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How Filmmaker Kayo Washio is Helping To Make the Entertainment Industry More Diverse and Representative

It’s important to have diversity represented in entertainment because the entertainment industry is enjoyed by everyone. We all watch movies and TV, so it’s important that the content we enjoy reflects society as a whole. Actors, directors, and producers are extremely influential players and leaders in the entertainment space who can impact diversity and inclusion […]


It’s important to have diversity represented in entertainment because the entertainment industry is enjoyed by everyone. We all watch movies and TV, so it’s important that the content we enjoy reflects society as a whole. Actors, directors, and producers are extremely influential players and leaders in the entertainment space who can impact diversity and inclusion most, so if we lead, others will follow. Featuring local talent from the region in which these projects are taking place can also help with representation and will add value to projects, as people will want to get behind these individuals and support their work. Naturally, people gravitate towards those they’re already familiar with, so it’ll ease others towards getting on board. By opening the door for these opportunities and taking chances, it will eventually become the norm.


As a part of my series about leaders helping to make the entertainment industry more diverse and representative, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Kayo Washio. As the Head of U.S. Operations for WOWOW, Japan’s leading premium pay TV broadcaster, Kayo oversees co-production and acquisition deals with studios, networks and independent production companies for TV and film programming. As part of this role, she is currently developing substantial mini-series projects with some of the most prominent creative talent in television and film. Kayo is a member of both the Producers Guild of America (PGA) and the Television Academy. With a background in broadcast production, Kayo has experience in producing television programs, film acquisition, budget control and contract negotiations. She executive produced the award-winning “Isabella Rossellini’s Green Porno Live!” and oversaw negotiations for both the Martin Scorsese documentary “The New York Review of Books: A 50 Year Argument” and Robert Redford and Wim Wenders’ six-part TV series documentary “Cathedrals of Culture.” In 2017, Kayo expanded her role as producer, overseeing the production of a brand new, live concert for WOWOW that promoted Broadway theaters as well as the annual Tony Awards®. Beyond producing, Kayo takes an active role in the marketing and promotion of WOWOW series. Over the years, she has been integrally involved with the planning and execution of publicity tours for key talent and shows. Before becoming manager of the marketing & promotions department, Washio was a producer for WOWOW’s movie department where she was responsible for producing a weekly program covering cinema and interviewing over 400 A-list talent. In this role, Washio cemented successful partnerships with various organizations such as CNN and The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; produced and directed a Baz Luhrmann documentary titled “Remarkable talented Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Tracks of Love’”; negotiated licensing deals with major studios for film and TV series; and developed strong and beneficial relationships with A-list creators for special programs.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Kayo! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

When I was attending university, I wanted to be a reporter. I loved the idea of being able to chat with important, influential people who were doing big things in the world. While my career as a reporter didn’t quite carve out exactly as I thought it would, I found passion in the entertainment industry. It has given me many of the same opportunities life as a reporter would have, and I get to do interviews from time to time!

The opportunity to work in the industry came from WOWOW, Japan’s leading premium Pay TV network, and it was an offer I couldn’t pass up at the time. I went with it, and it turned out to be a pivotal decision that has shaped my entire career.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I was on assignment to interview Matt Damon, but I wasn’t quite confident in my English speaking abilities at the time, so a distributor hired a professional translator for our interview. The translator suggested I try taking the interview myself, and Matt Damon agreed that I should try, as he preferred to speak directly to me for the interview. I started asking my questions, and we ended up having a great conversation without the translator’s help! It was the first English interview I completed myself.

Similarly, I had the opportunity to interview Sean Penn at the Cannes Film Festival, so I hired a professional interviewer to interview him for my program. Right before our interview, my professional interviewer encouraged me to do it myself — I was so nervous!

Once I entered the room, my adrenaline kicked in and I was so excited to talk to him. It was an intense interview, but Sean was so understanding and kind. He kept chatting with me even though we were technically out of time, and I was so appreciative of how patient he was with me.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When you move to a foreign country, it can be difficult to adjust to the cultural differences right away. For example, when I began working in our offices in Century City, I noticed many people were making eye contact and smiling at me in the elevators on the way into and out of work. I didn’t understand why they were doing this because in Japan, it’s quite the opposite — it’s not common to make eye contact and everyone behaves in a very serious, composed manner. Sticking with what I was accustomed to, I continued to avoid making eye contact with others — it wasn’t until weeks later that I started becoming familiar with American customs and elevator decorum!

