment that the world now was very different; many people have demanded that those in Hollywood stop talking about politics, but, as Jeff explained, we are in the business of telling stories about humanity, and humanity is inherently political. As the night went on, the panelists touched on issues that many audience members could relate to: the fear of being the “whiny minority” in the writers’ room; the feeling when higher ups delegate a potentially offensive story to you as a way to shift responsibility; the Catch-22 of being unable to cast Asian American actors in certain roles because they haven’t had the proper training, but the lack of proper training corresponds with the lack of those roles in the first place.
The panelists also shared some personal moments in their lives where they were made to feel different. Kelly Hu shared the story of her mother pulling her aside before the Miss Teen USA contest and telling her not to cry when she didn’t win; America was not ready to see an Asian Miss Teen USA. Kelly revealed she decided not to apologize for being Asian, but to embrace it – which ultimately helped her land the title.
The audience was also privy to some personal experiences from the writing world. Adele Lim shared how, as a young TV writer, she was often viewed as a resource for all things minority-related. David Henry Hwang explained that the Eugene O’Neill theater’s poor casting decision (casting a white actor to act in yellowface) lead to an uproar that ultimately lead the theater showcasing David’s first play, FOB. David used this as an example to show what good can happen when someone (in this case, the Creative Director at the Eugene O’Neill theater) was willing to listen.
The panel wrapped up with some questions from the audience, and a fantastic reception afterwards. Thank you again to CAPE for this thoughtful and well-done event!
LizAlper is currently a Story Editor on the hit NBC show CHICAGO FIRE. She met her writing partner, Ally Seibert, in a Sony restroom when they were both assistants. She is a graduate of Emerson College in Boston.
Submissions for the 2017 CAPE Leaders Fellowship open through May 1, 2017 at 11:59pm PST. Apply at www.capeusa.org/CLF.
Our new signature program, the CAPE Leaders Fellowship, is an incubator to equip the next generation of creative executives and talent representatives to break into the VP ranks. The Fellowship will be run by senior members of CAPE’s Board of Directors, and will feature high-level speakers and sessions to train participants in the art of communication, leadership, and pitching, among other skills.
The Fellowship is slated to launch in July 2017. Sessions will be held Monday evenings andWednesday mornings from July 17, 2017 – August 7, 2017.
More details about the Fellowship and submissions can be found here.
Come celebrate and connect at the CAPE New Writers Fellowship Graduation & Industry Mixer! Eat, drink, mix, and mingle with the largest group of AAPI entertainment professionals in Hollywood. Celebrate with CAPE Fellows past and present, members of CAPE‘s Board of Directors, and our partners at NBCUniversal, Oriental DreamWorks, Warner Bros., Amazon Studios, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Final Draft, Writers Guild of America, West, The Black List, and more!
Where: Ca’ Del Sole Address: 4100 Cahuenga Blvd. Toluca Lake, CA 91602 When: Wednesday, April 26, 2017 Time: 7:00-9:30pm Tickets: $25 – Online Early Bird (On sale until 4/7 at 6:00pm or until sold out!) $30 – Online Pre-sale (On sale until 4/26 at 5:00pm)
$35 – At the door ***All sales are final. No refunds or exchanges.***