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Seattle Filmmaker Says Hollywood Won’t Make Its Movie Unless It Replaces Its POC Cast With White Actors




Mykel Shannon Jenkins, Alain Uy and Ron Yuan (from left) star in “The Paper Tigers”, which hits theaters nationwide this Friday. (Photo courtesy of The Paper Tigers)

After 10 years of blood, sweat and tears, Seattle writer and director Bao Tran is releasing his nationwide first film this Friday. Paper tigers is a kung fu action comedy about three kids who studied martial arts together, lost touch, and then reunited as 40-year-old men.

“They find out their master is killed and they have to come together and find out what happened,” Tran explained. “They are not in good shape, they have children, they have jobs and, at the end of the day, they have to avenge their master. The way we like to say it is, imagine if you have to fight a deathmatch tonight, but you have to go get your kid at soccer first. “

Several years ago, Tran shopped for screenplay in Hollywood, the traditional route to making a movie, but at every meeting he heard the same thing: we’ll make the movie if you swap the Asian and African American actors with white actors. .

“It was crazy. We would get crazy marks in terms of making the movie, like, just take Bruce Willis, put him in the movie and you can make this movie, ”Tran laughs. “Did you read the script? I think there are a lot of old, old, old thoughts that haven’t completely died out yet.

Since there is such a long tradition of whitewashed films, these executives don’t seem to be ashamed to be outspoken and ask what they want.

“It’s definitely worded in business savvy so he doesn’t seem to be biased, but obviously it is,” Tran said. “Keep in mind that was before Crazy Rich Asians and Black Panther, before we can really point to all of these great movies. They will say, “ There is no such thing as a blockbuster movie with leading color casts. How can you justify putting our money into making a movie like this? So it’s a kind of catch-22 in this endless cycle. So, yeah, there is a shamelessness because they kind of feel like they have the story and the data by their side. Fortunately, these dinosaurs are dying and that’s just an old way of thinking. This is just plain absurd, and yet it is a very common way of thinking.

Tran refused to recast the movie, so he returned to Seattle and set up a Kickstarter. On the crowdfunding page, he wrote:

“We had offers to fully fund the film if only we changed our main characters to Caucasians. We have had offers to fully fund the film if we shoot in China. We had offers to sell the script and buy it from more famous directors. But it’s a distinctly Asian and American story and we’ve always stuck to our guns to make the movie we want to make. “

In the end, the film was fully funded by the community and local investors.

Yuji Okumoto from Seattle is a producer on Paper tigers. He is also a seasoned actor, who played Chozen Toguchi in Karate Kid Part II and Cobra Kai.

“We have already seen this with Joy Luck ClubOkumoto said. “As an actor, I was like, ‘Oh, this is the flip flop, this is what will help us get over the bump and there will be more roles created for us.’ But that never happened. I think we missed the boat a bit on that, we didn’t capitalize on it as a collective, so I think this time around we are better prepared. When Crazy Rich Asians came out, and now we have so many other movies and TV shows coming out, maybe now is the time. I think for Asian Americans now we need to step up and support these movies and shows.

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Paper tigers was filmed in Seattle before the pandemic ended, with many scenes set in the Chinatown International District.

It opens nationwide in theaters and online this Friday on platforms like Amazon and Google Play, but if you want a taste there is a screening at Lincoln Square in Bellevue Thursday.

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