Judges & Coaches Bios
Heading up our prestigious jury is Joan Chen, the celebrated actress/filmmaker (The Last Emperor, Twin Peaks, Marco Polo) and board member of the 1990 Institute.
- Joan Chen
Actress & Filmmaker; Chair, Youth Voices Jury
Acclaimed actress and film director Joan Chen is one of the international film industry’s most widely recognized and respected Asian stars. She began her film career at age 14 in Shanghai. Her performance in the films Qing Chun (Youth,lolo 1977) and Xiao Hua (Little Flower, 1980) catapulted her to fame in China, and garnered her the Best Actress Award. In 1981, Joan left China for the U.S. to study film at California State University, Northridge. In the U.S., she has appeared in over 40 film and television roles. Her most notable performances include the Oscar-winning film, The Last Emperor, David Lynch’s Twin Peaks TV series, Oliver Stone’s Heaven and Earth, and Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution.
In 1997, Joan made her directorial debut with the critically acclaimed Xiu Xiu:The Sent-down Girl, which received numerous international awards, including the International Freedom of Expression Award. In 2000, she directed MGM’s Autumn In New York starring Richard Gere and Winona Ryder and Shanghai Strangers in 2012. Currently, she plays Empress Chabi in in Netflix’s Marco Polo, a television drama series about Marco Polo’s early years in the court of Kublai Khan, which just completed its second season. Joan is a long-time resident of San Francisco with her husband, Dr. Peter Hui and their two daughters. Joan is a Director on the 1990 Institute Board.
- Megs Booker
Theater directorMargaret (Megs) Booker has directed over 100 theatrical productions in the U.S., Europe, and Asia.
She was the Founding Artistic Director of Tony Award-winning Intiman theatre in Seattle, where she produced three international theater festivals (Scandinavia, Germany, South America). In 1996, with the support of the Asian Cultural Council (an affiliate of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund), she directed an all-Chinese cast in a Chinese-language production of August Wilson’s Fences at the Beijing People’s Art Theatre. Dr. Booker spent four years with the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference developing and directing new work and has been the Artistic Director of the Asolo theatre (Florida) and the Hartman theatre (Connecticut). She received her B.A. from Stanford University, M.A. from the University of San Diego and Ph.D. from Stanford University.Dr. Booker has taught at Stanford, UC Santa Cruz. and American Conservatory Theatre. She is the author of Lillian Hellman and August Wilson: Dramatizing a New American Identity and a major contributor to the Cambridge University Press’ The Cambridge Companion to August Wilson.Currently, Ms. Booker is staging the musical fable A NIGHT AT THE ALHAMBRA CAFÉ, recently produced at Harlem Stage in New York and the Krannert Center in Champaign-Urbana, Ilinois for international touring. She led the 1990 Institute’s Beijing Jazz program at the China National Children’s Center and chaired The 1990 Institute’s Programs Committee. Additionally, she is a docent trainee for the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco and embarking on a new career as Lead Floral Designer for her new company Floricity.
- James Q. Chan
Filmmaker; Founder, Good Medicine Picture CompanyJames Quyen Chan (Producer, Director, Camera), founder of Good Medicine Picture Company, is a San Francisco-based filmmaker who has collaborated on Emmy- and Grammy-winning projects. His film mentorship/training began alongside two-time Academy-Award winning filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK, THE CELLULOID CLOSET, PARAGRAPH 175). Producing credits with Epstein & Friedman include History Channel’s 10 DAYS THAT UNEXPECTEDLY CHANGED AMERICA (Emmy Award; 2006 Outstanding Non-Fiction Series), HOWL (Sundance 2010 Opening Night; National Board of Review Freedom of Expression Award).
Recent producing work include award-winning films about– a child IT protégé :PUCK AND THE RIDDLE OF CODES; father & son reconciliation ISTINMA (Best Short, 2014 American Indian Film Festival); U.S. immigration law impacts on bi-national same-sex couples ENTRY DENIED (Jury Award, Best Short, 2012 Provincetown); love & equality RIGHT DOWN THE LINE music video (Bonnie Raitt, Grammy 2013).
