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The International Touch of Producer Janice Woo

It’s indisputable that the film market and film community is increasing. Hollywood’s century plus preeminence still stands but anyone with a Netflix account is aware that the films of Australia, India, and China have made enormous advances in both production and story quality. As the world becomes closer, so do the film industries of different parts of the globe. This sometimes means assimilation and other times simply means expansion. This is a win/win scenario to which producer Janice Lok Woo will happily attest. Her career has taken her across the planet to Europe, American, China, and other locations. While many like to say that art is not a competition, Woo’s career proves this with her successful films that have found cross cultural appeal and simultaneously sprouted specific pockets of intense enthusiasm. Hollywood makes a great deal of its profit in the international market these days and professionals such as Woo are proving that international professionals are a major benefit in terms of talent and knowledge.

Janice is recognized in the film community not only due to the exceptional quality of her work but also by her ability to somehow manifest solutions quickly, which is precisely why director Feather Zhong contacted her. Zhong found himself in the unenviable situation of being on a curt timetable and needing to establish the shoot in LA rather than New York for his film Ménage a Trois. With only a week prior to shooting, Woo assembled her normal production crew and began casting without the director present. Leads were cast two days before the shoot! This scenario belies the notoriety of Ménage a Trois which received awards from the Calcutta International Cult Film Festival, Direct Monthly Online Film Festival, Miami Independent Film Festival, and Aab International Film Festival. This film is a romantic gay love story. When Charles and Harry meet through a mutual friend, it feels like love at first sight. Their chemistry experiences a hiccup when Harry’s transgender girlfriend (Alice) shows up. Besides the identification of the characters, there is nothing that indicates this love story is any different than any other love story. It’s romantic at times, sweet at times, and complicated at times. The film’s acceptance by audiences across the globe attests to the prevalence of a more accepting and open minded film goer; one who focuses on the essence of a character rather than a label.

A story which presents cross cultural ideas but is very rooted in one culture was offered in the film Shadow, on which Woo served as producer in 2017. Shot entirely in Mandarin, the story focuses on a married couple who have moved to the US from China in search of elevating their status of life. Even viewers who don’t speak the language can sense the uncertainty and paranoia of Paul, the husband in this film. It’s obvious that something has him concerned and as the story unfolds we find that the source of this was a “bait and switch.” Part thriller and part detective story, Shadow’s twist ending earned it accolades from the Los Angeles Film Awards, Festigious Film Festival, and others. The cultural differences presented in the film were not lost on the film’s crew which was made up of American and Chinese professionals. The blending of the two countries is occurring with more regularity these days. Janice Woo relates, “I think more films like this will be made as there are more Chinese filmmakers out there. However, I don’t think it will compete with the American film industry. Chinese films are made more for the Asian market. I’d say the films are understandable to everyone but are not made for every market because there are always very heavy cultural elements used. Hollywood is international. I do think there will be more collaboration as nowadays there are more Asian stars starring in Hollywood movies and more Hollywood movies are co- produced by American and Chinese production companies. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.”

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