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Four Asian-American Women Share Their Experiences Working in Hollywood

Four Asian-American women shared their unique experiences on Sunday at the Asian World Film Festival in Culver City when they participated on the panel Asian Women in Hollywood.

The session, organized by Soo Jin Hwang, head of the U.S. office of the Korean Film Council, targeted the challenges confronting a demographic group that has not received much attention. Entertainment PR and marketing specialist David Magdael moderated the panel, which included professionals from talent management, music supervision, music composition, and cinematography.

Sunny Park, the executive in charge of music at DreamWorks Animation, whose credits include such titles as “Trolls” and the “Shrek” and “Kung Fu Panda” franchises, noted that she often finds herself in situations where she’s the only woman in a group of men. At DWA, however, she noted that most of the producers and the two co-presidents are female.

Sarah Shyn, a talent manager at 3 Arts Entertainment whose clients include Olivia Thirlby, Jamie Chung, Ki Hong Lee, Zosia Mamet, and Tyler Posey, noted that when she joined the firm it was “mostly a boys club” with only two woman managers – a number that has since grown to seven.

Film composer and orchestrator Sujin Nam, with credits on such pictures as the Spider-Man movies and “The Grudge,” described how being Asian may have in some ways helped her music career. “Every Asian has the advantage of growing up with piano lessons,” she half-joked. Nam and her husband take a proactive role in encouraging young musicians by inviting them to perform at their home while music supervisors and studio executives are also present.

Cinematographer Quyen Tran, whose credits include “Pali Road” and HBO pilot “Mogadishu, Minnesota,” told the group, “when I go shoot a movie out of town, I have to hire the crew, which is usually about 20 white men. And when I first show up on set someone usually says something like, ‘oh, the makeup department is back there.’”

Tran noted that only about 2% of all DP’s are women, and that there’s only a very small number Asian female DP’s working today.

Despite many obstacles, the group was generally optimistic about the future. Shyn summed this up, noting that the #OscarsSoWhite movement has made Hollywood super-aware of racial, ethnic, and gender iniquities. “Doors are opening and they’re hiring more nonwhites and women, so if you’re a minority, go for it.”

(Picture above, from left: Sujin Nam, Sarah Shyn, Sunny Park, Quyen Tran. Photo by Amy Ahn: http://www.alamodeimages.com)

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