(Above: Priyanka Chopra, an award-winning Bollywood film actress and singer, speaks to an audience of more than 250 at this year's SAMMA Summit / Photo Source: SAMMA)
On September 27 and 28, Time Warner hosted the 4th annual South Asians in Media, Marketing and Entertainment (SAMMA) summit at Time Warner Conference Center in New York. SAMMA is the largest professional association of South Asian executives, professionals and thought leaders in the worlds of media, entertainment and marketing. Nearly 300 professionals from leading companies, such as Time Warner, Disney/ABC, NBCUniversal, FOX and Microsoft attended the summit.
The Summit focused on the growing impact of South Asians both as a growing audience as well as influential business leaders and innovators in the U.S. and around the world. Discussions covered a broad range of topics, from diversity in television, best practices to spur innovation and opportunities and challenges in working with India's growing entertainment industry.
Priyanka Chopra, one of Bollywood's leading actresses, delivered the keynote address. As the first Indian artist to be signed by a major US record label, she spoke about her recent efforts to break into the US music industry. Chopra's song, "In My City" is the theme song to the 2013 season of Thursday Night Football.
As a part of a panel exploring diversity in television, Kelli Lee, head of casting, ABC Entertainment, discussed her success in launching shows featuring Asian talent such as Lost and Greys Anatomy. She emphasized "relatable experiences" as being key to getting shows on air. Sakina Jaffrey, an actor on House of Cards, talked about the need for diversity not just on screen, but behind the screen as writers, show runners and executives.
The other key theme of the panel was the growing importance of the Indian entertainment market for US entertainment companies. Bobby Sharma, SVP, Global Basketball & Strategic Initiatives, IMG discussed his plans to grow global sports such as basketball in India. Jai Khanna, an executive talent manager at Beverly Hills-based Brillstein Entertainment Partners, spoke about his efforts to introduce Bollywood talent such as Irrfan Khan, star of Life of Pi, into the American mainstream. Different industry culture practices as well as regulation and tax regimes in India were mentioned as a barrier to greater success.
The event concluded with a gala honoring leading South Asian artists and entrepreneurs for their achievements. Award recipients included, Vijay Iyer, leading Jazz artist and recent MacArthur Genius Award winner, Anjula Acharia Bath, CEO of Desi Hits, Russell Peters, a leading comedian and Mindy Kaling, star of The Mindy Project.
Inspiring and heartwarming Lunch Keynote by Keli Lee from ABC about diversity in TV and what she looks for in talent (Photo Source: SAMMA)
Sharad Devarajan telling us about reinventing Spider-Man in India, Graphic India and redefining Indian Character Entertainment (Photo Source: SAMMA)