On Creating English Drama with Asian Actors for the World
Singapore’s national newspaper The Straits Times featured BananaMana Films’ Christian Lee and Jason Chan discussing their direction in content creation, why they’re based in Singapore and the issue of poor minority representation in American movies and TV.
John Lui (Film Correspondent for The Straits Times) succinctly sums up the current policy with Asian casting in Hollywood movies:
Is Hollywood, the factory that makes all its heroes light-eyed, fair-haired Northern Europeans – Jesus, Noah, Moses, Genghis Khan among them – ready to change?
Remember, this is a place that loves to borrow Asian stories, but is allergic to casting racially appropriate actors. The studios bend plotlines to breaking point so that “white saviours” can emerge in China (David Carradine in the Kung Fu television series) or Japan (Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai, 2003; or, more recently, Keanu Reeves in last year’s 47 Ronin).
On why Jason and Christian moved to Singapore to set up base here for their production company –
Two 40 something actors, Christian Lee and Jason Chan, now work here after having left their former home bases in the United States and Australia, respectively, in large part because they are not confined to supporting roles here, or are repeatedly asked to play gangsters, pimps or immigrants speaking broken English.
This is the driving force on which BananaMana Films created their mission statement: to create long form, narrative drama in English with Asian actors.
Both of our latest projects consist of a multiracial cast. Further to that we have been awarded Outstanding Directing in a Drama at LA Web Fest for our first project “What Do Men Want?” which has also picked up a distributor from Australia who has had positive reviews of the show from multiple territories world wide – meaning people are more than happy to see any racial mix in a drama as long as it’s engaging. The international community is less racist than Hollywood would have you think and there is a place for Asian actors in dramas speaking fluent English.
Both “What Do Men Want?” and “Perfect Girl Series” are examples of this where the characters are never asked to speak in an Asian accent or broken English. “Perfect Girl Series” has already been accepted into four web series festivals world wide: Atlanta, LA, Miami and Rome – which underlines it’s international appeal and quality.
We believe if we make solid, engaging, premium quality content it will travel beyond our borders regardless of the colour of the actors. There is so much talent in the region – we’d like to put them all on the world map.
To read the entire article download the pdf: The Straits Times
“What Do Men Want?” is a 13 half hour episode dramedy which was originally commissioned as a web series and was subsequently picked up by Singapore’s national broadcaster Mediacorp Studios to air on free to air TV. It will be airing in Singapore on October 21st 2014.
“Perfect Girl Series” is a self produced web series of 10 episodes – a coming of age romance for anyone who’s ever had a high school crush. It is currently in competition in several International web series festivals. You can watch the entire Perfect Girl Series here.