Prior to filmmaking, James worked as a SAG/AFTRA Union Talent Agent. His refugee and working class background, love for nature shows, memories of his mother’s cooking shape his sensibilities in all of his stories.His award-winning directorial debut FOREVER, CHINATOWN (May 2017 national broadcast, WGBH/World Channel) has been selected for the American Film Showcase, the premier diplomacy program bringing screenings and workshops to audiences in more than 40 countries. A partnership between the U.S. State Department and USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, James will serve as film envoy for the 2017-2018 AFS Program.
- Jason Chan
Co-Founder & Director, BananaMana Filmsl l
Initially a medical doctor, Jason studied acting at NIDA, Sydney before landing his first major role as the Green Samurai Ranger in “Power Rangers Ninja Storm”(2003). Soon after he moved to Singapore (2006) for multiple film, TV and theatre roles. However, he always had an urge to tell his own stories and started a production company with the aim of creating films and long form TV series. Together with founding partner Christian Lee, Jason has written, directed, edited and composed for their various productions. Most recently this has led to 7 awards for their most recent series: “Perfect Girl” and “What Do Men Want?” Jason’s hope is to continue to create long-form, narrative, premium level content in Asia for international audiences.
- Milton Chen
George Lucas Educational Foundation
As a leading figure in educational media for more than 25 years, Dr. Milton Chen is at the forefront of K-12 teaching and learning as it has been transformed in the Digital Age. An authority in education innovation, with interests ranging from project-based learning, social/emotional learning and technology strategies that enhance the educational process, Chen has made it his life’s work to improve practices and programs so that teachers, administrators, and students can achieve their full potential in an era of cutting-edge innovation and transformation.
As executive director of the George Lucas Educational Foundation (Edutopia), Chen was instrumental in making the Edutopia.org multimedia website the premier online community for K-12 teachers, administrators, parents, and students. With its emphasis on social learning, teacher development, and technology integration, Edutopia remains instrumental in advancing 21st-century learning skills and changing education for the better through its unique digital-savvy approach to innovation.Prior to his leadership role at Edutopia, Chen was the director of research at the Children’s Television Workshop, where he worked on such childhood touchstones as Sesame Street, The Electric Company, and 3-2-1 Contact. He is also the author of the book Education Nation: Seven Leading Edges of Innovation in Our Schools, a new vision of learning that takes education from its traditional classroom into a bold new era of possibilities — digital and otherwise. He currently serves as the chair of the advisory council for the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at St. Vincent’s College in Pennsylvania.
- Alan Chu
SVP, Media Group, Smithsonian Enterprises; SVP of Global Business Development, Smithsonian Enterprises
Alan Chu is currently Senior Vice President of the Media Group at the Smithsonian Institution. Alan has profit and loss responsibility for this division whose major properties include Smithsonian Magazine, Air & Space Magazine, Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Books, and a minority interest in the Smithsonian’s cable TV joint venture with CBS/Showtime, Smithsonian Channel. Most recently, Alan is leading the Media Group’s international expansion into Asia.
Before joining Smithsonian, Mr. Chu was with Time Inc. where he was in a variety of financial, marketing and management roles, including working with business unties Outdoor Life, Field & Stream, Golf, Popular Science, Ski, and This Old House. His other career experiences included working at IBM and in management consulting after receiving his MBA from Columbia University.
- Sabrina Chen-Louie
President, JBF Entertainment
JBF Entertainment is a development, production and distribution company, with the goal of sharing Asian themes, cultures and stories with the world through high quality feature films, documentaries, short films and series. JBF also represents and promotes Asian-American directors, writers and talents.
Sabrina is an experienced film executive with expertise in acquisition, distribution, sales, production and finance. She spend her early career in Taiwan working with Era, CMC and Pandasia, acquiring and distributing films such as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Blair Witch Project and From Dusk til Dawn, among others and TV series. before joining Michelle Yeoh in 2001 to produce “The Touch” and “Silver Hawk.” Since 2006, Sabrina has co-written scripts and produced and distributed over 15 documentaries. In 2013, she organized the Asian Short Script Competition, with the top scripts being optioned and produced into short films.
