Written by Jay Lin
When Newsweek publicly announced that I was one of the fifteen members of the "Creative Class of 2019," I had to pinch myself. I was right in the middle of conference in Mumbai about video streaming services, where I was invited to speak about our plans of forging Indian alliances in preparation of GagaOOlala's service roll-out in South Asia. I had to ask myself:
"Is this REALLY happening?"
Newsweek has published the list of "The Creative Class of 2019"
Newsweek's "The Creative Class of 2019" is featured on the Davos Issue with Trump and Xi on the front cover
During the conference break, I went to the Newsweek article to read about the other 14 listed personalities, and felt immediately "outclassed" by the likes of Noble Prize winners & nominees, and CEOs running billion-dollar companies. The article salutes "innovators who have developed creative solutionsFza$$1f%D47a%sb9UUz(hIX%Fs$UKR4f1KDkd&J1(KC2YWeCZS to the problems that face our world," and I was recognized as an LGBT rights activist. I used this opportunity to self-assess whether I was indeed developing creative solutions to global problems, and whether I deserved the accolade as an "LGBT rights activist," given that so many friends and people I admire work tirelessly and courageously in NGOs in Taiwan and beyond for marriage equality, transgender rights, decriminalization or HIV prevention.
Jay Lin and Taiwan LGBT NGO in the press conference
Portico Media, the company founded by Jay Lin, is devoted to promoting video content and has received Golden Horse awards, Taipei Film Awards and funds from Ministry of Culture
I spent some time in Lunar New Year holiday to process, but I have used this opportunity to ponder over the two questions above. Indeed, my colleagues and I have persisted in constantly improving the content portfolio, user experience, marketing strategies and technological developments of the three-year old GagaOOlala, Asia's first and one of the world's largest (if not the largest) LGBTQ film streaming services. GagaOOlala currently houses close to 1,000 features, shorts, documentaries and web-series, catering to a region of almost 700 million people (Southeast Asia), including many countries that have no legal channels of accessing LBGTQ+ content. When we incorporate South Asia into our service later on this year, we will include another 1.8 billion (!) people into our subscription service, or roughly 25% of the global population. Aside from our subscription service in Southeast and South Asia, we will also be introducing our single movie purchase options (T-VOD) globally so that LGBTQ+ film lovers from around the world will be able to watch our unique and compelling content.
GagaOOlala's flag waving in Taiwan Gay Pride
Jay Lin led GagaOOLala team to attend Taiwan Gay Pride
We will also introduce GOL Studios in March, an LGBTQ+ crowdsourcing platform that aims to revolutionize the process by which queer content finds global financial and manpower resources. We aim to accelerate the time a feasible film project goes from development to production to distribution.
GOL Studios aims to fund LGBTQ creative project
Therefore, I hope our two platforms GagaOOlala and GOL Studios (Distribution and Production) will solve the problems of, first, LGBTQ+ people not finding movies with characters and storylines they can relate to and, second, compelling LGBTQ+ projects not getting sufficient resources and not knowing how to capitalize on the opportunities out there. These are our business objectives, and the dreams we hope become true. We have many challenges ahead as we compete in a very unequal world of behemoths like Netflix, iQiyi and thousands of other OTT services with much deeper pockets and resources, but we are certain that we are providing a business model and community building that is unique, viable, and valuable.
GagaOOlala continues to invest, coproduce and promote exciting new projects like "Gentleman Spa"
This leads to the question of why I was recognized as a LGBT Activist instead of a business person. In my world, there is no compartmentalization of the two, no bifurcation of NGO and Corporation, nor the delineation of what is a hardcore activist and a passionate corporate manager. Also, social enterprises and business-minded activist are not oxymorons. After years of running an NGO like the Taiwan International Queer Film Festival (TIQFF) as a business operation not reliant on government support, and now spearheading GagaOOlala, a business that has positive societal externalities, I realize that, regardless of the entity, I am in possession of something very powerful that we sometimes underestimate: stories. They can affect people's lives, from opening their eyes and ears, to touching their hearts, to changing their minds and raise their voices asking for change and, hopefully, to cast their votes to make that change a reality. It is a ripple effect that does not end and continues ebbing as long as we continue creating, sharing and inspiring. We are the platform that can provide the emotional anchor for those who want to find artistic inspiration, cinematic escape, or even just spiritual validation. For those non-LGBT+ people, we are providing a platform for diversity education, empathy building, and societal examination. We hope to raise the question: "Do the characters from these movies differ from ourselves so much that their love should be criminalized or denied the same basic human rights, such as the right to marry?"
GagaOOLala original seires "Queer Taiwan" focuses on Taiwan local LGBT stories
Not all activist need to hit the streets and organize mass rallies, although I have done my fair share of those over the years. I see myself more as a daily activist-practitioner who is lucky enough to lead a company that has incorporated promoting societal acceptance and progress as part of our corporate success. There are many LGBTQ+ activists who are fighting the good fight to make Taiwan the first country in Asia to achieve Marriage Equality, to decriminalize homosexuality (Section 377A) in Singapore, to put on the first Pride Float in Yangon, and all over the world, many of them risking their lives. I am in awe of their stamina, tenacity and bravery. We do not know how to do the work that they do, but what we can do is use our channels and platforms to amplify their voices and make sure their efforts cross borders, languages and cultural differences. This is our activism, and we hope to encourage more enterprises and corporations to also look for their strengths and use them externally to tackle all the myriad of problems we face globally.
"Queer Asia" focus on Asia LGBT stories
The Lunar New Year is here, the Year of the Pig, the last of the 12-year Chinese Zodiac cycle of animals before it rotates again. The Golden Globes and Oscars are filled with LGBT-related films that have either won or been nominated. It is the 10th Year of the Mumbai Queer Film Festival as well as Singapore's Pink Dot, 20 Years of Seoul Pride, 30 years of the HK Lesbian & Gay Film Festival and, of course, 50 years of Stonewall. It is a banner year of achievements for the LGBT community. I hope it will also be a year Taiwan and Thailand achieve some type of marriage equality. I hope we will also remember this year as the one we connected Asia with the global film & LGBTQ+ communities through GagaOOlala and GOL Studios.
Thanks again to Newsweek for inspiring us to do better. Now, l*gRy(ZVyw6-ja1SD6BL0svOPeCPhiMOmA9WbooPTG1#^YDtIQ2et's get to work.