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The nonprofit’s new CAPE Animation Directors Accelerator, powered by Sony Pictures Entertainment for 2021, will give rising API animation directors the opportunity to boost their careers through one-on-one executive mentorship as well as panels, workshops and masterclasses with high-level industry execs, producers and creatives.
“Studies show that children as young as five years old are capable of racial biases, which highlights the importance of authentic storytelling in animation,” CAPE executive director Michelle K. Sugihara said in a statement. “Despite the relative number of Asians working in animation, there are woefully few Asian or Pacific Islander studio animation directors or exec producers, making this a critical pressure point to accelerate change in the industry.”
Sony Pictures Animation vice president of creative Justinian Huang and Michelle Wong, producer of SPA and Netflix’s Vivo, are co-chairing the accelerator. Huang currently is overseeing creative development on the feature K-Pop: Demon Hunters, and prior to joining Sony in April he was head of development at Shanghai’s Pearl Studio, where he under his watch the studio produced Netflix’s Oscar-nominated Over the Moon as well as Kung Fu Panda 3 and Abominable with DreamWorks Animation.
“Excitingly, there are more pathways to becoming a director in animation than ever before,” Huang said in a statement. “This accelerator invites the most talented folks out there to join us in navigating those paths, strategically and mentally, as we launch a new class of directors that finally reflects the abundance of the AAPI community in animation.”
Added Wong, whose 18 years of feature animation experience has currently landed her at Netflix, in a statement: “It’s time to look beyond the current state of directors in animation. This is a groundbreaking opportunity that will give exposure to a community that has a wealth of originality and innovation.”
Huang and Wong will help vet the accelerator’s candidates, who preferably will have at least five years of experience in animation or a related entertainment field and aspire to become creative lead for animated feature or episodic projects. Submissions to CADA, which will run virtually this fall (meaning anyone in the world can apply), will be accepted through Sept. 30, and SPE is covering application fees for this year.
“We’ve enjoyed a long partnership with CAPE,” said SPE chief diversity officer Paul Martin in a statement, “and it was important to us to support this significant initiative to increase the exposure and opportunity for Asian and Pacific Islander talent even beyond our doors.”
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