- Ken Ellis
Filmmaker, George Lucas Educational Foundation
Ken’s career spans writing, directing and producing numerous award-winning documentaries and other forms of media since 1975. Based in the SF Bay Area, he has had the opportunity to explore a variety of subjects and formats, from a bilingual children’s show for PBS (Villa Alegre), to a feature-length docudrama (The People vs Dan White) to investigative docs (9/11:Press For Truth), a series of environmental shorts (Green Means) and various programs and series for PBS, A&E, CNBC, MSNBC and HGTV. he’s had the privilege of heading up the video department at George Lucas Educational Foundation from 2001 to 2010. The Dartmouth alum also served as Executive Producer for KQED-TV, producing 50 hours of public affairs programming per year for local and national broadcast. There, he was also director & vreator of “EXPRESS,” a weekly, prime-time broadcast: winner of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Award for Best News (1985/1988) and more than 20 regional Emmy awards. Supervision and production of reports for the “MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour.”
- James Haber
Marketing Executive, Thunkable
Jimmy Haber was previously a digital strategist and storyteller for Alibaba Group, where he managesdcontent for the Alibaba.com mobile app. Jimmy also led the Rural Taobao Photo Series, a digital project that documented how Alibaba’s technology is changing businesses in rural Chinese communities. Prior to working at Alibaba, Jimmy was with the National Committee on US-China Relations in New York City, and the American Chamber of Commerce in Beijing. He is a graduate of Bard College and the Bard College Conservatory of Music, where he studied Chinese History and French horn.
- Mason Hsieh
Screenwriter, SkyDance Media
Mason is a screenwriter and journalist based in LA. He got his start in TV development at Universal Television and cut his teeth on NBC’s summer hit, Midnight, Texas. He currently works on a new show for Hulu. Mason got his BA at Harvard in Sociology with a Secondary in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. As an editor for The Harvard Crimson, he ran the Dance Board and is currently a columnist for HuffPost, where he was voted one of the “Top 15 Blogs that Made Us Think Differently About the Queer Community.”
- Tonia Chao Hsieh
Educator and Film Producer
Tonia Chao Hsieh has been an advocate for equity and social justice through education and media for nearly 30 years. She is the co-founder of KarMa Pictures, an independent film production company whose mission is to create stereotype-shattering films (The Debut, Restless and Americanese). Her passion for equity and social justice was ignited as a Business Consultant with ASIAN Inc., assisting women-owned and minority-owned businesses to secure contracts with various public agencies.
Her experience in education includes her role as Undergraduate Dean in the College of Environmental Design at the University of California, and as the Facilities Planner and Facilities Manager at Stanford University’s School of Medicine. Tonia co-chaired the Board of Trustees for The College Preparatory School in Oakland, where she also served as Chair of the Governance and Trustees’ Diversity committees. She served on the Board of the Partners Program and is a founding board member of the Roses in Concrete Community School to open July 2015 in East Oakland. Tonia is a member of the 1990 Institute’s Board of Directors.
- Christian Lee
Co-Founder, BananaMana Films
Christian Lee is co-founder of BananaMana Films, an award-winning production company that specializes in creating aspirational Asian dramas in English for film, TV and web. BananaMana Films’ recent feature film, JIMAMI TOFU, that Christian co-wrote, co-directed and co-executive produced is a romantic feature set in Okinawa, Japan that tells a love story between a Singaporean Chinese chef, and a Japanese food critic woven around 100 year old Okinawa Ryukyu Dynastic cuisine. The film was financed through support by the Okinawa Convention Visitors Bureau, and has also been officially selected to the 37th Hawaii International Film Festival in the Eat.Drink.Film section. BananaMana Films’ most prominent drama, Perfect Girl, won 7 international awards and 17 nominations and is distributed globally by Netflix.
- Felicia Lowe
TV producer, Film director and Writer
Felicia Lowe is an award winning independent television producer, director, and writer with more than 35 years of production experience. Chinese Couplets is her latest film which premiered at CAAMFest 2015 (Center for Asian American Media) and won an Audience Award. Lowe received an EMMY for Best Cultural Documentary for Chinatown: The Hidden Cities of San Francisco. The lively hour-long piece on the history of San Francisco’s oldest neighborhood has been broadcast numerous times on PBS.
Carved in Silence, her documentary about the experiences of Chinese immigrants detained on Angel Island Immigration Station has become a classic and is used in classrooms across the country. In 1979, Lowe documented her trip to China to meet her paternal grandmother and made China: Land of My Father which was broadcast on PBS and garnered numerous awards.Her innovative works reveal the unique experiences of Chinese in America while underscoring our common humanity. Prior to her documentary work, Lowe was a broadcast journalist and has taught film production and script writing at San Francisco State University and Stanford University. She’s been actively involved in the preservation and restoration of the Angel Island Immigration Station.
