We had the good fortune of connecting with Lawrence Chau and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lawrence, how do you think about risk?
I’m all for throwing caution to the wind — the keyword being with “caution.” Any endeavor of risk entails more than passion. You also need to be genuinely talented at what you are pursuing; you need to research whatever it is you’re after; be disciplined and organized; have sharp business and networking skills; be open to learning new things; be malleable; be self-assured; be budget-conscious; and have a strong sense of self. Until you are able to map out a master plan with contingency plans, don’t do it. It’s never wise to put all your eggs in one basket. Life is just too unpredictable.
I’ve taken calculated risks all my life: opting to go to journalism school because communication and writing were my strong suits versus math and science (sorry about medical school, folks). Ditto with venturing off to Asia to land my breaks in journalism, public relations, and finally entertainment. I juggled many jobs at once and worked around the clock to stay afloat financially (Hong Kong and Singapore ain’t cheap!) in pursuit of my checklist of goals.
That same risk-taking drive was evident when I returned to Toronto to start afresh in entertainment. My back-up plan was to invest in real estate. I knew I would need that cash for the big move to Los Angeles where I’m able to bankroll my own passion projects and stay afloat without the stress of becoming a struggling artist. It’s a tough life, I know. I was a struggling actor/writer in Asia before moving to Hollywood. Been there, done that, not going back.
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 was a quiet rebel, who defied conformity by pursuing a degree in journalism in Toronto, Canada. I was but a handful of Asian students, most of whom harbored dreams of being hard news journalists. I rebelled against that by becoming an entertainment journalist and a public relations executive halfway around the world in Hong Kong — a result of packing two suitcases and $2000, and throwing caution to the wind. Risky new adventures fueled by youthful ambition had a price: working 6-7 days a week to stay afloat financially.
Then came my big break: landing the coveted TV anchor job on Showbuzz, Singapore’s top English entertainment news program, which I had a senior hand in producing and revamping, as well. Everyone envied my job: jet-setting around the world in polished designer suits with Omega-sponsored watches to interview Hollywood’s creme de la creme, but little did they know I was clocking 70 to 90 hours a week, scraping by on three-four hours sleep, perpetually jetlagged. I remember getting one hour’s sleep after minor surgery before interviewing Celine Dion. After six hours of editing her story, I was off on a plane to Paris to interview the Spice Girls. Somehow I managed to also squeeze in acting roles, corporate emceeing gigs, commercials, live specials, and even gym time plus a social life into my grueling schedule. Ah, the Power of Youth!
After Asia, it was back to Toronto where I landed the series hosting duties for the award-winning paranormal program Ghostly Encounters. Then came the toughest market of all: Los Angeles. Most recently, I donned the writing, producing, and acting hats for Justice for Vincent, my first independent short film. To date, we’ve won nearly 40 accolades, including a prestigious silver Telly Award for creative excellence bestowed by industry experts; the film even qualified for the 92nd Academy Awards. Again, I found myself sleep-deprived, flying from city-to-city and checking in-and-out of hotels for two years, aboard the grueling film festival circuit.
In show business, our job is to make it look easy and glamorous. The truth is, it’s one of the most competitive, difficult, and unpredictable industries. Most can’t handle the long hours, the rejection, the public scrutiny, the financial uncertainty, and yes, the backstabbing and bullshit. If this is your calling, make sure you have the talent, the tenacity, the discipline, the business smarts, the faith in yourself, and the funds to pursue it. It ain’t cheap and it sure as hell ain’t easy. Oh, but what a thrill if you make it!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would wow my friend at two Downtown LA hotspots: Perch (for its breathtaking city views) and The Edison (for a nostalgic Great Gatsby night out over drinks and nibbles).
West Hollywood would be the mecca for coffee, brunch, cocktails, and fine dining: Verve Coffee Roasters, Zinque, Laurel Hardware, The Abbey, Catch, Cecconi’s, The Little Door, The London, to name a few.
A morning card ride through the Hollywood Hills and Beverly Hills followed by an early lunch and shopping at Abbott Kinney Road. A lazy afternoon at Venice Beach until the sun sets followed by dinner and drinks in Culver City (likely target: the historic Culver Hotel) would make their way onto the itinerary, as well.
GPS for shopping: The Grove, Century City Mall, the Beverly Center, and Melrose Ave in WeHo.
If they’re itching for a commercial tourist fix, we’re hitting The Hollywood Walk of Fame, the TCL Chinese Theatre, boarding a Hollywood Homes bus tour, and embarking on a Paramount, Universal, or Warner Bros. studio tour.
Vintage Hollywood visits to the Roosevelt, Chateau Marmont, Beverly Wilshire, Formosa Cafe, and Magic Castle would round out the week’s adventures.
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?
My mom, but in a contradictory sort of way. A working-class immigrant from China, she endured a life rife with discrimination and hardship. A traumatic legal battle cast her into a fragile emotional and physical state of which I bore witness to at age 5. From kindergarten on, I became her confidante and protector of sorts, helping translate documents, running errands, shouldering her on her rare summer walks outdoors.
It was a heavy burden to bear for a child. Her life paralleled the life of Lily Chin, the lead character in my short film Justice for Vincent (JFV), which has just wrapped its film festival run, winning nearly 40 awards. A Chinese immigrant from Kaiphing (the same village as my mom), Lily waged a campaign for justice for her son Vincent, who was brutally murdered days before his wedding by two Caucasian autoworkers. The workers allegedly mistook Vincent for being Japanese at a time when the so-called “Japanese Auto Invasion” was compromising the Detroit automotive industry. The murderers, who bludgeoned Vincent’s skull with a baseball bat, were let off with a mere $3000 fine and 3 months probation.
The racial scapegoating, hatred, violence, and injustice of that story reflect what we’re seeing today with Covid and the rise of Asian xenophobia.
The pain and resilience of Lily reflected a similar sadness and strength in my mother, which inspired me to undertake JFV — that, plus the rise in hate after the 2016 election.
Fearful, protective, and preaching conformity, mom never encouraged me to pursue the arts, or to leave Toronto to pursue my dreams, which ironically spurred me to do just that after I graduated from journalism school. Mom passed away before I moved to Los Angeles a few years ago. She instilled in me a sense of grit, independence, intuition, compassion, strength, and sensitivity, which are reflected in my work and personal life.