by Cher Calvin for Balitang America
One of the main writers and producers behind the Will Smith blockbuster series Independence Day (1996) is a Filipino-American.
Meet Dean Devlin, whose Hollywood credits as a producer include both Godzilla films (plus the television series), Stargate (1994), and The Patriot (2000).
Currently, Devlin is producing and directing The Librarians and Leverage on TNT, and was also announced a producer of the third installment of the Independence Day series.
When Devlin started his career in Hollywood, there were obstacles he had to overcome — and even hide the fact that he was Filipino.
“When I was starting out in the business, some young Filipino filmmakers came to my office and they literally shamed me for not talking about being Filipino,” he admitted. “I realized at the time that my own grandfather used to say that we’re Spanish… and I thought that meant that we were ashamed of being Filipino.”
It was a common Filipino denial of culture.
“It took these young filmmakers to shame me, to realize that I have to speak out. All of us have to speak out. We have to get involved,” he added.
Devlin is one of the original members of CAPE — the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment, whose work to encourage the advancement of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the entertainment business, as well as discourage the stereotyping of Asians.
“We even saw last year at the Oscars, how we were being so sensitive to minorities, except Asians – somehow, its okay to make fun of us. So we’ve got to get rid of that, we gotta step out of that shadow.”
Devlin agrees that we need more Asian American talents to step out and start writing, to make Asian American voices a part of the fabric of mainstream media and entertainment.
“It’s trying to define exactly what our culture is, and that does start on the page – but we have amazingly talented artists, actors, and singers, and if we could give them more platforms to express themselves, and to be seen more, we won’t be quite as invisible.”
He challenges fellow Asian American writers to start defining and expressing their stories, and to not wait for someone to ask.
“We as a group can start to define, what do we want to say about ourselves? How do we want to express our experiences in the United States, and what our culture is, aside from martial arts movies?”
He also has advice for young, aspiring filmmakers looking to make it in the industry.
“We live in a time where anyone can pick up their iPhone and make an amazing movie. The technology (YouTube, Vimeo, etc.) is there. It’s not that hard anymore… there used to be this huge barrier. I just say if you have a story to tell just tell it. And keep telling it.”