We had the good fortune of connecting with Meng Shang, Jury of 44th Asian American International Film Festival, Short Film Category and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Meng, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
It is the question that many working moms are asked. As a mom of two young kids ( 3 and 6), I run my production studio as director and producer. I also do auditions as actor for TV and Films. As 1st generation immigrants to Canada, my husband and I have no family support in the country. The covid-19 situation also makes it difficult to find a reliable nanny when kids both are home, doing online classes.
It sounds overwhelming, right? It was challenging to me at the beginning of the covid lockdown. My husband and I both had many client calls on Zoom while kids kept coming to ask attentions. After a couple of months, we developed a NEW routine for the family. We keep them busy with online classes although it is still hard for the younger one. Most of my calls are done during their online classes or after they go to bed. Although I love to keep my clients happy, I tell them that I would not reply their emails or arrange calls between 5pm to 9pm. When other moms are taking their me-time when their kids sleep, I am the one still working on paper work or having calls with clients in Asia. The good thing about working from home is that I can have calls while keeping stews on the stove.
Everyone weekend, we have family time for a picnic, takeout food or biking. We also love our film time together. And, I do my facial while watching films with my family. Playing with kids is my cure to my stress from work. Housework has to be done, but not the priority at this point.
So far, this routine has worked well. Since we figured out the most important thing is to keep the atmosphere positive at home, our work and business become more enjoyable and decisions of taking projects become easier.
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.
With my Asian background, I was told to have a SAFE career since I was little. I went to Management Faculty of McGill University and had a few jobs related to Finance and Management. I had travelled between Asian and North America for my former employers and had pretty “fancy” life as Investor Relations Manager and Marketing Professional. I was fairly happy about my then-career, until, one day, I happened to step into a commercial shoot as actor. The happiness of being an actor to create a work was so strong from the deepest of my soul. I had never felt so happy with any “hobby”. Soon, I realized that it was what I should had done and I had a window open for me.
When I found out that Asian Actors were needed, but under represented, I made a decision to register my own company, Dreameng Studio (Dreameng.ca) for multicultural productions. Being a producer, I would help more people like me to feel happy and get closer to their dreams. With my management and marketing experience from before, I quickly got some good clients’ interests in Toronto and from China.
Production is a competitive business dominated by mainstream male in both Canada and China. I had faced lots of challenges at the beginning, specially my kids were toddlers.
When I told people, even friends, what I was trying to build, they did not believe me and thought it was just a short passion. When I finally got a client, a freelancing videographer stole the contract with a cheaper deal. Yes, there were challenges and they are still there just because I am an immigrated woman in my 40’s and have two kids. I do look more like a working mom than a cool producer.
After I successfully produced a few commercials and made them with clients’ satisfaction. I started getting referred clients.
My company now is in profit even during the covid year of 2020. In 2021, we have started some projects for good causes to give back to the society.
Now, I am confident to tell the world that I am capable to be a business woman and a producer in the creative world, at the same time of being a mom. I am proud of my role. It is never too late to start what you think is right and pursue your dreams.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would invite them to my hometown, Chengdu, Sichuan. It is where I was born. A beautiful city with a balanced combination of history and modern lifestyle. I would take one week to show my friend the city and the surrounding area. We would eat Sichuan SPICY food everyday. There is a Panda breeding Foundation in the city. We could go to see cute panda in different ages and, probably, have a chance to hold a baby panda.
People from my hometown treat life in a relaxing way, but it never stops the city to become modern and developed. You can find all western brands in the city, as well as the most authentic local brands. In 1 hour driving distance, we could stay in Airbnb in an old town and pretend we were from 1980’s in a Chinese film.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are so many people I would love to shoutout to, whoever trust and support me at the first place. We have a ground called Panasian Pandemic Players. It was created by Toronto Asian Actors who are also friends. We get together to read scripts and exchange industry news. It helped me to balance my life with my business. I find myself within the group. Not a business woman, a mom or a wife.
I am fortunate to make a few friends who make me feel cared. They are Eleonor Lee, Chase Tang and Tori Liang. As I did not grow up in Toronto, I don’t have any childhood friends, these friends mean a lot to me.
My husband, Parag, originally from India. He is my hero and supporter to my career. I can’t say more thank-you to him. It is very important to have family and real friends for me to keep my life and career going.
Facebook: Melody Shang
headshot: photographer: James Van Hees