Panel: Asian Creators Should Embrace ‘Original Perspective’ When Pitching Shows to U.S.

Masi Oka Headshot 2011

Hollywood insiders came to Japan to explain how producers of non-scripted shows can exploit America's changing TV landscape.

OKINAWA -- A Hollywood panel consisting of Masi Oka (Heroes), Pierre Brogan (CAA) and producer Jeff Hasler (Queer Eye for the Straight Guy) advised Japanese and other Asian content creators on how to pitch format shows to American networks at the Okinawa Contents Bazaar on Sunday.

The panelists said shifts in U.S. demographics and TV viewing habits are changing the nature of programming and explained how Asian producers can tap into this.

“Children born to Caucasian parents are now in the minority in the United States, and so networks are becoming more open to shows with characters from different backgrounds,” said Hasler.

“Don't think about creating for the American market; the big advantage you have coming from Asia is a different, original perspective and fresh ideas,” added Oka, who has been active as a producer in recent years.

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Hasler pointed out how cable shows in the U.S. are now regularly beating the main broadcast networks in the ratings battle, citing the History channel's The Bible series as an example.

“This is really a seismic shift, when cable shows are getting 10 million viewers, while network shows, with triple the potential audience, are getting two million,” said Hasler, who suggested the increased pressure on cable executives is making the pitching process more complicated and competitive.

CAA's Brogan noted that the rise of cable also means there are even more buyers in the U.S. now, and a far greater number than in Japan, where broadcast networks still dominate.

Agents are also central to the pitching process in Hollywood, explained Brogan, partly due to the high staff turnover at networks; another major difference to Japan, where job turnover remains low.

“Agents in Hollywood know who's happy in their job and will be staying at the network, and worth pitching to -- and who is about to leave for another channel because their boss is a giant pain,” said Brogan.

“There's a huge amount of great content in Asia, but there's not a lot of knowledge about how to present and sell them in Hollywood, which has a very unique way of doing business,” said Oka. “Understanding how that works and what the zeitgeist is, that's vital to getting projects picked up.”

The Okinawa International Movie Festival is running on Japan's southern most island March 24 to 31.

Twitter: @GavinJBlair