Lesson learned — don’t be afraid to smile back at someone smiling at you! ☺

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by the work you are doing?

Baz Luhrmann is an award-winning writer, director and producer who has always appreciated the work I’ve done for him.

I produced his documentary titled, “Remarkable Talented Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Tracks of Love.’” It was the first original documentary I ever produced by myself, and Baz has always been so appreciative and supportive. We’ve maintained a great relationship throughout the years, and for this, his documentary is the project that I’m proudest of to date.

Can you share three reasons with our readers about why it’s really important to have diversity represented in Entertainment and its potential effects on our culture?

It’s important to have diversity represented in entertainment because the entertainment industry is enjoyed by everyone. We all watch movies and TV, so it’s important that the content we enjoy reflects society as a whole. Actors, directors, and producers are extremely influential players and leaders in the entertainment space who can impact diversity and inclusion most, so if we lead, others will follow. Featuring local talent from the region in which these projects are taking place can also help with representation and will add value to projects, as people will want to get behind these individuals and support their work. Naturally, people gravitate towards those they’re already familiar with, so it’ll ease others towards getting on board. By opening the door for these opportunities and taking chances, it will eventually become the norm.

Can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do help address the root of the diversity issues in the entertainment business?

Take risks on new creators and talent who may not fit the mold at first glance — the most successful people are always the ones who are not afraid to deter from a linear path.

Embrace diversity and inclusion with storylines that feature more women, minorities, LGBTQ and disabled characters.

Continue advocating for equality and standing up for what you believe in. There’s power in numbers, and if we all band together, we’ll make a difference.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership comes with the responsibility of being respectful to everyone. If you don’t give others the respect they deserve, they won’t respect you either. Mutual respect is essential for a relationship to thrive and for a leader to be successful.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Be patient. It can take time for a deal or project to play out, but the payoff is worth it. Take the time to do business the right way, identify the right projects and find the best ways to work with others — you’ll be much happier with the product you bring to the marketplace.

Be bold — go after what you want. Although I mentioned being patient above, it’s important to find balance and not wait too long. Go after every opportunity, reach out and be confident. Don’t allow yourself to become complacent — you’ll regret missed opportunities that you don’t go after.

Trust is essential for any relationship to work. Hollywood is an industry built around trust — people trust people more than anything else. If you show that you’re trustworthy and honest, people will gravitate towards you. This is especially important for maintaining and preserving relationships, as relationships are essential for success in this industry. You never know who will be able to open a door for you!

Don’t be afraid to speak up. There’s so much value in speaking your opinion and people will appreciate you so much for being candid and honest.

Always consider how you can make every exchange mutually beneficial for both parties. This will allow you to complete several deals and partnerships for projects, but even further, create meaningful and lasting relationships with people beyond a professional setting.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’d love to inspire creators to continue telling the stories we shouldn’t forget. I love watching films, documentaries and series that recount real, historical events. It’s important that we share these events and learn about the truth behind them so that history doesn’t repeat itself. We owe it to those in the past to share their stories and they are all so telling about how we got to where we are today.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

As simple as it sounds, “be yourself and be proud of who you are.” It’s easy to lose yourself and conform to what you think people want to see, especially in this day and age, and in the entertainment industry.

During one of my first pivotal meetings in the U.S., I was so nervous about bringing a good idea to the table and being able to convey all of my experience that would make me an ideal partner for the project. After the meeting, I learned that I earned the opportunity because they liked me as a person and believed in me. This put things into perspective — a lot of people’s main priority is to perform well, but being sincere, genuine and honest is just as important. People value people, so being yourself and trusting who you are cannot be overstated.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

There are hundreds and hundreds of people I’d love to have a private breakfast or lunch with! World leaders, actors, musicians, athletes, performers, authors, inventors, titans of industry…! If I had to choose one for this week, I think it would be Apple CEO Tim Cook. Aside from Tim being such a magnanimous figure in global business and unrivaled influencer of culture, I’m an Apple product devotee and very interested in their new entertainment ventures — particularly their TV series. Maybe he’d give me a sneak peek at a new product or allow me to pitch an idea or two!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find me @kayowashio!

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

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