Today we’d like to introduce you to Christie Kwan.
Christie, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’ve always felt a creative pull since I was a kid. Whether drawing “blueprints” for my parents’ kitchen, trying to remake Sixteen Candles frame-by-frame, or photographing my stuffed animals using my mom’s SLR – an artistic bent was in me.
I was accepted to different colleges that specialized in architecture, art, and film. It was a difficult decision for me, and I wished I could study all three. Since I could only pick one as a career, I chose film. I attended UC Santa Barbara, graduated with a degree in film studies, and off to Hollywood I went.
I began as an office production assistant, not making much more than I did at my high school job selling teriyaki bowls. And admittedly, although I was good at it, I hated being a PA. Film school doesn’t prepare you for the reality of how tough the film industry is. The long hours, the unforgiving expectations, and rapid pace seemed herculean for this recent college grad. I even contemplated the idea of going back to school to study architecture. But then I got hired on another job. And then another. With every job I took, I gained a better understanding my role, and gradually discovered an industry that is collaborative, efficient, and supportive – I started to love it.
The road ahead wasn’t an easy one. Being unemployed, sometimes for months at a time, was the norm. I’d have my morning coffee while sitting next to my fax machine, sending my resume to any and all companies with a fax number. I took every job offered, no matter how little the pay, how difficult, or how ridiculous it was (and many were). The one thing I learned early on was that my attitude and work ethic had to supersede my resume. I used this insight to my advantage and worked harder than I’d ever worked before. I watched how everyone did their jobs: how they kept track of their to-do lists, how they spoke to colleagues and superiors, how they reacted to situations; I paid close attention to every aspect of each person’s approach. I kept it all tucked away in a folder in my head. I knew I had to invest in myself to stand out in the crowd of equally hungry PAs.
That first job that I hated so much was 21 years ago! I’m still working in film production, now as a production supervisor. Talking animals, gun-toting robots, racecars, racehorses, web-slingers, and whizzing F-18s have all been my colleagues, along with some of the hardest working people I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know.
What I love most about what I do is that no two jobs are ever the same. In fact, no two days are ever the same! The more tangled the mess I’m tasked with unraveling, the more I thrive. You need a certain personality to be able to appreciate the world of production logistics and problem-solving. I think for me, having the foundation of a creative mindset in a left-brained leaning job gives me a unique ability to navigate these challenges. I can see situations and find creative solutions for how to accomplish tasks that often feel impossible.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Trying to find balance in my personal life, outside of work, is one of the biggest challenges I face. Although I love my job, it’s high speed, long hours, and demanding. I don’t want my career to be the only thing that defines me.
After years of trial and error, I’ve finally been able to find what I need to create a good balance for myself: art. Art was my outlet as a kid, and it’s come to my rescue as an adult. I seek creativity in all forms, whether it’s drawing, painting, gardening, baking, pottery, playing music, or writing. Imaginative and innovative activity is meditative and transports me to a different world, allowing me to be grateful for all the pieces of my life. Art also forces me to see; and being able to see, especially the intangible, gives me a unique tool to use at work.
Finding a balance will always be a challenge for me, but art remains the leveling influence that helps to keep the scale from tipping too far in either direction. If I can achieve that state of equilibrium, I’ll consider my journey a success.
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
In terms of my job, the industry has obviously been put on an indefinite hold because of COVID-19. We are now trying to figure out the best way to continue creating content in the safest way possible. This pandemic will change the way we make movies, so I am shifting my mindset to embrace this new world we live in.
Drawing has become a huge part of my life and, of late, is becoming more than just a hobby. It’s been difficult to sustain a job that requires my attention 12-14 hours a day and still find the time and wherewithal to come home and draw…let alone eat! Often times, I sacrifice sleep just to get something drawn in my sketchbook.
Recently, some of my art was used as set dressing on one of the movies I was working on. It was exciting to finally see both of my worlds and passions merge.
I do take on commissioned work when I am not too immersed in a production, so the downtime I have now, due to the pandemic, has been a hidden blessing, allowing me to finish old commissions and start new projects. I also have some potential collaborations that may finally see the light of day.
- Website: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0477060/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thekwanartlab/?hl=en
Julie Ashborn, Robert Kay, Kristin Vela