The lack of minority representation in literature is diminishing the reading experiences of so many children as they read stories of victorious youth that they can never seem to create connections with.

Interview with Roxy Shih

Introduce yourself! 

Hi everyone! I’m Roxy Shih and I’m a Taiwanese-American writer and director based out of Los Angeles. I co-founded the Taiwanese American Film Festival (www.TAFF.la) in LA, and I currently have a podcast that I co-host with one of my best friends, Priska, called Two Horny Goats (www.TwoHornyGoats.com), where we discuss culture, food, sexuality, and what it’s like growing up Asian-American. I hope that everyone is maintaining their health and sanity in this turbulent year.

Why do you love making films? Are there any distinct memories that connect/illustrate that love you have for them?

Who doesn’t love the movies? The ones we watched growing up made us into who we are today, and the ones being made now reflect the values and times we’re living in. Growing up, I had a steady diet of Julie Andrews movies (Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music were on daily rotation), and for some strange reason, Ron Howard’s Willow and old-school Hong Kong Martial Arts films were also in the repertoire. I think these films are mostly responsible for the type of work I make today: intensely violent, visceral films with…deeply whimsical, romantic musical scores (lol).

Becoming a filmmaker wasn’t a childhood dream. In fact, I was afraid to want it due to the fact that I never saw or heard of anyone who looked like me being able to direct and make films (representation is important, y’all!) But I’ve always been a storyteller; I’ve played music, was a dancer, writer, and dipped my feet into different mediums of expression growing up. It wasn’t until college when I was taking a Film 101 class for a humanities requirement when I first watched The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and found myself overwhelmed with such powerful, lingering emotions and tears long after the other students left the screening hall. I was struck by something that day; seeing how cinema encapsulates all the artistic mediums I love to tell a story and know that it can affect a viewer’s emotions and point of view decades into the future was a profound moment for me. I didn’t know how to get there, though. All I knew was that I wanted to be a part of it. 

You have done a wide variety of projects filling all kinds of roles, from directing and writing for your horror television show Dark/Web to producing a Panic! At the Disco music video to even have credits for production, casting, and even acting. Do you have any preferences for what you like doing the most? What do you like or dislike about all the different kinds of departments you’ve worked in?

I think that it’s important that you get your hands dirty. It doesn’t hurt to start from the bottom, so you have an understanding of the world you’re working in before you make it to the top. Try different jobs when you’re starting out – it allows you to have perspective and humility when you finally get to a position where you are able to make big decisions. Being able to direct is a huge privilege because you’re entrusted to deliver your best work while having to be a good leader by earning the respect of the crew who works for you. 

I mostly direct now, which is something I never thought I could do when I first entered this industry. It wasn’t the goal because it felt like such a pipedream, but stepping into it felt so natural. It’s what I enjoy the most by utilizing my strengths and what I’ve learned by watching different directors I’ve worked with in the past. It was definitely a growing journey; you’re never going to immediately fill the shoes of your dream job when you first start out, but every experience becomes a resource in your toolkit of life when you’re finally ready to take it on.

There are things that I like and dislike about everything because every position has a different set of challenges. I have my dream job right now, but I’m always learning something new in every show I do, and I always encounter a new set of obstacles. The most important thing you have to ask yourself is that despite all those hardships, do you still love and enjoy what you do? If you can confidently answer yes to that, then you are headed in the right direction. 

From looking at all the work you’ve done, I see the recurring theme of horror as a genre included to some extent. Why do horrors/thrillers call to you, and what are some of your favorite horror shows/movies?

I always laugh when people ask me this because I was (and still am) the biggest wimp when it comes to watching horror movies. I originally entered the space for a strategic reason; I wanted to ensure I had a sustainable career after my first jump into directing. Filmmaking is a high-stakes career, and you want to minimize your financial risk when you consider your longevity. Horror was a good avenue because it’s the best-selling genre; fear transcends language, and on the producing aspect, doesn’t require famous names to become a hit. If it’s executed well, it will draw interest, attention, and hopefully… the next job.

Fortunately, that’s what happened for me, and most of my career path has been in this space. I embrace it, though, because I’ve come to realize that my voice lives authentically in genre; I love elevating reality, challenging my audience, and exploring darker, more unorthodox themes that live deeper beyond the convention. Some of my favorite horror movies are The Shining, Psycho, and Hereditary. And the best horror television I’ve ever seen is The Haunting of Hill House. Now that I think about it, all of these picks have a traumatic family drama rooted at the center of its story. I wonder what that says about my taste.

Who inspires you in filmmaking and in everything?

