Panels tout Asia over H’wood

Talent seminars take aim at U.S. auds

Hollywood is a largely closed institution that simultaneously suffers from a lack of diversity.

That was the message that emerged from talent seminars Sunday and Monday, organized by the Pusan market as part of its Curtain Call initiative.

“Don’t expect to change the tastes of the American public any time soon,” producer Teddy Zee said at the Asia and Hollywood session. “They are a small, parochial, narrow-minded population, who think they are at the center of the universe, refuse to read and don’t watch films from other countries.”

But Zee meant that as a morale booster for his aud of South Korean producers and distributors.

“Don’t look back over your shoulder, the future is here in Asia,” he said. “Asian men are invisible in U.S. movies, except maybe for that guy from ‘Lost’ (Daniel Dae Kim),” said L.A.-based casting agent John Jackson.

“And Asian women have a completely different role in our culture.” Zee, an American-born Chinese whose credits include production roles on “Charlie’s Angels” and “Replacement Killers,” likened contempo China to South Korea a decade ago.

“There are quotas and government protection of the industry that helped it to grow — but with less infrastructure,” he said.

Monday’s seminar threw light on other international differences. In South Korea, talent agencies produce pictures, which is off limits in the U.S. In South Korea talent agents pay up-front signing fees, retainers and wages to the stars on their books. They also keep them under contract and operate talent academies. But if that sounds like a lot of outlay, the powerful agencies may also fill a movie’s entire cast.

Second session also raised a chorus of laughs when Japanese casting agent Takefumi Yoshikawa likened his job to that of a sushi chef forever putting talent on a revolving conveyor belt, only for directors to take a dislike to a whole category of offerings or simply turn round and say, “I had seafood yesterday.”

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