Last week the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) announced the five winners of the inaugural BAFTA Breakthrough China initiative, bringing together young creative professionals from the worlds of film, television and gaming to participate in a year-long career development program that includes mentorship from BAFTA award winners and members, seminars, and promotional activities.
BAFTA Breakthrough China is the first international version of BAFTA Breakthrough Brits, which has assisted more than 100 emerging British talents since 2013, with nearly half of them subsequently obtaining nominations for the BAFTA Film, Games or Television Awards.
The establishment of the Chinese program was made possible by the support of Wendy Yu, an investor, entrepreneur and philanthropist. Yu has previously made her mark on the global fashion industry, funding the position of Curator in Charge of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and investing in fashion labels such as Mary Katrantzou and Samantha Cameron’s Cefinn through the company she founded, Yu Holdings.
CFI caught up with Yu to discuss her turn to the entertainment business and goals for the future.
CFI: How did you develop an interest in working with the entertainment industry?
Yu: Entertainment in one way or another shapes our culture, lives and our dreams. Creative industries have a unique power to inspire, innovate and create a legacy. More than ever in our fragmented times, I place importance on aligning with initiatives and businesses that can foster positive impact of this nature.
CFI: How was the relationship between Yu Holdings and BAFTA established?
Yu: Having lived in the U.K. for many years, BAFTA is an organisation that I’ve always admired and looked to support for it is synonymous with heritage and excellence. I am passionate about the arts for the impact it has on the cultural landscape, which envelops us all.
When I was approached by BAFTA’s CEO, Amanda Berry, to create BAFTA Breakthrough China — the first initiative of its kind that would create an opportunity for mentoring and creative exchange between China and the UK for China’s rising stars in entertainment — I was immediately interested to partner on it.
CFI: What are your goals for Yu Holdings’ involvement in China’s entertainment industry going forward?
Yu: At Yu Holdings, our mission is to cultivate creativity and culture, especially in and from China. I see the world of entertainment as being very much at the heart of our country’s artistic output. We plan to continue supporting our rising stars through initiatives of this kind and our business generally, and help strengthen our ecosystem as well as connect it to the global market.
CFI: Do you see a connection between your work in fashion and your work in entertainment?
Yu: I see fashion and entertainment as very much a part of a wider creative industry. I’m excited to see China’s creative community develop, grow in confidence and thrive both nationally and internationally. At Yu Holdings, we are committed to bringing world-class resources and opportunities to Chinese emerging talents.
CFI: The inaugural BAFTA Breakthrough China winners have had some professional and critical success at home. What are the goals for them in this program and beyond?
Yu: For the next year, the winners will be welcomed into the BAFTA family. This means they will receive fast-track access to industry peers via BAFTA, who will provide mentoring, as well as promotional opportunities that will help accelerate their careers. The ultimate goal is to create a mutually beneficial dialogue between East and West through this creative exchange program, as well as recognition of China’s rising stars.
CFI: What do you see as the key challenges and opportunities of China’s entertainment industry?
Yu: While China’s economic influence has surged in the past decade, its cultural and creative influence lags behind that of the rest of the world. The Chinese talents, from fashion to entertainment, haven’t yet had the opportunity to develop the skill level and experience of their Western counterparts. I see any challenges though simply to be opportunities to dig deep and get more creative.
Inaugural BAFTA Breakthrough China Winners
- Bai Xue, Director: Bai’s first feature film, “The Crossing,” which she also wrote, won critical acclaim at film festivals around the world.
- He Bin, Producer and Audio Engineer: He is a veteran audio engineer who made his debut as a producer on Bai Xue’s “The Crossing.”
- Bonnie Chen, Actress and Director: A former model who studied filmmaking at NYU, New York Film Academy and the School of Visual Arts, Chen’s debut film “Clover” was shortlisted by the ARFF Amsterdam.
- Guan Dan, Games Producer: Guan launched “The Invisible Guardian,” an innovative full-length live-action interactive product with elements from gaming, film and television.
- Ye Ting, Line Producer: Ye developed and produced box-office hit “How Long Will I Love U,” the top-grossing Chinese romantic comedy of 2018.