APA Spotlight: Stephen Gong, Executive Director, Center for Asian American Media

APA Spotlight is a weekly 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).

Stephen Gong is the Executive Director of the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), a leading media and cultural non-profit organization located in San Francisco.

Stephen joined CAAM in 2006 after many years as the General Manager of the Pacific Film Archive, and Deputy Director of the Berkeley Art Museum at the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to that he has been a program officer in the Media Arts program at the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Associate Director of the National Center for Film and Video Preservation at the American Film Institute.

He has been a lecturer in the Asian American Studies program at UC Berkeley, where he developed and taught a course on the history of Asian American media. In addition to writing about film history, Gong has provided critical commentary on several DVD projects including the Treasures From American Archives, Vol 1 & 4, and Chan is Missing (dir. Wayne Wang), and is the featured historian in the documentary Hollywood Chinese (Dir. Arthur Dong).

The Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) is a non-profit organization dedicated to presenting stories that convey the richness and diversity of Asian American experiences to the broadest audience possible. They do this by funding, producing, distributing and exhibiting works in film, television and digital media.

What is the mission statement of your life?

Find out what your gift is and then figure out how best to share it.

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

One of my first jobs was in the Media Arts program at the National Endowment for the Arts, at a time when the independent film movement was getting started. I got an overview of how the non-profit arts sector is organized and supported, and more importantly, I met many people to admire and whom I decided I’d want to work with. That led back to the Bay Area and to the Pacific Film Archive at UC Berkeley, and eventually to the Center for Asian American Media, on whose board I had served for many years.

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

Masi Oka or Fred Armisen. Actually, I’m gonna have to work on this one for a while.

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

Check us out at asianamericanmedia.org, on our YouTube channel or Facebook sites, or better yet, come out to our San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival in March.

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

Anything is possible: I think Asian Americans will be trend setters for a shift in contemporary American culture, including  film, music, art, industry, and public service. And the important thing is that the point of this generation’s emergence is not about the advancement of the API community for its own benefit but to advance the idea that America’s exceptional status is due to its diversity.

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

Same advice really, follow your bliss and try to make the world a better place.

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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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