- Mary Kay Magistad
Journalist & Podcast Host, PRI’s the World
- Mary Kay Magistad is formerly The World’s East Asia correspondent. She lived and reported in the region for two decades. Mary Kay is now based in San Francisco.During her time in Asia, she traveled regularly and widely throughout China and beyond, exploring how China’s rapid transformation has affected individual lives and exploring the bigger geopolitical, economic and environmental implications of China’s rise. She stepped back every so often to do an in-depth series on such topics as the China’s urbanization — the biggest and most rapid move from the countryside to the cities in human history, on the potential for innovation in China, and on the ripple effects on Chinese society of the One Child Generation coming of age.Mary Kay’s seven-part series on that subject, called “Young China,” won a 2007 Overseas Press Club Award, one of several awards she has received.Mary Kay started out in Southeast Asia, based in Bangkok, as a regular contributor to NPR, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and other news media. She covered the Cambodian civil war and the UN peace process, the Burmese army’s crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators and the United States’ wary rapprochement in the early ‘90s with Vietnam.Mary Kay also reported farther afield, covering the aftermath of genocide in Rwanda, tensions with Iraq in Kuwait, and other stories.Mary Kay became NPR’s full-time Southeast Asia correspondent in 1993, and in 1996 she opened NPR’s first Beijing bureau. She took time out for two fellowships at Harvard — a Nieman and a Radcliffe fellowship — enough time to realize China was too interesting a story to leave — before going back to China for The World.Mary Kay graduated from Northwestern University with a double major in journalism and history, and has an MA in international relations from the University of Sussex in England, completed on a Rotary Foundation Fellowship.
- Corey Tong
Corey Tong is a film and media producer, public relations and programming/acquisitions consultant, guest lecturer, producers representative. Corey is a producer of the new film FOREVER, CHINATOWN (USA, 2016, doc); executive producer of the Oscar®-nominated and Emmy-winning documentary LAST DAY OF FREEDOM (USA, 2015); producer of the drama THE LAND HAS EYES (Fiji-USA, 2004-05; Sundance; PBS, official Oscar-submission Fiji); producer of BEYOND THE TEAM (USA, 2013, doc); producer/co-writer of THE GATHERING PLACE, a drama slated for production in Hong Kong, Tokyo, San Francisco and Hawaii in 2017. He has two series in development in New Zealand and Brazil, and his films as producer or rep have screened on PBS and other international broadcasters or theatrical venues in over 20 countries.He is the former director of the San Francisco Int’l Asian American Film Festival (CAAM) and former IFFCON director of special projects (co-production, development market). Other films he has represented, sold or co-distributed include KAWA (New Zealand); PATANG (India-USA); DEPARTURES (Japan Oscar®-winner); AMERICA SO BEAUTIFUL (Iran-USA); SEEKING ASIAN FEMALE (USA); BEAUTIFUL BOXER (Thailand). Corey is originally from Hawaii and is based in San Francisco and Honolulu, and also has a professional background in architecture and design.
- Victoria Wu
Chief Strategy Officer, Rakuten
Victoria was most recently an Investment Partner at Tencent Xplorations Group. Prior to joining Tencent, Victoria worked for the Boston Consulting Group. She also worked at The Nature Conservancy, the largest environmental non-profit organization in the world. She was the head of TNC’s fundraising in North Asia region. She also worked in corporate engineering at Genentech. Before life in technology industry, she served as TV news anchorwoman and journalist in Greater China region. Victoria brings with her fifteen years of experience in internet, entrepreneurship and management in China and the U.S.
Victoria holds a M.S. in Management Science from Stanford University, and a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Science & Technology of China.
- Chaai Wu
Chaai is a native of Shanghai who has also lived for years in Sydney, Hong Kong and New York. In addition to her mother tongues of Mandarin and Cantonese, she also speaks English, Japanese and Italian. She is currently a language instructor for the TESOL Certificate Program at Teachers College, Columbia University. She specializes in curriculum design and her current research is focused on the implementation of Project-Based Learning (PBL) in the classroom. She enjoys working with students from various backgrounds and her passion in teaching languages springs from her own language-learning journey. Prior to her career in education, Chaai Wu worked as a financial analyst at BNP Paribas Investment Bank from 2012-2015.
