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‘Asians are Taking Their Rightful Place in Hollywood’ Says Janet Yang

Janet Yang Film producer Janet Yang,
Mark Schiefelbein/AP/REX/Shutterstock

“Borders are collapsing all around us,” says producer Janet Yang, who programs the Asia Society’s U.S.-Asia Entertainment Summit conference next week in Los Angeles. “That process is being driven by changes in content and technology.”

The summit this year has notably broadened its focus from one on U.S.-China relations to one that examines the entertainment business to a wider U.S.-Asia perspective.

The conference’s altered angel of attack may reflect a waning American interest in China, now that Chinese firms are no longer buying up Hollywood corporate assets at inflated prices.

And with the polarizing effects of 22 weeks of anti-Beijing protests in Hong Kong, and a year-long U.S.-China trade war, a China focus might also be too sensitive. U.S. entities such as the NBA, Quentin Tarantino and “South Park” have all clashed with China in recent weeks.

“There are too many other topics. Business goes on. The pendulum keeps swinging,” says Yang. Nevertheless, one of the summit’s highlights is expected to be the presentation by (Mandarin-speaking) Australian former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd.

“Streaming increasingly means that you can make something that is authentically yours. You don’t have to try to please everyone,” says Yang, but the global reach of platforms means that creators can connect with audiences no matter how far away or scattered. “Streaming is good for diversity. A theatrical release is no longer necessarily the only option.”

Alibaba Pictures Los Angeles-based president Zhang Wei is expected to speak about the new ways in which to reach China’s massive audience. During an on-stage interview, Zhang will share details of how “Capernaum,” Nadine Labacki’s Palestine-set drama, was helped to a $54 million (RMB374 million) gross in China.

Yang says too that Asians are finally achieving a more interesting and meaningful place in Hollywood. “The changes of the last couple of years are not just imagination,” she says.

That topic will be explored more thoroughly by Daniel Dae Kim, the Korean star of lost who now heads his own Hollywood based production company 3AD Media in a presentation. Others speaking on the same topic will include CJ Entertainment’s Francis Chung, Tencent Pictures’ Rob Ree, “Crazy Rich Asians” associate producer Janice Chua, and Disney’s Mark Zee.

Bringing the sessions to a climax will be the wildly-popular Chinese-American singer and actor Wang Leehom. His chosen topics are bridging cultures, and making change happen.

Variety is a media partner of the conference.