Turning Inspiration Into a Platform

This morning, I stumbled upon footage on YouTube of the Actor’s Panel during the 11th Annual San Diego Film Festival. That whole forum completely supported my outlook and views on the future for me as a Exec. Producer.

Everything that they were saying, I could relate to. They talked about spending some time to really learn your craft. My perceptions may be a bit hazy and clouded, but I think where a lot of actors take the wrong turn is moving to LA to pursue acting, and then not really working on honing their skills. They just move there, praying to God they’re going to find work. Which we all know in any industry is humanly impossible. One of the panelist, Ellen Wong, made a remarkable point that success isn’t just something that’s given to you. I whole heartedly agree with that statement.

Even though I agree with that statement, however, a lot of the times in school I really lose motivation. Just last semester, I was in a class where I literally felt like an outsider. My notions coming into the course were that all the judgements, all the “casting off” was left behind in high school. This was college, and yet students’ jaded judgements still keep them from letting them get to know the real me.

No one’s perfect, and I fully understand I can be a handful. With that aside, I still couldn’t believe that for sixteen weeks I was still the little Asian girl sitting by herself, talking only to the professor, and only minimally talking to the other students whenever necessary. I tried associating with the other students, but since their preconceived notions that I was the “golden child” were constantly playing in their head, I lost a lot heart in whether or not my projects were going to turn out great. It didn’t help that my professor’s outspoken antics contributed to their skewed views. I respected him as a professor, but whenever he used the racial slur “Jap” in class, that really set me off. He told me upfront he knew I wasn’t Japanese, and he didn’t mean it offensively. However, whenever you use the word Chinc, Jap, or any other racial slur it hurts, it really does. No words can describe how disappointing it was to hear that come out of his mouth.

Yes, it’s true… hearing stuff like that does hurt. In spite of that, the biggest message that I got from the panel will be my future anecdote for those very situations. A major portion of the panel highlighted the fact that Asians are still fighting barriers in the Entertainment Industry. We’ve made a lot of progress, but there is still so much more that needs to be done. So much of the media still has that notion that all Asians have accents, that every Asian knows karate, and that every Asian is some sort of genius. Well, let me say that I’m one of the MANY Asians who don’t know the first thing about martial arts, I don’t have an accent (although I’m skilled in dialects 😉 ), and I can assure that I’m no genius.

I may not be a genius, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like to learn. I live to learn, and I learned so much from that panel that it’s way too much information to slam into one blog.

If I could leave the readers with one thought it’s that, even though things will get better, we still need to make changes ourselves. I learned today that I want to be a voice for the Asian American community. As a Producer I have the decision on who I want working for and with me. I don’t want to be racially selective and only work with Asians, but I definitely think there needs to be more Asian roles out there — behind and in front of the camera.

No matter your race, religion, sexual orientation, YOU are the one who has the choice to stand up for what you believe in. We can choose to stand up, or we can idly watch as more and more great people lose opportunities due to ignorance. Let’s not make that happen. For every person we deny an opportunity due to prejudice, the more discouraging it is for our future generations. If the future generations get discouraged, how can we keep telling our children, “Yes, you can make your dreams possible.”

From someone who knows firsthand on what prejudice and bullying are like, I say we must start treating others with respect. Whenever I heard C.S. Lee talk about how he had to fight the writers to let his character have romantic interests, I was utterly shocked. It upsets me that we still have people out there who think Asians don’t fall in love. Perceptions like that make me want to showcase to the world that Asians DO fall in love, we DO become other occupations besides engineers and doctors, and that we CAN obtain the American dream. That is why from now on, I’m not staying silent. I will fight for every last one of my dreams, and certainly for the many dreams out there. For any dream, even if it’s just one, is still worth fighting for.

Thank you so much panel and moderators! I sincerely hope I can join you guys someday!

–  Harry Shum Jr., Ellen Wong, C.S. Lee, Daniel Dae Kim, and Aaron Yoo.

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