For anyone who doesn’t know who I am, I am Scott Eriksson and I started this blog in June 2010. Those who do know me are aware that I like to fade into the background, so this multi-part article is a new adventure for me. :/
PART 1: In the beginning
Whenever I meet someone new, invariably the question comes up as to why I work in the Asian American film industry. In the beginning I kept thinking to myself, “Why are you asking me that? Nobody asks why an Asian person would work in the white film industry,” but I got over that fast. White IS the industry so of course no one questions that, and a white person spending all his time and energy away from the establishment in the Asian American film community is an anomaly. I am happy to say that I have found others like myself who have chosen to be with the minority community.
The more offensive question people ask is if I have “yellow fever.” The problem with that question is it suggests my choice is somehow sexual in nature since that is the context the term is usually used, and it’s offensive because it negates my creative passion for writing, and all the hard work I put into my business by dumbing it down to some sexual obsession. If anyone ever said there was sexual contact or attempted sexual contact by me, you can be sure they are lying. I have been a professional entrepreneur all my life and turning my time and energy to the film industry is no different; I keep things professional, and fun for me doesn’t cross lines.
Now that I have gotten that off my chest, let me tell you the complex story of why I started working in the Asian American film industry. In 2010 I released my first short film called “No Asians…it’s just not my thing.” It was about the sexual racism that minorities find all the time on internet dating sites. It is easy to be cruel when you don’t have to say it to someone’s face. Asians, Asian men in particular, have the biggest share of that kind of racism since Asian women have stereotypes that make them over sexualized, submissive, sexual play toys, etc., so they get plenty of attention in the form of creeps; and black men…well we know their stereotype which doesn’t hurt them, and the “latin lover” has a nice stereotype built right into their name. Making matters worse for Asian American men, their stereotypes are REALLY bad because they de-sexualize them, dumb them down, and make them totally undesirable for sex and romance. You can’t be a lead actor in a film with that hanging over your head since love between lead characters in all films is inevitable. The lead actor in my film, Korean American Craig Avera, was doing his first film role (I knew no one in the industry) and he won “best actor” for this role at the Boston International Film Festival right out of the gate. It went on to win multiple awards. My script writing typically is designed to make people think and debate at the end. The debate on this film started immediately (and still continues after 170K views) about things like the disconnect of the film title to the film (there is a connection), what the lead character is doing in the film, and the ending itself. I also threw in some opportunity for an Asian actor to show some skin and be sexy just to start breaking down some bad stereotypes.
I developed a big fan base of a lot of Asian men who connected with this film, in particular gay Asian men, and thought “Since no one wants to hire Asian Americans for lead roles, then I can hire all the best talent for my films.” Already I had two strong reasons for my decision; an inner desire in the core of who I am to help the underrepresented and those who don’t have a voice, and to take advantage of the opportunity to hire great actors as an unkown because I could bring something to the table in the scripts I write. There was also another reason. Because I am white I cannot know what it is like to be a minority or Asian. That’s just a fact. I can try to understand, but can never be in those shoes. That is why I would never attempt to write something about ethnicity. My films have nothing to do with ethnicity and anyone could fill the roles. What I could bring to the table would be something new and different, namely, an opportunity for Asian American actors to have a lead role just an actor, not an Asian actor. To learn from this light bulb in my head, I started the Asians on Film blog because I didn’t know any Asian American actors, except for the very few that white people can name (that’s a confession). I needed to know who these actors were and I figured if I was spending time doing research, then I should put it somewhere for others to see. Hence AOF was born June 10, 2010.
Those were decisions for starting a writing and filmmaking career (I have now determined I’m not a good director and need to stick to writing!). While this gives a much clearer picture of where I started, it doesn’t explain the evolution of Asians on Film, Asians on Film Festival, or Asian Cinema Entertainment, but these initial decisions started the ball rolling for something much bigger.