Write down your goals. I experienced times when I felt lost, because there was so much going on, and different things were pulling me in different directions. I ended up wasting time running around and not moving my career forward. I finally sat down, reflected and started to write down my goals in my journals. I revisit them periodically to make sure that I’m on track and make adjustments. This has helped me tremendously.
I had the pleasure to interview actress and filmmaker Amy Shi. Born in China’s Hunan Province, Amy Shi was secretly raised by her grandmother in a small rural village far away from the city where her parents lived. She grew up liberated in spirit, inheriting the fearlessness of her grandmother from those early years. Amy earned her BA in marketing and computer science, and an MBA. After graduation, she worked as a management consultant in Chicago. While living in Chicago, her path took a very different turn. She studied improv at the legendary Second City and attended acting classes, and soon was cast in several TV projects, including “Shameless,” “Chop-Chop Chicago,” “Chicago PD,” and films “Time Sentry: The Box” and “Ju-Yuki.” Amy relocated to Los Angeles in 2016 and continued her stage work in the play “Wonder Women.” Her film work includes “Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance,” “Tales of Frankenstein,” “Street 2 Death Fight,” “The Man Deletes Everything,” “James Dilemma,” the award-winning film “Whisper,” and sci-fi short “Zalla,” in which she stars in the title role. She received the Best Lead Actress Award at the 2017 Canada Golden Maple Film Festival. She began producing movies since 2017 and is also executive producer on “Zalla,” which was named a finalist in the 2019 French Riviera Film Festival, and is co-producer on “Street 2 Death Fight.” She is the co-founder of Hollywood Dream Lab LLC, a company dedicated to promoting diversity in Hollywood productions. Her corporate responsibilities have been in the banking and high tech sectors, working for such top companies as JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Apple Inc.
Thank you so much for joining us Amy! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Luscious green rolling hills, clear streams, birds chirping, wild berries and flowers, are all my earliest of memories. I was whisked away to live with my grandparents as a child, because I was the first born in the family and I was a girl. I returned to the city to be with my parents at the age of five, after my brother was born. Thanks to this experience, I grew up free spirited and learned how pure and simple life can be. My grandma was my earliest role model. She was a kind and strong woman who raised five kids, while helping others in need with all her means.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I think that has a lot to do with my early childhood experiences. I’m a very sensible person. When I lived in the countryside, I was free and expressive. Then the city life inspired me to be a good student and pursue my studies in science and business. However, I always enjoyed doing creative things and performing on stage. What made me switch my career path was a cold winter in Chicago in 2010 when I had a low period in my life. I ended a long distance relationship and was heartbroken. I was at a point where I had to choose whether to stay in the US or go back to China. A good friend of mine who knew me very well told me that I’m happiest whenever I’m being creative and so, I decided to stay to pursue my career in the entertainment business.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
It has to be the experience of filming “Shameless” I had to be on location in quite a dangerous part of Chicago. I was so scared, I just kept my head down and pretended to listen to music.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I made happened when I started doing improv at Second City in Chicago. Since I did not grow up in America, I would misinterpret the sub-context of things from time to time. I would do or say something that completely surprised the audience. That only made me seem funnier.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m working on a sci-fi project and a television mini-series.
I’m very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
I remember I once attended a screening. The audience was very diversified. One of the panelists at the post-Q&A commented (paraphrasing), “Look around you, do you see all the shapes and all colors of people here today? These are the people who make up the real world and for whom we make content. That’s why it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television.” I couldn’t agree more.
From your personal experience, can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do help address some of the diversity issues in the entertainment business?
We are very lucky to live in a time when people are more and more open minded, and more inclusive with diversity. We are seeing improvement in the entertainment industry, but there is still more work to do, such as we need more writers to create great content that reflect this diversity, more funding for independent projects, and a more open system to promote independent projects.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Believe in yourself. I grew up in a culture where everything would be taken care of for women and girls. For a long time I didn’t realize that I have the power in myself, even though I had been accomplishing things on my own. Because of my insecurities, I went through some dark times but I’m glad after the struggle, I came out stronger and now have more confidence in myself.
2. Write down your goals. I experienced times when I felt lost, because there was so much going on, and different things were pulling me in different directions. I ended up wasting time running around and not moving my career forward. I finally sat down, reflected and started to write down my goals in my journals. I revisit them periodically to make sure that I’m on track and make adjustments. This has helped me tremendously.
3. Know your type. After I moved to LA, and spending tons of money on different headshot sessions and image branding workshops, I realized you just have to know yourself and your type. There are so many actors here that you don’t have to play every type, you just have to be best at playing the characters that you already embody or can relate to.
4. Put in the work. There are people who believe in luck or think they have natural genius, but I believe in training and practice. I remember that when I walked into the casting call for my role in “Shameless,” I thought there would be very little chance to get this role because they had auditioned at least 50 people before me. However, I got the part and I know it was only because I was so very well prepared.
5. Time is the most valuable commodity. When I was younger, I always thought that there will be time for this or there will be time for that. In order to reach your life goals, every minute counts. If I could go back, I would have taken time more seriously and spend it more wisely.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Follow a healthy diet, exercise regularly, live a balanced lifestyle, and faithfully keep a journal. These are the things I have found to be very helpful in keeping me sane and having long lasting energy.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Thank you for the compliment. If I can inspire a movement, it would be to have a four day work week, so we can all enjoy a balanced life while creating our own legacies.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
You are absolutely right. There are many people I am grateful towards. I believe there is no coincidence in every encounter. People come to my life, whether they do good or bad, they offer me a gift, but the ones I call friends are the ones I care for and treasure. As I mentioned earlier, I am very grateful to my grandmother.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Believe in yourself. We’re born to face challenges. I have faced many, and I overcame them, and became stronger and wiser.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Queen Elizabeth! I dreamed of becoming a princess when I was a little girl, and she is the ultimate symbolic idol in the Royal World.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Follow @DarlingAmyShi on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Subscribe to my YouTube channel for the latest videos: www.youtube.com/c/AmyXianglinShi