Alumni Spotlight | Be your own cheerleader
Temple University alumna Samantha Tan is the embodiment of ambition. It's something that runs in the 22-year-old's veins as the producer and director's associate of Poetry & Pictures Inc. based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
But it didn't start that way.
Tan's journey to becoming the woman and professional she is today is a road long traveled, and FUTURE NOW has been a part of that journey. During her sophomore and junior year at Temple University, Tan worked on a web show called "Ambitious," a show about a Vietnamese- American college dropout. She met one of the cast, Phuong Nguyen , who played the mother on the show and is the CEO and Co-Founder of The Women's Film Festival.
One day, while filming the final season, Nguyen approached Tan and said, "'Hey Sam, I know a woman named Peggy, and I just sent you an email for an application for the FUTURE NOW Media & Entertainment Conference. I think this would be a great opportunity for you.'"
"I looked into it, and it was a great opportunity," said Tan.
Tan was even more ecstatic to see an Asian-American woman running the show, FUTURE NOW Media Foundation CEO & Founder, Peggy Kim. Tan applied to the conference and attended her first FUTURE NOW Media & Entertainment Conference in spring 2019.
"I wanted to meet filmmakers and people in the media field," said Tan. "I was hoping to meet people also outside of that field. When we make short films or features for music videos, it's people in different departments," she added.
Tan also loved the diversity the conference had to offer "because we need more people of color in the field." She stated that her most significant takeaway from the FUTURE NOW Media & Entertainment Conference was truly building long-lasting relationships.
Tan prefers to use the word "connecting" instead of "networking" because she believes in learning and creating bonds with someone outside of her gain. "I remember Peggy saying, 'When approaching these people, you want to be genuine. You're not just asking for a job.'"
Tan went on to become a Campus Ambassador for FUTURE NOW on her university's campus in 2019 until May 2020. Tan admitted that she had a hard time visualizing what it means to be a leader and how to galvanize students and share about FUTURE NOW, but she said Kim and her supervisor helped her develop the skills she needed to succeed.
"I was able to learn a lot of great skills such as marketing and communicating and connecting with people that could resonate with this program," said Tan. She also learned how to illustrate a message on posters, navigate social media, and built her confidence to be a guest speaker for professors and their students.
Tan now understands what it means to be a leader- someone who has honesty, respect, and superb communication skills. "I think it's so important to have that leader who understands people and who can connect with co-workers to be able to communicate clearly."
Humble beginnings & overcoming trials
The Asian-American filmmaker and producer decided to step into the media world when she became a senior in high school. She's always had a love for arts and entertainment, but Tan had to fight hard to convince her parents to let her study film.
"I've never fought so hard for something in my entire life," said Tan.
But her job does come with some challenges as it pertains to her race and gender.
"As an Asian-American filmmaker and producer, I had to face very subtle comments," said Tan.
"Now there's a lot of anti-Asian attacks. I get nervous going on set, but luckily for me, I've been on very great sets with very great people. But it's just the fact that I do have to worry about that, is very upsetting," she continued.
"To deal with that, I remember why I want to be a producer and why I want to go into film. It's just really creating this opportunity for not only Asian-Americans but anyone who needs a voice. So, I try to take on projects as a producer that reflects that," Tan said.
Impact of FUTURE NOW
Tan advises those looking to break into the media and entertainment industry to consider volunteering for FUTURE NOW "because it's super life-changing." Tan said volunteers and conference participants connect with experienced individuals in the industry directly, gain advice, and even meet potential mentors.
In fact, Tan was accepted to be a part of the FUTURE NOW Mentoring Program when it launched in 2019.
"The mentorship is great because it was very flexible for one. It's not stressful at all. Some of my calls would be like, 'Hey, how are you doing?' It feels like I'm talking to a friend who's helping me out."
FUTURE NOW also made Tan realize that, at times, she can be a bit hard on herself. "What I learned, especially during the mentorship program, is to focus on myself and to be about what I want and what I need as an individual," she said.
Advice for aspiring media professionals
Tan said that aspiring media professionals would get many "no's" before they arrive at their desired destination in their careers.
"So many other people would bring you down whether that's on purpose or accidentally, but you can't be that person for yourself. You can't be that person who says, 'no, I can't do this.' You gotta be your cheerleader, and it's going to be hard, but it's worth it," said Tan.
Plans for the FUTURE
Tan wants to one day own a production company and try her hand
at writing a TV show. She said she wants to highlight the anti-Asian attacks that have risen amid COVID and even sex education for the youth.
She would like to build a production company with people she has worked with in the past. "A huge inspiration of mine is WONG FU Productions. They're a huge Asian-American YouTube-based company, and they create short films all the time. Still, I hope with my production company, we can do music videos, commercials, TV, and movies and create that safe place and positive working environment for everyone," said Tan.
Tan plans to follow through with her life mission by writing down all of her goals in a mini notebook. "It's just kind of like a word vomit type of thing; it can be long term or short term goals. I also find that helpful to just dedicating a book just for that," she concluded.