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← The pride and power of representation in film

On the heels of the breakout success of his film "Crazy Rich Asians," director Jon M. Chu reflects on what drives him to create -- and makes a resounding case for the power of connection and on-screen representation.

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Mostrar Revisión11 creada 11/07/2019 por Brian Greene.

  1. The Silicon Valley and the internet
    gave me superpowers,
  2. tools to go to battle with,
  3. a suit to take bullets with
  4. and a giant signal in the sky
    that told me when it was time to fight.
  5. Now, I can't actually prove any of this.

  6. I am not a "scientist,"
  7. I don't have "facts."
  8. In fact, my Rotten Tomato score
    is running around 50 percent right now,
  9. so I'm not sure why they let me in.
  10. (Laughter)

  11. But if we're talking
    about colliding with a power

  12. that's bigger than us,
  13. then I'm in the right place,
  14. because this last year,
  15. I had an interesting year with a movie
    called "Crazy Rich Asians" that I did --
  16. (Applause and cheers)

  17. Thank you, thank you.

  18. And if we're talking about
    connection specifically today,

  19. then I know my story is only possible
  20. because of a collection of connections
    that happened throughout my life,
  21. and so hopefully by telling
    a little bit of my story,
  22. it will help someone else find their path
    a little sooner than I did.
  23. My story begins when I opened
    the holy book for the first time ...

  24. The holy book of gadgets,
    of course, "Sharper Image."
  25. (Laughter)

  26. Yes, those who know.

  27. It was a magical magazine of dreams
  28. and had things in there
    that you knew could not possibly exist,
  29. but it was right there.
  30. You could order it -- come in the mail.
  31. And some things that probably
    should have never existed,
  32. like "Gregory," a lifelike,
    portable mannequin
  33. who deters crime by his strong,
    masculine appearance.
  34. This is a real --
  35. (Laughter)

  36. This is a real thing, by the way.

  37. (Laughter)

  38. But my eyes were set
    on the Sima Video Ed/it 2.

  39. This thing was so cool at the age of 10.
  40. You could connect
    all your VHS players together
  41. and cut something together,
  42. so I called my parents
    and convinced them to buy this for me.
  43. But before I get into that,
  44. let me give you a little rundown
    about my parents.
  45. They came to the United States
    when they were young,
  46. they're from Taiwan and China
  47. and they settled
    in Los Altos, California --
  48. the Silicon Valley
    before the Silicon Valley --
  49. and they started a restaurant
    called Chef Chu's.
  50. 50 years later, today,
    they still work at the restaurant,
  51. they're still there,
  52. and I grew up there, so it was great.
  53. Talk about connection --
    this place was a hub of connection.
  54. People coming there to celebrate
    birthdays, anniversaries, business deals,
  55. eating, drinking --
  56. connection.
  57. And I got to grow up in that environment.
  58. And my parents always said America
    is the greatest place in the world.
  59. You can --
  60. if you love anything, you can work hard
    and you can accomplish anything you want.
  61. So, they raised five all-American kids.
  62. I am the youngest --
  63. you can see I'm the one
    with the eyes closed there --
  64. and they named actually my sister and I,
    Jennifer and Jonathan,
  65. after Jennifer and Jonathan Hart
    from that TV show "Hart to Hart."
  66. (Laughter)

  67. So that's how much
    they loved America, apparently.

  68. And they thought
    that we were The Kennedys --
  69. my mom specifically --
  70. so she dressed us up
    all the time like each other
  71. and she put us in etiquette classes
    and ballroom dance classes,
  72. made sure that we had
    the right dental plan --
  73. (Laughter)

  74. This is a real picture of me.
    That is not fake.

  75. Thank God for that one.
  76. And I was in charge of the video camera
    every time we went on vacations,

  77. so I would collect all these videos
    and had nothing to do with it.
  78. Thus, the Sima Video Ed/it 2.
  79. I convinced them to get it for me,
  80. and I spent all night
    trying to wrangle all the VCRs
  81. from my brother's and sister's room,
    tangled in wires,
  82. and now I had something to show them.
  83. So I brought them
    into the living room one night,
  84. it was probably 1991,
    somewhere around there,
  85. and I sit them down in the living room --
  86. my heart was pounding,
    my breaths were deep --
  87. sort of like right now --
  88. and I pressed play
  89. and something extraordinary
    happened actually.
  90. They cried.
  91. And cried.
  92. They cried not because it was
    the most amazing home video edit ever --
  93. although it was pretty good --
  94. (Laughter)

  95. but because they saw our family
    as a normal family that fit in

  96. and belonged on the screen
    in front of them,
  97. just like the movies that they worshipped
    and the TV shows that they named us after.
  98. I remember as the youngest
    of these five kids
  99. feeling heard for the first time.
  100. There was this place
    where all these things in my head
  101. could go into the great, electric
    somewhere-out-there and exist and escape,
  102. and I knew from this moment on,
  103. I wanted to do this
    for the rest of my life,
  104. whether I was going
    to get paid for it or not.
  105. So I had this passion
    and now I needed some tools,

