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HBO Announces 'APA Visionaries,' Short Film Contest for Asian-American Directors

Winners of HBO's first "APA Visionaries" competition will see their projects premiered on one of the network's platforms in addition to cash prizes.
HBO APA Visionaries
HBO APA Visionaries banner

Last week, cable television network HBO announced the launch of its “HBO Asian Pacific American Visionaries” contest, a short film competition aiming to showcase the work of up-and-coming Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) directors.

Jackie Gagne, HBO’s vice president of multicultural marketing, told NBC News that the contest, the first of its kind for the network, hopes to offer a platform for stories from the AAPI community that aren’t often seen.

“I think we’re really looking for the submissions to provide a unique perspective on the APA experience in particular,” Gagne said. “I think that that’s what we’ll most be tuned into. Stories that convey what that experience is like, or what it means for the filmmakers.”

She added, however, that competitors shouldn’t feel limited to submitting only AAPI-specific stories.

“In our mind the short film initiative would provide opportunity to unsung talent,” she said. “Individuals out there who just may not have had the opportunity to have their stories told in this way. We can really showcase their work.”

The competition is held by HBO in partnership with the Los Angeles Asian American Pacific Film Festival and the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (CAPE). Gagne said that HBO had an existing relationship with the film festival, and that the network reached out to CAPE specifically to develop the contest.

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“We thought that in doing this, it made sense for us to partner with organizations that have this legacy of promoting Asian Pacific American visionaries. Those two made a lot sense for us,” she said.

Winners of the competition will receive the opportunity to see their projects premiered on one or more of HBO’s distribution platforms (television, digital, on-demand, and/or social), as well as cash prizes of $1,000 to $5,000.

HBO, which featured “Silicon Valley” actor Jimmy O. Yang in its promotional video for the competition, is not new to AAPI talent. It recently finished showing the first season of summer drama “The Night Of,” which centers around a Pakistani-American family. “Fast and the Furious” director Justin Lin also directed a few episodes of the network’s “True Detective” in its second season.

Gagne noted that HBO’s commitment to diversity applies to company as well, saying that it has “a variety of programs that are really meant to provide access to allow us to make sure there is diversity from within.”

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The intent of the competition, she said, is to encourage AAPI directors and filmmakers to continue telling their stories.

“We think the diversity of our storytellers is more important than ever,” Gagne said. “We thought that it really made sense to do this now, and to start a competition that will allow us to celebrate these experiences and the talent behind them.”

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