ESEA Filmmakers’ Networking Event: Regaining Agency Through Filmmaking

Co-organised by BEATS – British East Asians in Theatre & on Screen – the East/South-East Asian Filmmakers’ Event discussed roles and the importance of Asian communities within the world of filmmaking.

The panel consisted of a variety of filmmakers with roots in east and southeast Asia. Host Jennifer Lim was accompanied by screenwriter Bec Boey, cinematographer Hsien Yu Niu, film directors Kaki Wong and Georgie Yukiko Donovan, and post production specialist Michael Ho, who all brought a unique take on the British film industry, and their own experiences.

Topics included: a discussion on tokenism, and how it could be combated through more BESEA people working behind the scenes; with Bec and Georgie remembering times they had been brought onto projects solely so a production could hide behind them.

The talk moved onto how bad representation was almost worse than no representation: Michael remembered watching the iconic series The Chinese Detective, though admitted to feeling conflicted now, considering how stereotyped many of the stories were.

The main topic of conversation, however, was the UK film industry – and how the panel’s experienced differed.

Though Kaki and Sunshine had had rather positive interactions, there was a lot that needed to change. Nepotism, being so strong in film and TV production, was a big issue for many Asians (or even most non-white people), as smaller jobs were often given to people higher-ups knew – more often than not a child, or a family friend. This, naturally, makes getting into the industry in smaller runner-style jobs more difficult.

And despite the success of many American films, like Everything Everywhere All at Once, the UK hasn’t seen as much diversity in its ESEA stories, often using the successes of Hollywood as an excuse to not have to do anything themselves.

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. There was more freedom, and fewer restrictions on how you could use the funding you received (if you were lucky enough to find some). The talk ended acknowledgement that there are plenty of communities out there who want to help each other out, and nowhere is this more true than in the British Asian/East-Asian filmmaking scene.

The Hong Kong Film Festival UK continues until Friday 31st March. Get tickets here.


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