We had the good fortune of connecting with Xiaochen Huang and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Xiaochen, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
I think for a healthy work-life balance. I need time for work, friends, family and myself. Also, do something every day that will help me in the future, not just in the present. Recently, I spend more and more time working. But gladly, filmmaking is one of the things that I enjoy the most in my life. Also, most of my friends are also my co-workers, so I spend time with them frequently. For friends with whom I don’t work with, I try to see them once every two weeks. I call my family five times a week and text them before I go to bed, so they know I’m safe and well.
It gets tricky to schedule time for myself when my schedule is packed. I make an exercise and eating schedule every two weeks every time with a term of the saving plan if I failed my task. I have 10, 5, 3, 1 year and monthly goals to track my growth. Right now, I’m trying to learn or perfect a skill every 4-6 months, like a language or a hobby. I’m listening to some psychology lessons from the professors of top Chinese universities. The classes they had are not only the psychologic theory but also related to our daily life. It helps my mental health and my relationship with others.
My tools for keeping a balanced life are goals, checklists, forms, and schedules. I am protecting my mental health at the same time. All these things combined make me feel like I’m improving, accomplishing more things and having better relationships with people in my life.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m known as a 1st Assistant director and producer. But I also like to write and direct my own stories. I’m a very organized person. One of the things I love about filmmaking is that I get to manage all the pieces and help them become beautiful art. I like that no matter how many problems pop up, we can always solve them. It’s like protecting the heroes from the monsters and getting to the final level of a game. The thing I’m most proud of is that I have a group of friends as my teammates. We can always get the best value from the script and the budget we have. We work hard and smart together, and we know we always have each other’s back. I think the trust between the team and my friends is the most valuable thing. The thing that separates people and I apart are the high requirements I give to myself and my mindset that’s constantly looking for improvement. I have a small notebook that I always carry with me on set. I write down everything that I did that can be improved, from the details I didn’t think about to my attitude.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
We filmed at Leo Carrillo State Beach once. It’s a nice place to hang out with friends, partners, or take pictures.
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?
I’m fortunate to have a lot of people in my life who support and help me. My mom has always trusted and respected my decisions. She always says that the most crucial thing in life is doing the things you love and working hard for them. So, she never tried to convince me to pursue a high-paying or “girl-friendly” profession. I was 18 when I just came to the US, fresh out from high school. Even back home, I was never a sociable person. After I came here, I realized that I didn’t understand anything or know anyone. My first place in the US is a small apartment, far away from my school. That’s the first time in my life that I learned how to cook, drive, and being alone most of the time. I used to use a table against my door and cry every single night. My mom was the only one there for me. She picks up the phone no matter how late it is over there. She would listen to me and help me understand that I’m just going through my adjustment phase. She never judges me, convinces me to go back home, or do something else. I can talk about anything with her, including my relationship problems. We’re two people that are equal and trust each other.
If I say my mom is a shelter, the place I can go to when I’m wounded, then my friend Carlo is my engine, the one to push me forward. For almost two years, I was a very self-conscious person because of the insecurity of my language and being a foreigner. Also, I was in a bad relationship with a lot of blame, jealousy, and despise. Carlo is the first person who told me that he liked my scripts and wanted to help me make them. We weren’t friends back then, but he was always the person I admired a lot. Carlo is a similar age to me but has done so much more things than the rest of us. At the same time, he is so friendly and helpful to everyone. Back then, people believing in me and treating me like a normal human being were the things I needed the most. So, his presence definitely changed my life. Now we have worked together countless times. He never stops supporting and encouraging me, teaching me new things, and pushing me when I need it. Also, I do the same for him. And I know when I see someone like me from two years ago, I will help them just like how Carlo helped me. Like he always says, as filmmakers, we should always come together and help each other, instead of being competitive and trying to sabotage each other.
Max Woods Freddie Lopez Carlo Tonda