  106. and my dad went to work.
  107. He continued to brag
    about my home video editing skills
  108. to the customers at Chef Chu's,
  109. and luckily this is the Silicon Valley,
  110. so they're working on stuff,
    hardware and software --
  111. these are all engineers.
  112. And they offered to give me things
    for digital video editing.
  113. This is like the mid-'90s, early '90's,
  114. where this stuff didn't exist
    for kids like me.
  115. So I'd get this beta software
    and hardware from places like HP and Sun
  116. and Russell Brown at Adobe.
  117. And I had no manual,
  118. so I'd figure it out
    and I fell in love with it even more.
  119. I went to USC School of Cinematic Arts
    and started to go there,

  120. and my mom and dad would always
    call me randomly and remind me
  121. that I've got to do movies
    about my Chinese heritage.
  122. That China was going to be
    a huge market for movies one day.
  123. I was like, "Yeah right, guys".
  124. (Laughter)

  125. Always listen to your parents.

  126. (Laughter)

  127. I wanted to be Zemeckis,
    Lucas and Spielberg.

  128. The last thing I wanted to talk about
    was my own cultural identity,
  129. my ethnicity.
  130. And honestly, I had no one else to talk --
  131. there was no one at school
    that I could really open up to,
  132. and even if I did, like, what would I say?
  133. So I ignored it
    and I moved on with my life.
  134. Cut to 15 years later,

  135. I made it in Hollywood.
  136. I got discovered by Spielberg,
  137. I worked with The Rock
    and Bruce Willis and Justin Bieber.
  138. I even came to the TED stage
    to present my dance company LXD,
  139. and it was great.
  140. And then a couple years ago,
  141. I felt a little bit lost, creatively.
  142. The engine was going down a little bit,
  143. and I got a sign ...
  144. I heard from voices from the sky ...
  145. or more it was like, birds.
  146. OK, fine, it was Twitter.
  147. And Twitter --
  148. (Laughter)

  149. It was Constance Wu on Twitter,

  150. it was Daniel Dae Kim,
  151. it was Jenny Yang, who's here today,
  152. it was Alan Yang --
  153. all of these people
    who were writing their frustrations
  154. with representation in Hollywood.
  155. And it really hit me.
  156. I thought these things
    but never really registered --
  157. I was really focused on --
  158. and I felt lucky to be working,
  159. and so then I realized --
  160. yeah, what is wrong with Hollywood?
  161. Why aren't they doing this?
  162. And then I looked at myself in the mirror
    and realized I am Hollywood.
  163. I literally --
  164. I popped my collar before I came out here,
  165. that's how Hollywood I am.
  166. (Laughter)

  167. Is it still up? OK, good.

  168. (Applause)

  169. For all these years I felt
    I had been given so much,

  170. and what was I giving back
    to the film business that I loved?
  171. I felt lucky to be here,
  172. but at this moment, I realized
    that I was not just lucky to be here,
  173. I had the right to be here.
  174. No, I earned the right to be here.
  175. All those sleepless nights,
    all those parties I missed on Fridays,
  176. every friend and girlfriend I lost
    because I was editing --
  177. I earned the right to be here not just
    to have a voice but to say something,
  178. and say something important,
  179. and I had, actually, the power --
  180. the superpower to change things
    if I really, really wanted to.
  181. When you try to tell
    stories about yourself

  182. and people who look like you
    and look like your family,
  183. it can be scary,
  184. and all those feelings
    of being alone came back.
  185. But the internet is what told me --
  186. sent the sign that there was going
    to be a whole army waiting for me
  187. to support me and to love me for it.
  188. And so I found Kevin Kwan's
    amazing novel "Crazy Rich Asians,"
  189. and we went to work.
  190. We put this movie together.
  191. All-Asian cast --
  192. the first all-Asian cast in 25 years
    with a contemporary story --
  193. (Applause and cheers)

  194. But when we started
    it was not a guarantee at all.

  195. There was no comp for this kind of movie.
  196. Every time we did surveys and stuff,
  197. the audiences weren't going to show up.
  198. In fact, even in our test screenings
  199. where you give free tickets to people
    to watch your movie,
  200. we had a one to 25 ratio,
  201. meaning after 25 asks,
    only one person said yes,
  202. which is super low
    for these types of things.
  203. Asian people who knew the book
    didn't trust Hollywood at all,
  204. Asian people who didn't know the book
    thought the title was offensive
  205. and other people who weren't Asian
    just didn't think it was for them.
  206. So we were pretty screwed.
  207. Luckily, Warner Brothers
    didn't turn away from us.
  208. But then the electric
    somewhere struck again,
  209. and this army of Asian-American
    writers, reporters, bloggers,
  210. who over the years had worked their way up
    through their respective publications,
  211. went to work, unbeknownst to me.
  212. And they started to post things.
  213. Also, some tech founders out here
    started to post stuff on social media,
  214. write stuff about us
    in articles in the "LA Times,"
  215. in "The Hollywood Reporter"
    and "Entertainment Weekly."
  216. It was like this grassroots uprising
    of making ourselves news.
  217. What an amazing thing to witness.
  218. And the swell of support
    turned into this conversation online

