We had the good fortune of connecting with Phoenix Liu and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Phoenix, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
My family went through a lot of changes when I was about 10 years old. Things went downhill so quickly – during one summer, my parents got divorced, we moved away, we gave away our puppy because my mom couldn’t afford a pet anymore, my brother and I were forced to transfer to a different school, etc. While being too caught up adjusting ourselves to the new life, I didn’t get a chance to really process the trauma of having a “broken family”. It all hit me at once when I was in middle school where I found myself surrounded by girls from wealthy and seemingly perfect families. I realized that I was different but not in the way I wanted. The only thing I found enjoyable was burying myself in numerous movies. I didn’t get to watch many films growing up, so when I “discovered” this art form in middle school, there was so much for me to explore. Every Friday after school, I would visit the only DVD rental store in town and picked out enough DVDs for a whole weekend. It might sound cheesy but films were my escape from reality and I became extremely fascinated by how films were able to heal me. Slowly, I came to the realization that I was not the only one hurting – while I might not share similar lives as my peers, there were people out there who were feeling the same as I was. I was determined to work in this industry and to create content, hoping I will be able to help someone through this medium, just like others have done for me before.
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.
5 years ago, I came to California alone to pursue my degree and career in film at the age of 18. A little less than 3.5 years, I earned my B.A. in Film and Electronic Arts from California State University, Long Beach and began working in one of the major animation studios in town shortly after my graduation during the pandemic. It’s easy to summarize the past 5 years of my life in a couple sentences, but the journey wasn’t easy at all. The first challenge for me to overcome was the language barrier. I really had to push myself out of my comfort zone to communicate with others since I have always been self-concious growing up, in this case, I struggled with the fact that I couldn’t speak fluent English. Luckily, I made a lot of friends who are very understanding and patient, which was crucial in building my confidence and helping me learn the language well. Unlike a lot of international students, I didn’t come from a resourceful family. I came to California with barely enough money to cover my tuition and living expenses. The lack of resources closed many doors to learning experiences for me at the time. For example, I have given up several internship opportunities because I needed a paid job to survive since international students don’t qualify for financial aids or grants. I think the most important lesson along the way is to never look down on yourself. There will always be disadvantages and obstles in your way when you pursue your life’s calling, but never forget that you are worthy, strong, and just as capable as anyone else that might seem better than you. If you keep your passion and persistence, people will acknowledge you and that is what will lead you to places in life.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
They can start by spending a couple days in Long Beach to see all the major attractions – The Pike, areas around 2nd St and PCH, Belmont Shore, Signal Hills (great sunset spot!), CSULB, etc. I would definitely stop by and walk around Broadway and/or 4th St, where you can find my favorite coffee spot in town: Rose Park Roasters. Long Beach Creamery would be the perfect dessert to finish up a day tour in LB. Hopefully when the pandemic is over, we will get to enjoy the vibrant nightlife on Pine or 2nd St! For the next couple days I will branch out to the surrounding areas: Seal Beach (stop by a cute diner called Harbor House Cafe!), Newport Beach, or Rancho Palos Verdes for some of my favorite ocean views! Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would love to thank my peers at Cal State Long Beach! There are so many of them – I made a lot of wonderful friends from my film classes and in the dorms who I wish I could name them all here but there are so many important people that I’m sure I will accidentally leave out. Kids from the Film and Electronic Arts department at CSULB are genuinely talented and brilliant! Making films in school is an incredibly precious experience during my journey here in the United States and it wouldn’t be possible without the contribution from the hardworking students in our department, as film is such a collaborative artform. If one is to dorm at CSULB, especially international students, I would recommend the International House at Hillside College. Living with a mix of American and international students really helped me settle in my new life in California since you will have great friends who are willing to guide you (the Americans) and those who are willing to explore with you (the internationals).
Jesus Murillo, Sebastian Koldeup-Lane, Brandon Kheang, Dominic Hure