LOS ANGELES -- May is the busiest time of the year for Visual Communications. Founded in 1970, it's the first non-profit dedicated to honest portrayals of Asians in media, most notably through a week-long film festival that starts every year during Asian Pacific Heritage Month.
It’s a watershed moment for Asian filmmakers, but it’s taken decades.
Actress Tiffany Chu first got involved with Visual Communications a few years ago, when she volunteered to help out during the closing night party. She then became active through the non-profits other programs. Tonight, she’s screening her first feature film as a leading lady.
“I think it's really amazing because it's been a long way for me,” said Chu. “It's also really exciting that I'm also here with a lot of other filmmakers that are actually my friends and I'm really excited.”
Chu grew up in San Jose and moved to Southern California to study film and drama at the University of California Irvine. She moved to Los Angeles two years ago to pursue acting full-time and although it’s better now, opportunities are still slim for Asian actresses.
“I feel like it’s definitely opened up much more, but I think it needs to keep going, and we are on the right track,” said Chu.
According to the latest UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report, Asians are under-represented comprising of only 3.4 percent of all film roles and 4.6 percent of all broadcast scripted shows. So filmmakers are taking it upon themselves to create more representation on screen.
“I really think that we need to create our own stars in the community, specifically the Asian-American community. We found Tiffany on Facebook,” explained director and producer Justin Chon. “I think it’s very important that we learn how to exist as a part of the whole. L.A. is diverse and this film is about Koreatown and Koreatown, if you didn’t know, is basically Mexico.”
For Chon, authentic portrayals of Asians and their community is just as important as being represented in media. For Chu, inclusion equals opportunity.
“I’m really happy I’m able to get the reactions that I’m getting,” said Chu. “Other people are coming to me and they’re saying that they’re going through the same thing or they’ve never seen a story like this being made also from a female’s perspective.”
To be seen is to be realized and that’s everything for a storyteller. Ms. Purple, the film in which Chu plays the lead female part, is coming to a theater near you soon.