This Filipino-American in Hollywood Is Fighting For Asian-American Representation
While COVID has battered the global economy, it has also had a profound socio-political impact on a specific group of people: reports of hate crimes in Western countries have skyrocketed against Asians who are perceived as superspreaders of the virus. There have been numerous reports of violence and discrimination against Asians by ignorant people blaming them for the pandemic.
Filipino-American Jeremiah Abraham is doing what he can to change the perception of Asian-American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) in the media for the better. He is the founder and CEO of Tremendous Communications, a PR and marketing agency working to uplift Asian-Americans in media and entertainment. Since being founded in 2020, his company has worked on campaigns for some of the biggest films and TV shows of the last couple of years, including Everything Everywhere All At Once starring Michelle Yeoh, Lionsgates’ The Protege, Fast and Furious 9 led by Vin Diesel, and the upcoming film Easter Sunday from Filipino-American comedian Jo Koy.
Growing up in Los Angeles, California as a first generation immigrant in the late 1980s, Abraham cites portrayals in popular culture, particularly movies and TV shows like Squid Game and Parasite, for helping put Asians in a better light.
“These Asian stories, which aren’t necessarily Asian stories, they can be for anybody,” he says. “They have very universal themes, they have relatable characters. But I think with them being so popular, it allows more to be created, it allows more actors, producers, directors, and whoever else is part of the productions to have actual opportunities in films we probably have never seen before.”
Abraham also believes that these stories deserve to be told. “There’s such an untapped potential in Asian storylines that maybe have not seen the light of day before because these studios have historically seen Asian stories as not really potentially all that profitable. So now we’re actually showing up, like, hey we actually want this, this is in demand, we’re willing to buy movie tickets, we’re willing to buy subscriptions to Netflix in hoards because we have these wonderful shows that now i think the mentality has really [shifted] to that. So, yeah, I think it’s wonderful”
As an advocate for equality and representation, Abraham has not only helped Asian-American filmmakers, he’s also worked with LGBTQIA+ creatives locally, including Isabel Sandoval, who directed the critically acclaimed movie “Lingua Franca.” He says he felt “safe” and “at home” working with Sandoval, with whom he shares similar ideas, and was a way for him to raise awareness and place narratives for Asian LGBTQIA+ characters to the fore. Abraham feels that, for decades, Asians have been devalued in Hollywood, but the community has persisted in letting it voice be heard.
“Hollywood was not generally ready to accept an Asian lead in a summer blockbuster,” he says. “I mean you had some examples of really great characters like Rufio with Dante Basco and you had (Jonathan Ke Quan) from Indiana Jones and The Goonies [films], and those folks really paved the way. And then you have icons and legends like Lucy Liu.”
Abraham says it was an extra challenge that the pandemic happened soon after he founded his company. “There were no movies [at the time], and then suddenly, now Asians are being attacked all over the world,” he says, “I can’t have this company that claims to be in advocate for Asians and Asian-Americans and not be vocal and use the expertise that we have to try to support our community. So during that time we were still gearing up when studios were going to open again, we really focused our time on supporting issues that pertain to stopping Asian hate.”
He references America is in the Heart the seminal novel by Filipino author Carlos Bulosan that contextualized the struggles of a Filipino immigrant in the United States. Abraham says he related to a lot of elements in the book, sympathized with the characters and is eternally moved by its themes.
“I think that really tells a great Filipino story” he says, “and it shows us a historical context, it helps us understand where we came from as Filipino-Americans. It helps us see the types of racism, discrimination, the sacrifices that our manongs and our families, our parents, our grandparents had to face.”
While he has work lined up in Hollywood, Abraham says he’s also working on a few projects back home, including a partnership with ABS-CBN on a series called “Concepcion.” The series is about a crime lord based in Los Angeles with his family and his journey to establish a foundation in America.
“It’s [basically] an immigrant story but, you know, with crime,” he laughs.
Abraham is quick to credit the support of the AAPI community, without whom there would be no Tremendous Communications. He expresses appreciation that big Hollywood studios are trusting he and his team’s word and expertise in helping put the spotlight on Asian faces and voices from all over the world.
Film and TV studios that Abraham's company Tremendous Communications has worked with
“I’m glad we’re being seen as a good partner on all sides” he says. “And I’m glad that studios were able to trust our expertise in order to make these big decisions on their behalf.”