  219. between all these Asian Americans
  220. where we could actually debate and discuss
  221. what stories we wanted to tell,
  222. what stories should be told or not,
  223. what kind of --
  224. are we allowed to make fun of ourselves?
  225. What about casting?
    What are we allowed to do?
  226. And we didn't agree -- and we still don't,
  227. but that wasn't the point.
  228. The point was the conversation
    was happening.
  229. And this conversation stream
    became an infrastructure.
  230. It took all these different groups
    that were trying to achieve the same thing
  231. and put us all together
    in this connective tissue.
  232. And again, not perfect,
  233. but the start of how we determine
    our own representation on the big screen.
  234. It became more physical
    when I went to the movie theater.

  235. I'll never forget going --
    opening weekend,
  236. and I went into the theater,
    and it's not just Asians --
  237. all types of people --
  238. and I go in and sit down,
  239. and people laughed, people cried,
  240. and when I went into the lobby,
  241. people stayed.
  242. It's like they didn't want to leave.
  243. They just hugged each other,
  244. high-fived each other, took selfies,
  245. they debated it, they laughed about it.
  246. All these different things.
  247. I had such an intimate
    relationship with this movie,
  248. but I didn't understand
    when we were making it
  249. what we were making
    until it was happening --
  250. that it was the same thing that my parents
    felt when they watched our family videos
  251. in that living room that day.
  252. Seeing us on the screen has a power to it,
  253. and the only way I can
    describe it is pride.
  254. I have always understood
    this word intellectually --
  255. I've probably talked about this word,
  256. but to actually feel pride --
  257. and those of you who have felt it know --
  258. it's like you just want to like,
    touch everybody and grab and run around.
  259. It's like a very --
  260. I can't explain --
  261. it's just a very physical feeling,
  262. all because of
    a long pattern of connection.
  263. Film was a gift given to me,

  264. and through the years
    I've learned a lot of things.
  265. You can plan, you can write scripts,
    you can do your storyboards,
  266. but at a certain point,
  267. your movie will speak back to you,
  268. and it's your job to listen.
  269. It's this living organism
    and it sort of presents itself,
  270. so you better catch it
    before it slips through your hands,
  271. and that's the most exciting part
    about making movies.
  272. When I look at life,
    it's not that different actually.
  273. I've been led through these
    sort of breadcrumbs of connections
  274. through people, through circumstances,
  275. through luck.
  276. And it changed when I realized
    that once you start listening
  277. to the silent beats
    and the messy noises around you,
  278. you realize that there's this beautiful
    symphony already written for you.
  279. A direct line to your destiny.
  280. Your superpower.
  281. Now, film was a gift given to me,

  282. sort of spurred on by my parents
    and supported by my community.
  283. I got to be who I wanted to be
    when I needed to be it.
  284. My mom posted something
    on Facebook the other day,
  285. which is usually a really bad
    thing to say out loud --
  286. scary, she should not
    have a Facebook, but --
  287. (Laughter)

  288. She posted this thing, and it was a meme,

  289. you know, one of those funny things,
  290. and it said, "You can't change
    someone who doesn't want to change,
  291. but never underestimate
    the power of planting a seed."
  292. And as I was doing
    the finishing touches on this talk,
  293. I realized that all the powerful
    connections in my life
  294. were through generosity and kindness
    and love and hope.
  295. So when I think about my movies
    "Crazy Rich Asians" and "In the Heights"
  296. which I'm working on right now --
  297. (Applause and cheers)

  298. Yes, it's a good one.

  299. All I want to do
    is show joy and hope in them,

  300. because I refuse to believe
    that our best days are behind us,
  301. but in fact, around the corner.
  302. Because you see love --
  303. love is the superpower
    that was given to me.
  304. Love is the superpower
    that was passed onto me.
  305. Love is the only thing
    that can stop a speeding bullet
  306. before it even exits the chamber.
  307. Love is the only thing
    that can leap over a building
  308. and have a whole community
    look up into the sky,
  309. join hands,
  310. and have the courage to face something
    that's impossibly bigger than themselves.
  311. So I have a challenge for myself
    and for anyone here.

  312. As you're working on your thing,
  313. on your company,
  314. and you're forging this thing to life,
    and you're making the impossible possible,
  315. let's just not forget
    to be kind to each other,
  316. because I believe that is
    the most powerful form of connection
  317. we can give to this planet.
  318. In fact, our future depends on it.
  319. Thank you.

  320. (Applause and cheers)

  321. Thank you.

  322. (Applause)