It’s people. Stories from personal conversations, whether it’s a stranger in an Uber Pool, the barista you get your daily latte from, or even those closest to you when they decide to share a secret part of themselves in a sudden moment. I love connecting with different types of people and being able to engage in their personal experiences. Listening has become my most valuable tool because everyone is a storyteller, and if you choose to listen, whoever you’re speaking to will pull you into a world from their perspective. Some of these stories linger for weeks, months, and even years. Eventually, they may manifest into a project (for me, it was my Taiwanese film, The Visit) And to me, there is nothing more powerful than that; the conversation may affect one individual, but the story on screen can have the power to influence many. Every intimate conversation you have with somebody is a gift. 

What are the most fulfilling things about working in film and TV? What can be frustrating?

The only frustrating aspect would be the long and odd hours. But the rewards outweigh the cons by a thousand-fold; I get to travel around the world and work with incredible people, surrounding myself with new material and ways to grow… but there is nothing more rewarding than waking up every morning knowing that you’re doing your dream job. How many people can actually say that? I’m incredibly blessed, and even though those odds were stacked against me as an Asian woman becoming a director a few years back, it’s not lost on me now that I have a responsibility to pave the path for future filmmakers in my community to also have the same, if not more, opportunities. 

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Asian women today?

Opportunity. It’s funny, I answered the last question with this same word as well. If you’re not in the majority, every layer you possess of a marginalized community makes it even harder to have opportunities. So not only are you Asian, if you are also a woman, the difficulty of obtaining those opportunities are likely to be doubled…if you’re queer, disabled, these are also extra toppings on the “invisibility” sundae. 

The most important thing that needs to happen now is to create space for Asian women to have more opportunities in male-dominated roles. Especially roles of leadership and power. Only in doing so are we really able to create change and balance the scales. Before, when there was only one seat for us, we had to fight each other for it, but now if we’re in that seat, we have a responsibility to create space for others. 

Do you have any advice for all the Asians gals and nonbinary pals who want to pursue a career in filmmaking?

Be mindful of who you surround yourself with, work laterally, not vertically (and what I mean by this is don’t expect to work with Ryan Coogler right when you graduate film school, build with who you have around you and rise together) and seek mentorship. Ask yourself why you want to pursue this career, and if you’re ready for the long journey ahead. Understand that it will take time, failure, and perseverance. And lastly, drop the ego, be open to learning…There is no telling how far you can go and what you can accomplish if you do so. The sky’s the limit!

What’s next for you? Any exciting projects?

I’m currently in production for an exciting new series that is still under wraps. The plan is to also shoot another feature in Los Angeles before the year is over (we must take back 2020 somehow). Aside from making films, the most exciting project for all of us right now is fighting for this year’s election. Make sure to vote!


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Roxy Shih is an internationally acclaimed, Emmy-nominated writer/director and speaker. Born in Europe, Roxy’s third culture background has given her a distinct perspective. As a filmmaker, she is known for her versatility and has worked with many independent companies both overseas and domestically, making her one of the most in-demand cinema artists today.

Roxy was one of ten chosen for the prestigious Armed With A Camera fellowship in 2011 and received a grant to direct a short film, Play Time, that premiered at the DGA and went on a successful film festival tour internationally. She has had her work shown at an array of festivals such as The LA Film Festival, LA Asian Pacific Film Festival, Cannes, SXSW, Toronto Independent, and Dances with Films.

Roxy had her directorial debut, The Tribe, acquired by Empress Road Pictures in 2016. The film stars the illustrious Jessica Rothe (Happy Death Day, La La Land), Anne Winters (Mom & Dad, 13 Reasons Why), and Michael Nardelli (The Collection, Circle). The film has garnered a lot of media attention and has won awards at prestigious festivals such as Best Narrative Feature at Nice International Film Festival, Best Debut Feature Film at The Female Eye Film Festival in Toronto, and Best Feature Director at Other Worlds Austin Film Festival.

In 2016, Roxy helmed episodes of the highly anticipated sci-fi anthology series Dark/Web, which was released on Amazon Prime in 2019 with a World Premiere at San Diego Comic-Con. Her second feature film, Painkillers (Madeline Zima, Grant Bowler, Adam Huss, and Debra Wilson), was released in early 2019 with a Hulu deal. 

On the side, Roxy enjoys playing the violin, freestyle wacking/voguing, and reading tarot. She also believes in giving back to her community and was a Co-Founder of the Taiwanese American Film Festival in Los Angeles. 

She also hosts a lifestyle podcast with one of her best friends, singer-songwriter Priska, called Two Horny Goats, which is available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.

You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!

We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.

We hope you’ll join us.

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