- Annie Jie Xu
General Manager, Alibaba Group US
As the general manager of Alibaba Group US, Annie is responsible for the operation of the US teams located in San Francisco, San Mateo and Seattle. She joined Alibaba in 2000 and has been a leading force in its direction since day one. Under her leadership, Alibaba’s team in the US has grown from 3 people to over 150 people in the area of marketing, business development, investment, corporate communications, investor relations, product development, user experience design, data science technology and customer service. Working in partnership with key leaders in the US and highest level of executives in Alibaba, Annie currently focuses on organizational development, employee communications, talent development and training.Prior to Alibaba, Annie worked as the head of Sales and Marketing at Kubota Electronics, a fortunate 500 company in Silicon Valley for 4 years. She was named Top 100 Women of Influence by Silicon Valley Business Journal in 2013. Annie received a BS in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley.
- Brian Yang
Actor and Film Producer
Brian is best known for his recurring character as forensic scientist “Dr. Charlie Fong” on the Hawaii Five-0 TV series. He has also starred in films such as The Man with the Iron Fists as Hyena, Quentin Lee’s The People I’ve Slept With as Jefferson (Archie Kao)’s right-hand man (and was also an Executive Producer of the film), Alice Wu’s Saving Face as Little Yu as Joan Chen’s love interest, Michael Kang’s West 32nd as Jahnkeh, among others. Brian was also the host of a reality show in China called Shanghai Rush.
Film production-wise, he was a producer of the 2012 Jeremy Lin basketball documentary directed by Evan Jackson Leong, Linsanity, which premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Other projects include producing Annie Undocumented, a Web series about young Asian Americans who are undocumented and Brittney Griner: Lifesize, about WNBA star Brittney Griner in the award-winning “ESPN Nine for IX Shorts” series. Yang and Leong have teamed up again on a feature film, Snakehead, which will star Lucy Liu. Brian was raised in the Bay Area, attended University of California Berkeley where he studied Biology and Dramatic Arts. He speaks both English and Mandarin. His career into Hollywood began after being cast as an extra on The Joy Luck Club.
- Stephanie Yang
Founder, Yang Communications
Communications and PR expert with over a decade of experience and a network of trusted reporter relationships. Formerly, marketing and PR head of global advertising agencies AKQA and Fantasy Interactive; PR lead for acquired website testing startup that Adobe now owns; PR lead for another startup that went belly-up; online marketer for Hollywood films including Academy Award®-winning The Lord of the Rings and Snakes On A Plane. (Yes, Snakes On A Plane.) SF chapter team lead for Women in Wireless. Board member of The 1990 Institute. Interviewed leaders at companies including 500 Startups, Coffee Meets Bagel, Instacart, Shyp and x.ai..
- Mei Zhang
Founder & CEO, WildChina
Mei Zhang is a native of Yunnan province in southwest China and the Founder of WildChina, a trendsetting travel company based in Beijing. Mei holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and worked as a consultant for McKinsey & Company until she found her true passion in sustainable travel.Together with former WildChina CEO Albert Ng, Mei has built WildChina into one of the world’s BEST Adventure Travel Companies, according to National Geographic. Mei’s expertise has also led her to win a number of personal awards and accolades, including Travel and Leisure “A-List of Top Travel Advisors” and Conde Nast Traveler “Top Travel Specialist”.WildChina now has offices in China and the U.S., and its business model is presented as a case study to all first-year students at Harvard Business School. Passionate about unlocking authentic travel experiences for the Chinese traveler, in 2011, Mei began another endeavor – Beshan Travel, introducing a chic travel lifestyle to sophisticated Chinese. In 2015, she took another leap of faith and launched Newugo.com, a platform that acts as the ‘Airbnb’ for authentic travel experiences.In 2016, Penguin published Mei’s first book, Travels through Dali Wth a Leg of Ham. The book is a beautifully illustrated chronicle of her return to her roots and serves as a form of cultural cultivation for the region’s ancient traditions.Mei lives in Berkeley, California with her husband John Pomfret and three children and maintains the social media identity @zhangmei.