We had the good fortune of connecting with Winnie Wong and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Winnie, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
I think I’m not alone when I say that I’m still learning how to strike a balance between my personal and work life. In some ways, the lines are blurred. If you were to ask me this question when I was first getting started, I would say that there wasn’t much balance at all. I was consumed by any and every job or project I was a part of – trying to prove to myself and everyone else that I was a hard worker, that I was committed, that I was the right person for the job.
Now, I’m more cognizant of the need for self-preservation. It is easy to burn out working in the film industry. You can often put your work ahead of everything else in your life – you could be on a feature for two months and “come home” to find backed up mail in your mailbox, a pile of bills on your desk, produce growing mold in your fridge, your body being a few pounds heavier, new dark circles formed under your eyes, and a significant other who is questioning the security of your relationship. It’s a harsh reality – especially working as a producer – where you could always use more hours in the day and more support staff.
When I moved to LA from the Bay Area, I made a conscious effort to make my personal life more of a priority. It was ironic, I wasn’t expecting that. I find that the people I surround myself with don’t take themselves too seriously – no matter how “successful” they are perceived to be. We go on hikes during days off, surf on weekends, play tennis at night, have meaningful conversations around bonfires. And yes, work is still important. But somehow, you organically meet people and get to know each other and eventually end up working together – which makes the work even more rewarding at the end of the day.
Taking a pause during the pandemic last year helped me to slow down and appreciate the simple joys – reading, playing board games, learning how to play my keyboard, going on long walks in my neighborhood, cooking healthy meals, reconnecting with friends, being more present (albeit virtually) with family. Through the chaos and tragedy of 2020, I was able to appreciate aspects of the year that I wouldn’t trade.
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.
Every producer is different. Even if the title, responsibilities, and expectations are shared – each person brings their individual life experience, ethos and skills to the role. What I’m most excited about is the evolution of my role. For the past few years, I’ve been deep in the trenches, with my sleeves rolled up, strengthening my physical production capabilities. I’ve been an associate producer, coordinator, production manager, supervising producer, agency producer and then a line producer on smaller scale projects.
Currently, I’m fine tuning my creative instincts, working closely with directors and writers to hone their narrative short and feature films. It’s been quite a transition. I realize now when I’m watching films and series, reading and consuming creative material, binging various podcasts – it’s all part of the research and process. It informs the conversations I have with the writers I’m collaborating with. It fuels the ideas I have to offer directors as they flesh out their characters and build their worlds. I’m intentionally putting a lot more time, thought and energy into the feedback I share.
The challenges ahead are more about overcoming anxiety about what I haven’t done before and what I don’t know. I’m trying to be kind to myself, reminding myself that no producer has “done it all.” There will always be new challenges that come with each project. It’s important to adapt and stay humble and curious.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m a nerd and have a Google doc that I send to visiting friends called LA Things! Some of the ones I’d take them to are: Kensho, LA County Arboretum, Bob Baker Marionette Puppet Theater, Moonlight Rollerway, Last Bookstore, Dynasty Typewriter, Majordomo, WiSpa in Ktown, Dim sum restaurants in Monterey Park, The Underground Museum…so many great spots to name.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Through an organization called Women in Film, I met a mentor – her name is Kelly Jo Brick. She’s a writer in LA and serves as a mentor to a small group of us (producers, directors, writers). We’ve met over Zoom a few times since late last year and it’s been amazing to consult with her about particularly challenging struggles as they come up. I’m really grateful for her advice and ability to be simultaneously objective and compassionate.
Michael Baca, Melinda James