From a Young Entrepreneur to HPA: Thank You!
A studio owner tells how HPA YEP has helped her with access to mentors and a bigger audience
By Clare Runciman
As a young entrepreneur who has struggled like a lone ranger to build and run a small studio business for the past 6 years, the HPA YEP program has come to me like a much-needed pillar of support, like suddenly finding a long-lost uncle who ‘s now a successful CEO and can give me these clever solutions to my problems and the right keys to open doors for me.
Seriously, it’s a lonely road for the independent studio owner like me and I have flogged it for a while, so to have this sudden access to the HPA’s network of resources and all these wise, clever, successful, even legendary people to ask for help is not only a dream come true, but a much-needed booster shot for me at this stage of my career. Many times in the past I wished I had a mentor to consult for feedback or seek for a suggestion to with whom to connect with. Just 2 months into the HPA YEP program, I am discovering that yes, it’s possible to have such help, guidance and wisdom. Thank you!
I came to LA as an audio engineering student, having worked in Hong Kong and China as a rookie boom operator in mainly Chinese movies. I had an early start to the entertainment industry when I was kind of “discovered” by a sound recording mixer in Hong Kong when my home was used as a movie set. The location scout had knocked on my front door. I knew my mom would say “no” but I said “yes” to them anyway – on condition that I could follow the crew around! I ended up shooting the “Making Of” video for that movie. The sound mixer on set must have seen some good in me because he offered me an apprenticeship after that! I started working as a boom operator for him. I was barely 17 and just out of school when I landed in the deserts outside Beijing, braving blizzards at 3 am working on Universal’s “Mummy III: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.” That was when I knew I wanted a career in sound and film.
So I studied audio engineering in London, and later transferred to LA to further my studies. On graduation, I befriended a Grammy award-winning producer and became business partner with him. To cut a long story short, we raised enough capital to found a recording and post-production studio. Any misconception of being a “glamorous” studio owner soon evaporated when I realized that I was THE person who had to roll up my sleeves and make it happen. I had to be the manager, sales, designer, brand creator, audio engineer, secretary, troubleshooter, all rolled in one. On some days, I was lugging equipment, on others, craning my neck for hours to install light bulbs, on yet others, I dressed up to pitch to CEOs.
Chasing projects, managing people, kowtowing when needed, holding gigs to keep us in the limelight, watching the bottom line – all these became my life. I learned to be persistent and tenacious, and versatile to combat problems – no room for thin skin or false pride! We did good-size projects, fought for some and lost some. Creating, designing and building a small facility literally from the ground up, especially as a young immigrant from Hong Kong, has been one of the most difficult challenges of my career and my personal journey. I have been able to make a few waves, not only by executing projects and managing technicalities but most importantly by doing what I love.
The next stage of my career is to transit to a corporate platform that will give me the corporate muscle and wider reach to work on bigger and more varied projects. That’s why I am so grateful to the HPA YEP program for giving me the access to a network of people I did not have access to before.
Through HPA YEP, I have been able to meet industry greats who have given me valuable feedback and suggestions careerwise. I have had one-on-one time with mentors at their workplaces to ask for their guidance and feedback in person. A couple of mentors studied my resume and suggested career advancement to suitable companies, even taking the trouble to write introductory letters to help me. The opportunity to meet with mentors like Laura Thommen and Bill Baggelaar have allowed me access to Sony, Netflix and Lionsgate. Lynette Duensing invited me to Instinctual and gave me valuable insight into her workplace and experience. I am so grateful to all of them. A lot of course depends on the YEP himself/herself to proactively make the first move of reaching out to the mentors!
I have also been connected with motivated young like-minded people, and participated in events like the Tech Retreat to network and learn about cutting developments and conversations in the industry. Thank you HPA!