Teddy Zee and the Sundance Kids



Hitch Teddy Zee and the Sundance Kids

     As he looks to that future Teddy Zee relies heavily on his past. Hollywood careers, at least the great ones, go through at least a few incarnations - gopher-agent-producer-studio head, say, or actor-director-producer, or writer-actor-director-producer. The true survivors know when to make the switch before everyone else does. Zee is now in what may be his sixth or maybe seventh incarnation.

     His last extended incarnation was heading up the film production arm of Will Smith's multi-faceted entertainment enterprise. Several things told him the time was right to undergo one final metamorphosis. For one Zee was approaching 50 and yearned for the freedom to flex the dealmaking and project-creating muscles he'd built up under the auspices of employers. For another, he could see that Hollywood had stopped growing and was, as a matter of fact, making fewer and fewer movies with each passing year.

     “Hollywood made fewer movies last year than the year before,” Zee says. “China is the final frontier.” That's why he decided to partner up with Peter Shiao, the son of a famous Chinese writer who built extensive contacts while working as a D.C. lobbyst practicing the delicate art of negotiating Chinese bureaucracy. “Everyone has made a lot of mistakes in China,” says Zee. “We can leverage Peter's experience in China and my experience in Hollywood to smooth out the process and make good things happen.”

     In refocusing his career on an Asian-centric future, Zee isn't some carpetbagger. He established his Asian American bona fides for most of the two decades he was deeply immersed in the Hollywood establishment.

Teddy Zee (far left) with, from left to right, Michael Kang, director of The Motel and West 32nd Street, Ted Kim, head of CJ America, the Korean studio that financed West 32nd Street, and John Cho, star of West 32nd Street, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle and a new NBC-TV mid-season replacement series. (Courtesy Teddy Zee)


     A case in point is the romantic comedy called Saving Face. While heading up Overbrook's film production arm, Zee took a fancy to the script by first-time screenwriter Alice Wu. He even gave Wu the opportunity to make her directorial debut when the project began shooting in New York. He cast veteran star Joan Chen to play the pregnant mother of a lesbian surgeon. He chose as co-stars the then relatively unknown Michelle Krusiec and Lynn Chen. It was shot half in Mandarin for Chinese distribution. It was a small movie, and hit just the right note to be one of about a hundred picked for the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. It also ended up winning the 2005 Golden Horse Audience Award for best movie.

     Another of Zee's trend-setting Asian projects was The Replacement Killers (1998) starring Chow Yun-Fat and Mira Sorvino. That was while he was heading up production at Davis Entertainment. He worked with Hong Kong producer Terrence Chang to bring about Chow's move to Hollywood. Zee has also been credited with producing the critically acclaimed Life or Something Like It (2002) before moving to Overbrook.

     Most of Zee's remarkable 20-year career in Hollywood was built on his proven talent for keeping a low profile while nailing down the details that translate ultimately into greenlighted productions. But there's a wildly fortuitous side to Zee's career as well. PAGE 3

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“ Hollywood made fewer movies last year than the year before. China is the final frontier.”

Teddy Zee with actress Kelly Hu. (Courtesy Teddy Zee)


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