APA Spotlight: Shinae Yoon, Visual Communications & The Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival

APA Spotlight 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).

Shinae Yoon is Executive Director of Visual Communications (VC) and Executive Producer of the annual Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.

As an active member of the non-profit arts community for the last 10-years, Shinae has worked in youth development, media education, arts programming, and organizational development. Integrating media, art and culture into her work, Shinae has produced original programs, creative collaborations, online initiatives and built sponsorships and endorsements platforms for high profile events. Her focus has been on implementing innovative management practices in creative not-for-profits.

She has been on staff at the Chicago International Film Festival and the Three Arts Club of Chicago. She was also co-Director at Street-Level Youth Media, an award-winning community-based media arts organization working in Chicago’s inner city. Prior to joining Visual Communications, she was Executive Director of Young Chicago Authors, a non-profit organization that encourages self-expression for youth through creative writing workshops, publishing and performance opportunities.

Before working in arts management, Shinae received a liberal arts degree in International Relations and the Humanities from Boston University. She had a previous life as a writer and filmmaker. She has written and produced several short scripts and continues to write in her spare time.

Visual Communication’s mission is to promote intercultural understanding through the creation, presentation and support of media works by and about Asian Pacific Americans.

What is the mission statement of your life?

Eat, Pray, Love.

Just kidding.

My mission in life is to work hard, be fearless, and try to be kind and generous to everyone. I also love to laugh, and I’ve learned that a good dose of humor is a great antidote to many of life’s challenges.

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

I made it up as I went along. Back when I graduated college, I really didn’t know that you could work in non-profits, work in the community and really make a viable career from it. Instead, I had to take a long journey of self-discovery to figure out what I wanted to do and what I was good at.  So I just started doing things that I loved doing like working at film festivals, working with youth, planning events and doing stuff in my community. I also got experience doing things that I didn’t really expect to do like accounting and fund raising and leadership development. But somehow it all fit together, and working at VC is an amalgam of all my professional experiences and skills.

Today, people have much more exposure to non-profit work and can decide early on in their careers to go into this field. There are even graduate programs in non-profit administration. I think people are reinvesting into the community in a way that didn’t happen so much when I graduated from college, so it’s nice to know that the field has become professionalized and that it’s seen as a viable alternative to corporate work.

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

Sonja Sohn from The Wire, definitely. She’s half black and half Korean, and even though I’m fully Korean, people have always assumed I was black because of my name. She’s also tough as nails. I guess I’ve always wanted to see myself as a tough black woman, even though I look very different in real life. I think I have a very complex inner life, and I think it would be well played by Sonja.

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

Visit our website at www.vconline.org. You can also connect to us via Facebook and Twitter. And make sure to come out to our film festival beginning April 2011.

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

I see Asian Pacific Islanders playing a big part in controlling the larger media landscape. I think the next 10 years will really show how Asians and Asian Americans are the next big wave of talent, directors, producers and executives making a huge impact in Hollywood and beyond. This isn’t just my hope. I really feel the energy brewing with all the talent that’s out there and the interest that people are taking in our communities. I think we are just waiting for our big moment when people are really going to start to take notice.

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

Ja-Jang Myun, which is homemade noodles with black bean sauce. My mother owns a restaurant in Chicago and they’ve specialized in this dish for over 20 years. It’s the first thing I’ll eat when I go visit my parents in Chicago. This dish reminds me of my childhood, my family and my years growing up in a restaurant environment where I had access to unlimited amounts of free food anytime I wanted!  Nothing makes me quite as nostalgic as eating a bowl of Ja-Jang Myun.

Bonus Question: What’s your guilty pleasure?

Shoe shopping!

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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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