APA Spotlight: Jennifer Sanderson, Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment

8Questions is a bi-monthly interview of Asian Pacific Islander Americans (APIA) community leaders. It is a spotlight on individuals who have dedicated their careers to issues surrounding the APIA community with the goal of bringing much deserved recognition to their work and cause(s).

Jennifer Sanderson is the director of The Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (CAPE). She has dedicated her time to create opportunities for APIAs in the entertainment industry through networking and education.

In addition to her work at CAPE, Jennifer is also a filmmaker. She draws from experiences growing up with an Asian Mother and Norwegian “Redneck” Father from Montana.

Jennifer spent many years in San Francisco, where she established herself as a voiceover agent and actor. In 2005, she moved to Montana, where she taught short-form narrative script writing and pre-production while attending graduate school. In 2009, she won a Montana ADDY Award for best television advertising campaign that she co-wrote, directed and produced.

Since moving to Los Angeles in 2009, Jennifer has enjoyed various production roles for the 81st and 82nd Annual Academy Awards, MTV Movie Awards, AC360, Radio Disney, Yahoo Music, and Larry King and in the story department at Magical Elves.

Jennifer graduated with from the Lundquist College of Business at the University of Oregon. She is also a Disney College Program Alumn. She holds a MFA in Filmmaking and a MA in Fine Arts from the University of Montana. She is still active with the University of Montana’s Business School, helping to recruit guest instructors and promote their Entertainment Management Program. In her spare time, Jennifer enjoys fly-fishing, boating, and hiking.

CAPE is dedicated to advancing diversity and creating social change by actively developing, promoting and positioning Asian Pacific Americans for key artistic and leadership roles in the entertainment industry and media arts.

What is the mission statement of your life?

Enjoy people and life. Don’t stress out…it only gives you wrinkles.

How did you end up doing what you’re doing?

I moved to LA immediately following graduate film school in Montana. Within 2 weeks I met my first LA friend, Laverne McKinnon, former CAPE President and current CAPE Board Member. A month later she asked me to volunteer and few months after that, she called and asked me to work for CAPE. I never expected it! Proof that volunteering can pay off.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life, whom would you like to see play the lead role as you?

Patricia Arquette (a la TRUE ROMANCE) or Grace Park (my grad school buddy nicknamed me “Boomer”).

How can people find out more about your organization or get involved?

  1. Go to: www.capeusa.org and sign up for the newsletter
  2. Come to our Holiday Soiree on December 2.
  3. Become a CAPE volunteer by emailing your interest to [email protected]

If you had a crystal ball, what do you see for the future of the Asian Pacific Islander American community?

Studios and networks want Asian American talent across the board. I receive daily correspondence asking for Asian American actors, writers and qualified studio executives. Directors not as much but that applies to every ethnicity. People have “Asian envy” more than ever but we have to continue to develop the talent and go deeper – encourage our writers to write for the mainstream. Our people are so smart and as soon as our community figures out how to develop a mainstream “Asian” idea, I see endless productivity for our community. Break through the glass ceiling if you will — It’s happening with movies like The People I’ve Slept With being released.

Bonus Question: What advice do you have for young professionals? Would you give different advice for young Asian Pacific Islander American professionals?

Drop any entitlement that you have and work as hard as you can without becoming a robot. Have fun and enjoy learning about the people that you work with or your neighbor for that matter. Take a genuine interest in someone else. Meet as many people as possible no matter where you are in your career. Networking is not a dirty word.

People in the US will see you as Asian first even if you were born here. That’s just the way it is. A sure fire way to success is to simply be your best or think outside the box like producer Dan Lin or Director Justin Lin. I know that you can do it!

Bonus Question: What are your comfort foods and what memories do you have associated with them?

I dream of Korean food! Before I moved to LA it was hard to find unless I went home. No one makes better kimchi than my Korean Aunties and my Grandmother made the best stir-fried squid ever.

But my father was a cattleman of sorts from Montana and we always had tons of beef in an extra freezer…as gross as that sounds, it worked out great because my Mother made tons of bulgogi – delicious!

Bonus Question: What’s your guilty pleasure?

Spartacus and laying poolside is always good.

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About Koji Steven Sakai

Writer/Producer Koji Steven Sakai is the founder of Little Nalu Pictures LLC and the CEO of CHOPSO (www.CHOPSO.com), the first Asian English streaming video service. He has written five feature films that have been produced, including the indie hit, The People I’ve Slept With. He also produced three feature films, a one hour comedy special currently on Netflix, and Comedy InvAsian, a live and filmed series featuring the nation’s top Asian American comedians. Koji’s debut novel, Romeo & Juliet Vs. Zombies, was released in paperback in 2015 and in audiobook in 2016 and his graphic novel, 442, was released in 2017. In addition, he is currently an adjunct professor in screenwriting at International Technological University in San Jose.
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