Photo: 2013 CAAM Fellows and alumni from 2011 & 2012 meet and lunch at the CAAM Fellowship Retreat in July.
What a year the 2013 CAAM Fellowship Program & Retreat has been – after an initially slow start, this years’ Program has turned out to be one the most effective community & career building experiences ever. We couldn’t have done this without the wonderful Mentors: Angela Cheng Caplan, Claire Aguilar, David Mullen, David Henry Hwang, Tanya Yuson, & Quan Phung. Angela has become a fairy godmother to the Fellows this year and we are so grateful for her commitment and time towards building a strong Asian American film community.
Thank you also to the speakers at the Retreat this year: Laura Kim of INSIDE JOB who enlightened us all on film distribution & marketing while Gary Chou expanded our perspective on the necessities of creating and maintaining an online persona. Thanks of course to the fabulous Fellows of 2013: Derek Nguyen, Eric Lin, Ernesto Foronda, & Kimi Takesue. Last but not least, a special thanks to Karin Chien for once again directing this fabulous group of talented media makers and mentors to help CAAM create and sustain a truly unique and valuable Fellowship Program! We’re looking forward to announcing our request for applications for our 2014 CAAM Fellowship Program in the next month. (update: Apply for 2014 here!)
– CAAM Media Fund Director Sapana Sakya
Now some reflections from the CAAM Fellows on the retreat…
What I take most from the CAAM Fellowship Retreat is the feeling that I am not alone in the road that I’ve chosen. Filmmaking and writing is often a very lonely undertaking filled with uncertainty and self-doubt. During the retreat I’ve learned that there’s a community of filmmakers and artists that genuinely want to help you succeed – one that believes that your work and voice matters. It is an empowering feeling that fuels me to keep working and creating.
What I liked most about the Fellowship Retreat was CAAM’s focus on our career paths instead of an individual film project. Sometimes project-based film programs inadvertently create an unspoken sense of competition amongst the filmmakers because each are vying for the few limited spots to get our films made and seen. The beauty of the CAAM Fellowship retreat is that it created a strong sense of camaraderie and support for our careers in the long run.
The CAAM Fellowship and retreat has impacted me in a number of meaningful ways. I’ve appreciated how the fellowship has been structured with so much care, consideration, and seriousness of purpose. Under the phenomenal leadership of Karin Chien and Sapana Sakya, CAAM has created a unique fellowship experience that offers support specifically tailored to individual Asian-American filmmakers working in different genres and across the industry spectrum. It has been wonderful to work closely with my mentor, Claire Aguilar, on specific film projects—but I also benefited tremendously from the spontaneous and honest conversations that emerged throughout the retreat, concerning personal goals, challenges, and overall sustainability as an artist. CAAM has created a non-competitive and non-hierarchical context for honest reflection and discussion amongst filmmakers and industry folks; I left the retreat truly feeling part of, and supported by, an Asian American film community.
When I started out as a filmmaker, I learned quickly there is no one path to doing what you want: director, screenwriter, DP, etc. What that means is that, more often than not, we’re all gambling. We’re betting that the hours investing in taking on this project, in writing that script will pay off and allow us to continue to keep doing it. And I’m not a gambler. At all. Encouragement is a great fuel when the passion runs dry. But with the fellowship, CAAM has done more than just encourage us. I’ve attended film labs in the past and the focus on individual projects sidesteps the larger question of what it means to sustain a career as a film/media-maker. The tailored CAAM fellowship really showed a commitment by CAAM to foster our growth as artists and helped us expand our notions of what is possible with our careers. I met comrades who also do not quite fit easily into the boxes laid out in front of us and hearing their stories and struggles was invaluable. I haven’t come across that level of attention from any media arts organization before and it is transformative to feel that someone has got your back when the cards are stacked against you.
Photo: 2013 CAAM Fellows & Mentors at the Retreat dinner in Los Angeles.