If you’re a fan of the cinema, you may already know many names of great filmmakers. But, if you’re like many of us, the filmmaker’s name might not be the first to roll off the tongue. We tend to remember the actor’s name of our favorite movies. But, let’s look a little deeper and learn about 10 new and lesser known Asian-American filmmakers. You will probably recognize the movies they’ve produced and if not, you know what to watch next.
Wayne Wang was born in Hong Kong and at the age of 71 is considered to be a pioneer in American filmmaking. He was named after his father’s favorite American actor, John Wayne. Wayne was one of the first Asian-American directors. He attended California College of the Arts. You may remember the famous film that he directed, The Joy Luck Club. Many of us with children loved the movie, Because of Winn Dixie. I enjoyed the movie he produced, Maid in Manhattan. He also produced the romantic comedy, Last Holiday.
Kevin Tancharoen is a Thai-American director. He was born in Los Angeles, California. He is a young director, producer, screenwriter, dancer, and choreographer. In 2009, he directed the remake of Fame. He produced a web version of Mortal Kombat, called Mortal Kombat: Legacy. He’s directed several episodes of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. He’s directed many shows for television: Warrior, Titans, Deception, Star, Arrow, and Supergirl (to name a few).
Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Jennifer Yuh Nelson is a Korean-American filmmaker. Born in South Korea, she went to college at California State University Long Beach. She began working at Dreamworks as a storyboard artist and worked on films, Sinbad, Madagascar, and then Kung Fu Panda. She alone received directing credit for Kung Fu Panda 2. This made her the first woman to do so. She also worked on Kung Fu Panda 3. She also directed The Darkest Minds, and Can’t Buy Me Love.
Jon M. Chu
Jon M. Chu was born in Palo Alto, California to parents of Chinese and Taiwanese heritage. He graduated from University of Southern California (School of the Cinematic Arts) where he received many awards. His first projects at Sony Pictures didn’t work out because of budget issues. He often has been successful with musical productions. He said that dancing was very motivating to him, because he sees dancers as wonderful artists. Some of these productions included: Step Up 2: The Streets, Step Up 3D, and Justin Bieber: Never Say Never.
Destin Daniel Cretton
Destin Daniel Cretton was born in Haiku, Hawaii to a Japanese-American mother and father. His mother homeschooled him and then he attended Point Loma Nazarene University. His first films were just a hobby, but later he attended San Diego State University and graduated in film study. While he was in college he created a short film, which won an award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. He later rewrote the screenplay to make the film full-length and this also won an award. This title was Short Term 12. He also was the writer and director of these films: The Glass Castle, Just Mercy, and I Am Not A Hipster.
Tarsem Singh is an Indian actor and director. Some of his latest works include Selfless, Mirror Mirror and Immortals. He was born in India and spent his early years in India, he later moved to the USA to pursue higher education. He began his career directing music videos and brand commercials. His first directorial debut was The Cell in 2000.
Vikram Gandhi is a producer and director. But, he is also a journalist. He has covered natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and unrest in Asian countries. He has worked on documentaries, television, and narrative films. His company, Disposable, is based in New York city. Through Disposable, he works on music videos, commercials, and more. His most famous productions are: Kumare, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Barry.
Cary Joji Fukunaga
Cary Joji Fukanaga was born in Alameda, California to a Japanese-American father and Swedish-American mother. His early days were spent moving around to various California towns and his dream was to be a professional snowboarder. He later decided he wanted to become a filmmaker. He worked his way up from a camera intern and then went to college to study film at New York University. His most famous films are Sin Nombre, Beasts of No Nation, and Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre was a beautiful film that had the great star Judi Dench.
Naveen Chathapuram has worked as producer, writer and director in a number of Hollywood films. His film, Cash, introduced Chris Hemsworth and also starred Sean Bean, who I remember in many films, including National Treasure. He attended the Columbia College Chicago and majored in Cinema Arts & Science. He has produced Brown Nation and Night of the Living Dead. He is the writer and director of The Last Victim.
Joseph Kahn was born in Busan, South Korea. He moved to Jersey Village, Texas as a young boy. He couldn’t afford to finish college at New York University, so he went home and started making music videos. In 1999, he started his own production company. He’s worked with many of the top pop music stars and won awards from MTV and a Grammy. He’s also won a Country Music Award. Some of the artists he’s produced videos for are: Jonas Brothers, Taylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson, and Mariah Carey.
Now that you can associate the filmmaker with the films, you’ll probably remember a little bit more about the producers and look at the credits a little more closely. Enjoy the movies!
@2021, copyright Lisa Ehrman
Resources: Wikipedia, Imbd.com, and Huffpost