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MENTORING MATTERS - Finding My Own Voice: Sometimes The Right People Show Up When You Need Them

Posted By Chris Kwon, Tuesday, December 11, 2018
I’m an Angeleno, born and raised by two immigrant parents. Growing up, my family didn’t have any connection to the entertainment industry. Never did they think I would get my foot in that particular door, and honestly, neither did I.

When I applied for the Producers Guild mentoring program, I had spent eight years mainly in post-production roles. Those were the only jobs available to me because I was typecast as a “technical guy.” Literally I had experiences on set where a producer or director would look at me—I’m Asian, it’s 2018, and it happens—and say, “You look like you’re good with computers.” All I could do was bite my tongue and get the job done. I spent years grinding on sets, hoping to gain access to larger tv or film projects. I did everything from getting coffee to rotoscoping. My work paid off, as I ended up on two Emmy award-winning web series with a great team and found leadership that looked out for me.

But I hoped the PGA Mentoring Program would introduce me to someone who could show me other roles I could play in this industry. I know personal connections are just as beneficial as working on AAA titles, and I always dreamed of working with a film or tv producer on a network series or a bigger budget studio production. I was lucky to get paired with literary producer Scott Steindorff. Scott specializes in adapting bestsellers into movies, with credits that include Love in the Time of Cholera, The Lincoln Lawyer and Chef among others. Before I met Scott, I didn’t know you could make a living reading books.

Prior to meeting in person, Scott had given me homework: researching and writing ideas that I thought would be great for the screen. After spending years in digital media and post-production, I was more used to a factory-like process of getting a product made rather than actually developing an original idea into a complete production. So when I met him for the first time, I had no idea what to expect. But I was eager to see where I could fit in.

Scott and I kept our first meeting casual. From the get-go, he wanted to see my potential as a writer and helped me develop out of my tech “shell” in the post world, into the creator of my own ideas, my own stories and my own voice. Based on my experience, I thought a producer was the project manager who did everything to get the job done, leaving creative details to the writers and directors. Scott helped me understand how the producer works with them and gives feedback, maintaining the vision of the project throughout the production.

The two biggest takeaways I got from Scott were: no matter how tough life gets, we need to persevere; and how to use my own experience and emotions to paint pictures and tell stories. Going in, I thought the mentorship would be like previous job-related roles, chock-full of menial tasks. Instead, I had a mentor to help me develop creatively, push me to write more and actually help me through some difficult times on a personal level.

Through the PGA Mentoring Program, I found a role model not just professionally but for my personal challenges as well.

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