APA Spotlight: Sonia Sakamoto-Jog, Executive Director, Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival

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).

Sonia Sakamoto-Jog (pictured on the left) joined Reel Asian as Executive Director in May of 2009 after graduating from the MBA program at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. Prior to being hired at Reel Asian, she worked at Maximum Films International (now a division of Entertainment One) where she was involved in all aspects of acquisitions, marketing, and sales. Her previous experience includes two years working as a strategy consultant for a branding agency in Tokyo, and contracts with both the Toronto International Film Festival and the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal.

The Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival is a unique showcase of contemporary Asian cinema and work from the Asian diaspora. Works include films and videos by East and Southeast Asian artist in Canada, the U.S., Asia and all over the world. As Canada’s largest Asian film festival, Reel Asian provides a public forum for Asian media artists and their work, and fuels the growing appreciation for Asian cinema in Canada.

What is the mission statement of your life?

Treat others as you want to be treated. Be welcoming to new people to any situation – it’s hard being new! Do what you love and work with people who inspire you… work takes up too much of our lives to not enjoy it.

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

When I first moved to Toronto I was looking for a way to make friends so I volunteered at Reel Asian. I loved the people I met and the atmosphere of the festival so I kept volunteering, in increasingly larger roles. So when the job of Executive Director came up, I was familiar with the organization and knew that I liked the team. It turns out it fits with a lot of my past work experience in theater and festivals, but also with a long-time love of mine for independent film.

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

Someone small and feisty.

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

We have a regular newsletter that they can sign up for, and our website and blog that has all the latest happenings both at Reel Asian and within the Asian and cultural community in Toronto.

Volunteering is the best way to get involved – our family of volunteers is huge and really does feel like a family. Just drop us a line volunteer[a]reelasian.com.

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

A much more prominent place in the media.

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

My advice would be to always go beyond what’s expected or asked of you. The positive impressions you make in your early roles will open so many doors to opportunities that you may not have even thought of. Strongly consider internships and volunteering in fields that you are interested in – if you work hard, they are a surefire way to get started on the career path you’re interested in, and this doesn’t just go for the arts.

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

I love gyoza – I would make them with my mom, and it was always a special treat. I make them myself now, but they’re never as good as hers.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Sleeping in.

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[Photo (from left to right): Sonia Sakamoto-Jog, Minister of Tourism and Culture Michael Chan, and Chair of the Board Karla Bobadilla]

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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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