The 2023 Diverse Perspectives in Digital Media & Design Speaker Series has reached its conclusion. The third and final panel, a collaboration between the University of Connecticut Department of Digital Media & Design and the Asian American Cultural Center, was entitled “The Visionary Leadership of Minority Women in Animation.” The guest speaker was none other than Jane Wu, creative director at Hero4Hire, an Emmy-nominated production studio.
Wu boasts an impressive resume, having worked 13 years in the motion design industry on projects ranging from commercials and documentaries to TV series. “What We Do in the Shadows,” HBO’s “Our Flag Means Death” and “Women of the Movement: Mamie Till-Mobley” are just a few examples of the numerous projects she has been involved with.
Wu began her presentation by showing the audience her creative director reel, a short video acting as a mini portfolio, so audience members could become familiar with a bit of her work. Then, she explained her origin story. Citing “Battle Angel Alita” and films such as Studio Ghibli’s “Valley of the Wind” as early inspirations, she demonstrated a strong passion to work in the art industry. Raised in New York City, she graduated from Pratt Institute and eventually worked her way up to becoming a creative director.
As a first generation Asian American, Wu felt as if she didn’t truly belong anywhere. In an industry dominated by white males, one of the main challenges she has faced in her career is imposter syndrome: the feeling of not belonging where you are. Due to never seeing leaders or characters in the industry who looked like her, she felt discouraged at times. This served to reinforce her philosophy of putting herself into her work – supporting those who look like her, fighting for representation in media and acting on a principle called “radical leadership.”
Wu described radical leadership as a multi-faceted concept that not only applies to work but the rest of her life as well. In addition to many others, it involves principles such as celebrating cultural differences and diversity as part of our everyday lives, upholding accountability, creating systems that are just and working towards an equitable workplace.
“Everyone’s just trying to fit in and make their own way,” Wu said.
Wu also touched upon mainstream media’s historical record of fetishizing Asian women, a topic she focused on in the PBS documentary film, “Rising Against Asian Hate.” Referencing films such as “Full Metal Jacket” and “Austin Powers,” she made it clear that the industry has had a track record of depicting Asian women as easily manipulable sexual objects. However, she is proud of how much more representation for Asian women (compared to none previously) there is in media today, highlighting films such as “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Turning Red” and “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which recently took home seven Oscars.
After Wu’s presentation, the questions and answers segment of the panel began. Digital media & design students Nurudeen Musa and Logan Terness took the floor to ask Wu questions from both themselves and audience members who had the opportunity to submit their own inquiries.
Wu believes that the ability to shape culture is the key to creating a more equitable society for those who are marginalized and underrepresented. By being able to directly create media with such representation, Wu is actively working to change society for the better.