We had the good fortune of connecting with Catherine Chen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Catherine, is there something you believe many others might not?
In school, I have always been taught that deadlines are non-negotiable. And that work should come before health. Pulling an all-nighter and making it through is what makes you strong.
But I disagree with that. Over the years, my persistent hard work pulled me out of my worst moments. But it wasn’t sustainable to have your hard work fueled by fear.
Be reliable. Keep your promises. But be wary of anything that brags about crunch culture and how “hard” it is to do the job. Nothing should be that hard. Likely, their system does not have the resources to be efficient, and their heart isn’t in the right place.
Always listen to what you want to do. It may turn out to be the path of least resistance. And not every challenge is beneficial.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a writer-director filmmaker and a writer for animated TV. And I want to make people laugh, cry, and be scared all in one film.
I’m most proud of my animated short film, Yuan Yuan and the Hollow Monster, and more recently, my TV writing. It’s because crafting a good story was a huge challenge for me 5 years ago. Back then, I looked up to the graduation short films that came out of USC. My goal was to create a good one. I didn’t know how, but I knew that if I had 4 years, I could figure it out. And I did.
Still, I look up to legendary feature films writer-directors and TV show creators. Good storytelling and cinema keep me going. I love it so much, that I can’t rest until I make something that good.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
For a good meal, I would love to take my friends to BCD Tofu House in K-town and then down the block to a karaoke bar. Dim Sum at Ding Tai Fung is also the best in the world. Northern Café is also good for some comfort Chinese food.
On Sunday night, I’ll bring them to Verdugo bar for stand-up comedy. It’s a chill and relaxing atmosphere. And it’s nice to see comedians practicing here.
Santa Monica Pier is also a nice place to start. And so is Little Tokyo. And when it’s in season, I always go to the Animation is Film festival as well.
Los Angeles is so vast that I have yet to explore everything, and there’s always something around every corner. I’ll definitely take my best friend to places I haven’t gone before!
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?
People underestimate the power of a support group! My friends in school really made me into who I am today. They made films, webcomics, games, and animation with me. They drew alongside me. They joined my clubs. And they continue to support me today.
In college, my first film was critiqued over 100 times by 50 different people during its pre-production process. My first TV script had over 100 passes and revisions. And my significant other helped me throughout the whole thing. Whether it means editing my film or reading it over every day. My other family members help as well. They become actors, artists, and assistants when I needed them most.
In addition to my family, I had so many mentors, teachers, and friends who uplift me and encourage me to pursue my dreams. Their enthusiasm made me excited and love what I do. They know who they are.
Before college, I went to two art schools, Bak Middle School of the Arts, and Dreyfoos School of the Arts. I was part of the Youngarts Foundation and benefited from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards over six years. I was also part of the CSSSA program at Calarts.
I expanded my knowledge outside of the arts at Scripps Research Institute and the Pine Jog environmental programs at FAU, which inform my work. I have a few pieces of art inspired by teachers, the Boys and Girls Club, and even CPW at MIT.
Then I went to USC and participated in their incubator programs. I worked at Green Gold Animation on the side, for my first contractor job. When COVID hit in 2020, my mentors from the grassroots mentorships organizations Rise Up Animation, Women of Color Unite, and Women In Animation helped me pick myself back up.