SACRAMENTO.–The California Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus on Sept. 6 issued a letter to the Ann Sarnoff, the CEO of Warner Brothers, expressing extreme disappointment about the pay disparity experienced by Adele Lim, screenwriter for the “Crazy Rich Asians” sequel, and calling for a change in industry standards.
Lim has left the production of the upcoming sequel, citing how she was being offered a fraction of the salary of white male co-writer Peter Chiarelli.
The Hollywood Reporter said Lim left the production last fall, having been offered an estimated $110,000 for her services, as compared to an estimated $800,000 to $1 million for Chiarelli.
“Being evaluated that way can’t help but make you feel that is how they view my contributions,” said Lim, who has received support from the “Crazy Rich Asians” cast, director, and Chiarelli, who reportedly offered to share his salary to keep Lim involved with the project.
Lim added that studios often view people of color as “soy sauce,” being employed to sprinkle cultural details to a story, instead of being trusted with the substantive work of crafting the story.
The API Legislative Caucus letter, signed by the chair, Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco), reads as follows:
“We were extremely disappointed to learn about the incredible pay disparity experienced by Ms. Adele Lim to write the sequels for the film ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ compared to her white male counterpart.
“The California State Legislature honored Adele Lim during Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May, when she accepted the Excellence in Entertainment Award on behalf of the film ‘Crazy Rich Asians.’ Ms. Lim is an adept, skilled writer and producer who has worked in the television and film industry for nearly two decades.
“We are deeply disappointed that the sequels to this film will not have the benefit of her insights and talents due to an adherence to a so-called ‘industry standard’ that only enhances pay disparities for women and people of color.
“For many Asian Americans, ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ symbolized representation on multiple levels. This was a film that authentically included Asian voices from the storytelling through the novel by Kevin Kwan, the imagery created by director John Chu, the cast of nearly all Asians who brought characters to life, and a screenplay co-written by Adele Lim, who not only expertly adapted the novel, but ensured that cultural nuances remained intact.
“Among other notable moments in the film, Ms. Lim enhanced authenticity in the scene of the popular mahjong game.
“Sadly, the API community goodwill that Warner Brothers generated with the film will be negatively impacted by how Ms. Lim has been treated.
“The API Legislative Caucus represents and advocates for the interests of the API communities throughout California by working with leaders like you. As home to the largest Asian American and second-largest Pacific Islander population in the country, California has a responsibility to represent and stand up for the diverse facets of our communities, which is why last year our API Legislative Caucus led the efforts for new diversity provision in the extension of California’s film and television tax credit program.
“Film studios such as Warner Brothers must confront the inherent discrimination of the ‘industry standard,’ which has rewarded people based on the credits to their name without recognizing that often women and people of color have not received the same opportunities.
“We have been in touch with members of your team, and appreciate their responsiveness and willingness to have a dialogue. The API Legislative Caucus requests a follow-up meeting with you to discuss what steps you will take to address these issues moving forward.”
Last year, “Crazy Rich Asians” was a breakout hit, opening at No. 1 at the box office and going on to gross $238.5 globally. The film and its success was a new high for Asian representation in Hollywood, though progress on its one or two sequels has been stalled.