By Jane Yamamoto
nbclosangeles.com, October 31, 2016 —
Hollywood and the rest of the entertainment industry have been criticized recently for their lack of diversity in television and film. But one woman is using her connections to help Asians advance in entertainment careers and has been doing so for more than two decades.
Wenda Fong is the co-founder of Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (CAPE). CAPE is an organization in Hollywood that gives Asian Americans a place to connect and network with professionals to boost their entertainment careers.
CAPE started in 1991 and grew out of a meeting between three friends.
“We proposed this idea of starting an organization where we could network, meet, share our dreams, build relationships,” Fong said.
At a time when diversity is a hot topic in Hollywood, Fong said CAPE is trying to “help change the face of television and film and the digital world.”
“The diversity starts on the page,” Fong said. “We know that as producers and directors.”
Twenty-five years after its founding, CAPE now connects industry leaders with young Asian Americans through a writers fellowship program. The program helps graduates break into major network shows.
Erika Lippoldt and Bo Yeon Kim, TV writing partners, landed a writing job on the CW show “Reign” thanks to the CAPE fellowship. Their first episode aired last season.
“[CAPE] gives the opportunities you need to break in,” Lippoldt said.
Another CAPE success story is Randall Park, who has appeared in HBO’s Emmy-winning show “Veep” and is now part of the sitcom “Fresh Off the Boat.”
He also has a master’s degree from UCLA and a bachelor’s degree in creative writing, but that was not enough to give him his big break, he said.
“The kind of support CAPE gave me is almost more than a break,” Park said.
Park said that CAPE is like his extended family.
“They’ve been there, cheering me on this whole journey,” he said.
Fong said she hopes her work allows the next generation of Asian Americans to stand on her shoulders, but she still tells them that it is their responsibility to carry this forward.
Kim shares that sentiment.
“You really have to help each other to rise to the top together,” Kim said.
Fong said change in the industry is happening, and Asian Americans are slowly starting to break in.
“I see the change,” Fong said. “Of course it’s slower than what we all hope for, but we are advancing.”
Submission for CAPE’s next writing fellowship begins December 1.
To learn more about the organization and apply for the fellowship, visit their website.