We had the good fortune of connecting with Anna Chi and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Anna, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
When I think of risk, I think of choice. We face choices in our lives daily, whether it’s as simple as what to wear for the day to as important as to accept someone’s marriage proposal to you. Regardless what choice we make, there’s always a risk factor involved. Every choice we make, it has its own consequence, and every consequence has its own importance, its own mark, and its own print, etc. In my mind, a choice is a choice. A choice can’t be labeled as right or wrong. However if we use the word “risk”, it puts the unnecessary burden on the choices we made in life.
I was born and raised in China. I made the choice of leaving my family, my friends and my career behind in China to come to America because I wanted to have a different kind of life for myself. When I left, China was on the cusp of its new era of economic reform and prosperity. My friends became proud homeowners before me; my colleagues made their first film before me. They asked me why I want to stay in the US, they said I should go back to be part of the new China. However, I have no regrets. The “risk” I took by leaving China can’t be measured by how much money I could make and how much work I could do. It is a choice that can’t be defined by right or wrong. Therefore I love taking “risks” and I will continue to do so.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am an independent filmmaker, a woman and an immigrant. This statement means besides how difficult it is being an indie filmmaker in the entertainment industry, I am using a second language to do my work. When I write, I often make grammatical mistakes and when I talk, I talk with my Chinese accent. It’s not easy when I made my first film in 1997 when “diversity” and “inclusion” were not part of Hollywood’s vocabulary yet. It is still hard today but at least we are aware of this issue. If I have to give any advice to anyone, I would say make sure to prepare yourself mentally for how hard it can be then just don’t give up. Find a way to do what you want to do, the path may not be as clear and as straight but I believe there is a path for everyone.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
When I have friends visiting me, I have two different itineraries for where they are from – China or America. For my Chinese friends, I always take them to Universal theme park, Hollywood, Santa Monica beach. If they are here long enough and it is the right season, I would take them to the Hollywood Bowl for a picnic and music. For my non-Chinese friends, I would love to take them to different Chinese restaurants that Los Angeles is famous for in San Gabriel. I also like to take my friends, Chinese or not, to Santa Barbara because it is a such beautiful drive and Santa Barbara is a unique California town!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are so many wonderful women friends and colleagues that I owe my life and career to. How my ESL teacher Rebecca helped me not only with my English but introduced me to the culture and traditions of this country; how the wife of the former president of Caltech Mrs. Everhart encouraged me to pursue my dreams of making movies when I was in doubt of my choice; and how the casting director Heidi Levitt gave me, a stranger to her at that time, my first job after graduating from UCLA. Those women helped to shape who I am and what I do in this country that I call home now. However, my shoutout would go to Lisa Lu, a 94-year-old icon in Hollywood that I had the honor and privilege to work with on four movies! We have just finished a new movie together again! She has spent her life and career helping and supporting underrepresented and diversified filmmakers like me and I owe my deepest gratitude to her!