Janet Yang is a film producer and cultural ambassador who works to bridge the gap between the Hollywood and Chinese film industries. President of Janet Yang Productions and The Manifest Film Company, Yang’s numerous credits include The People vs. Larry Flynt, The Joy Luck Club, High Crimes, The Weight of Water, Disney’s High School Musical in China, and most recently, Shanghai Calling.
What quality do you think has helped you become successful over the years?
Janet Yang: I don’t get too stuck on things. I don’t think, “This is how it has to be.” And especially working in China, it’s a handicap if you come in thinking, “This is the only way.” Studios go in, saying “This is how it’s done,” and it comes across as arrogance because it’s not how they do it in China.
Working in Hollywood and the West, the individual is often glorified, and that sometimes leads to over-sized egos. If I had a huge ego, it’d be really hard, because you’d be constantly butting heads with everyone. Not that I’m a wallflower or doormat, but because I’m pretty agile and I’m willing to let people have their space, I can concentrate on doing whatever’s necessary. If I need to be the alpha dog, I’ll be the alpha dog, but I’m not too attached to playing a certain role, and I think that’s helpful in terms of getting along with people.
Looking back, what has it been like being one of the few Asian American female power players in Hollywood?
Janet Yang: That’s always been a tricky question, because in this lifetime, I’ve only been Asian and a woman, so I can’t absolutely say how it’d be different otherwise. But I sometimes feel like we don’t have a club. It’s harder to have an instant identification with this group or that, when you’re in between cultures. You don’t know which club you should belong to, and you don’t particularly want to belong any existing club, so we have to make up our own club.
In the early days, especially in Hollywood, I was often in institutions where I was the only woman, and I definitely felt somewhat conspicuous, but it never felt like it was a true handicap. It could have been an asset. These days, people tend to remember me, and I’m sure it’s because there aren’t that many Asian women. So, how can I complain? I was just doing my thing, and doors opened up.
Do you have any advice for anyone who looks up to you and your career path?
Janet Yang: I don’t know. [laughs] That’s the problem when people ask, “How did you plan your career?” I didn’t plan it. I had no idea what I was doing. I was really more driven by my passions, I had this thing I wanted to do, and I was following my nose. So don’t try to imitate what I did. You can’t chart it on a graph, because it doesn’t make any sense. It was less of a plan and more of an evolution.
Especially in this day and age, the opportunities are coming from God knows where. It’s a crazy environment, so I feel like one has to be really clear about who you are, and hopefully what you’re good at and what you love to do overlaps, and then focus on those things. There are so many choices nowadays.
For our full Janet Yang profile in this issue of Audrey Magazine, click here.
For more information on 2013’s Unforgettable annual gala, click here.
For free tickets to our Unforgettable after party, click here. Hope to see you there!