RSA’s Kai Hsiung on the importance of moving forward

This year’s YDA Chairwoman of the Kai Hsiung, Global Managing Director of RSA Films, talks adaptation and invention, and explains why the industry needs to nurture new talent to secure its future.

Earlier this week it was announced that the 2023 Young Director Award has opened its doors for entries and, alongside that announcement, came the news that RSA Films’Global Managing Director, Kai Hsiung, will be chairing the jury for the 26th YDA.

As Francois Chilot, the YDA’s President remarked, Hsiung “is at the heart of an incredible entity that creates amazing things and nurtures fantastic filmmakers” and, below, Hsiung explains why she accepted the role and why nurturing the next generation of advertising filmmakers is so important.

What made you accept the invitation to become YDA jury president for 2023?  
I accepted the invitation as it is so vitally important to ensure that new directing talent is recognised, nurtured and celebrated. What better way to ensure that RSA can support new talent than to be involved with global initiatives like the YDA?

Has the route towards becoming a director – and the skills needed to succeed – altered?  
The route to director has changed due to the ease, cost and speed of being able to make a film. I have been around a long time, so trying to beg for short ends of film, a film camera, get film developed, telecined and then edited was a much more complicated and costly process. The skillset on the other hand, has not changed. You still need a great eye, a great story and lots of patience, even in today’s fast-moving business. 

RSA works across different formats, including long-form content; how important do you think it is that talent coming through has a good understanding of this type of work?  
The discipline that comes from being able to condense a great story in to a 30-second TV commercial is a brilliant way to prepare for a full-length feature script. I think that it is so much easier to just let the camera run and run now, that the precision that is required when you only have one roll of film to use is now lost. Being able to adapt to the variety of formats and deliverables is something that we all have to prepare for. 

The YDA category, Changing the World Frame by Frame, aims to highlight work which concentrates on social good; how important do you think advertising’s role is in global social education?  
We have a huge opportunity and an even bigger responsibility to ensure that we are making work that increases awareness around so many global issues. It should be at the top of so many companies ‘To Do’ list. As storytellers we’re in a privileged position to be able to reach so many people. It’s encouraging to see so much work for good and outstanding creative being produced.

Do you think that the industry has adequately addressed the issue of director diversity?  
There is still more to be done; it has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, but I know we are still way off having a fully diverse and truly balanced talent base. I speak for our company, and for the business. No female directors nominated at the Oscars this year, for example.

What will you be looking for when you’re going through the entered work?   

Inventiveness. Effectiveness. Something that sticks in your mind.  

How important are competitions and showcases like the YDA to new talent, and to the industry at large?  
If we don’t support and help build new talent, then our vision will become old and outdated. The viewpoints, energy, and sheer talent that the next generation bring are tantamount to ensuring that new voices will be heard. People often ask me what it is like to work at a company that first opened its doors in 1968. I could fill a whole page with answers, but one of them has to be the fact that this ‘old’ company has remained fresh due to the constant drive to look forward; to not stand still, and to work with talent of all ages, from anywhere in the world.  

What are you looking forward to most about the upcoming experience as chair of the YDA?  
To be excited and inspired by the new work that will land in our inbox, and to hopefully talk and meet some of the directors too.


Interview by Danny Edwards shots

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