In this series, TalentEgg will be exploring the lives of young professionals who have gone off the beaten career path to find success. From artists to entrepreneurs, their stories illustrate the importance of pursuing your passion.
Since high school, Betty Xie had her sights set on a career in Business. That is until she experienced the field first hand.
The summer before she started university, she attended a business camp with other aspiring professionals and quickly realized she didn’t fit in with them at all. She wanted to tell stories, so she decided to study Humanities instead, and eventually pursue a degree in Cinema and Asia-Pacific Studies at the University of Toronto.
Then, in 2012, Betty got the opportunity to travel to Taiwan with her Asia-Pacific Studies peers to witness the presidential election. Instead of writing a research paper, she convinced her professor to let her make a documentary to chronicle her experiences.
After that trip, Betty was hooked.
“I really like this – I really like holding a camera, following people, doing interviews,” says Betty. “And I really love editing. Editing is one of my big interests in filmmaking as well. And so, after doing that, I was like, I think I can give it a shot.”
She immersed herself in the film world, taking every opportunity she could to further her skills in the form. Coincidentally, some of the people she met on that trip became the subjects of one her most well-known film to date, The Home Promised, the story of residents facing forced eviction in downtown Taipei.
“Gradually, one event after another, and you’re like ‘oh, I can still do this. I want to still do this.’” – Betty Xie
Of course, wanting to pursue a career in film is one thing, actually doing it is a whole different story.
For instance, since her Cinema Studies education was more theoretical than practical, Betty had to teach herself the basics of filmmaking and actively seek out opportunities where she could develop the skills she needed. For instance, a summer production program hosted by the Reel Asian Film Festival (where she now also works as a Development and Programming Associate) helped her make her first fiction short, entitled Girlfriends.
Additionally, as a female, Asian-Canadian filmmaker, Betty has had to work hard to prove herself in the industry.
“Behind the scenes, there are a lot of female leaders, but still not enough in director or cinematography positions,” says Betty. “Being a female filmmaker, there’s always this question of ‘can you do it?’”
Thinking of becoming a filmmaker?
Ask yourself this question first: do you live and breathe your profession? This is not your typical 9-5 gig — you need to love it in order to make it your career.
“If you’re willing to sit in front of your editing software and edit a film until you feel like it’s perfect, then that kind of natural drive means you really like that,” says Betty.
There is also her personal dilemma of how to best represent her culture onscreen. She often wrestles with her desire to make films that celebrate her heritage, and also appeal to a more mainstream market – two goals that don’t always intersect.
“It’s a constant challenge,” says Betty, but her struggles are also where she draws a lot of inspiration for her work. Her films often tackle issues relating to identity, touching on themes like race, gender, and sexuality. Coupled with her passion and commitment to the craft, Betty’s work has led to some amazing opportunities – just recently she traveled to the Hong Kong Film Festival for the second time. She has also formed a film company with one of her mentors and is currently hard at work producing her first feature-length film.
While there have been times that Betty has had hesitations and doubts about her decision to pursue a less-than-traditional profession, she’s never regretted her choice. She became a filmmaker to tell the stories that matter, and that’s exactly what she’s done.
“If you’re in a creative industry, uncertainty is good,” says Betty. “It’s good for your creativity because you push yourself that way.”
Betty’s career advice
- Find a mentor. The benefits of mentorship are not always tangible, but always worth it in the end. ”Those kinds of meaningful relationships are going to take you to the next level in a very pragmatic way, or just in your own learning curve,” says Betty.
- Be patient. Focus less on the end result and more on building the skills to make it happen. “Yes, you can have that dream project that you always want to make and you’ll make it in ten years, but how you get there is the key,” says Betty.