On the outside, life in the entertainment industry can look glamorous and easy, giving us the impression that it requires little work yet offers immediate rewards. The reality, however, is that it demands a lot of self-discipline and energy, and often comes with its own set of deeper struggles. Today Brian is joining us to share about his experience in the field and the wisdom he gained along the way.
So Brian, tell us a bit about your career! How did you get started?
I had always been involved in visual arts and media since I was a kid, whether it was drawing, painting, photography, or video. Before college it was all for hobby purposes, to capture some stories of me and my friends.
During college and afterwards I realized that I could possibly make some money from it, so I went into freelance photography and videography. I did that for 2-3 years while in school. After I had graduated, I worked as a physical therapist’s assistant and started investing a lot of time trying to become an Instagram influencer (which I gave up after a year!). That didn’t quite go the way I had hoped.
When I got to China, I had all these skills that I had spent time honing and which I had thought were useless. However, suddenly I started getting gigs and getting connected in different industries because of these skills.
I didn’t think of doing social media influencing again because I didn’t feel like I was called to it. I still don’t, but somehow, I ended up in this field again. Now I work as a social media influencer here in China, mainly focusing on fashion and lifestyle content.
I think it’s a great testimony that those skills were not useless like you had initially thought! What exactly does working in social media entail?
A typical 9-5 workday is what scared me the most for my entire life. It was the fear of being stuck in an office, glued to a chair, and having to wear dress pants and a shirt to work every day that I kept running away from.
Working as a social media influencer, or anything freelance, involves many things that a lot of people can’t see. It is running your own business, and until you have your own team, you are doing the role and job description of many things. There is marketing and branding, content creating, business development, and sales. So you are learning how to do so many different things at one time. It’s honestly incredibly challenging and a normal work day for me is 12-14 hours.
95% of my work time is spent planning content, researching the market, finding people to collaborate with, and 5% is actually spent on posting on social media. Also, shout-out to my friend Sam Bydlon for being an incredible photographer and storyteller and who takes my creative ideas and makes them even better!
So if you don’t work a typical 9-5 in an office setting, what keeps you busy for 12-14 hours each workday?
On a typical day I wake up at 5:30-6am and pray and read the Word. Then I have coffee, breakfast, and a shower. I then arrive at a coffee shop where I:
Find new leads and new people to collaborate with
Plan content, shooting content, editing content
Reply and interact on social media to my community
Study what other people are doing
Adapt and innovate from my past content and my past work
That’s quite impressive that you still rise at 5:30 even though you are not required to clock in anywhere! Do you work a 5-day work week like a typical job? Or do you take just a few days a week and just focus on getting a ton of work done?
Five days of the week look like the above schedule. But two or three days, I will enjoy myself with church activities, serving on sound at Embassy, leading worship at Alpha, and preparing to sing on Sunday.
Well, I imagine that takes a lot of self-discipline to stick to that schedule! What other kinds of discipline are people in the entertainment industry required to have? How do you personally maintain it?
Beyond maintaining our look, I think mental and social discipline are the most important for our field, as well as any field. Discipline is often talked about in the Word and Jesus often talks about being a faithful steward of what we have been given.
I sometimes have to remind myself that it’s not about whether I feel like doing this or not, but about the purpose and calling God has currently placed in my hands. I remind myself to do my best and leave the rest up to Him.
This is not a mindset that can be learned in a day. I still struggle with this and my only solution is constant prayer for strength from God to do what He has called me to.
Amen! How would you say the entertainment industry in China compares to that at home?
I didn’t work in the entertainment industry in the U.S., but my younger brother did. Though China is catching up and making leaps, the industry in the U.S. is more developed and professional in many aspects.
He did mention how there is prejudice against Asian Americans though. He told me that many times the reason why he didn’t get a role in a film was because the director found out he was Chinese. I find this incredibly frustrating as his older brother.
On the other hand, you would think that here in China, the Chinese would support their own kind. However, as an ABC (American-born Chinese) I still find certain challenges in the industry. A few times in the past I have lost some opportunities to be in commercials because I was technically “American” and they were looking for “Chinese” leads.
But regardless of the differences, the main similarities remain. It is extremely competitive, the pay really sucks if no one knows who you are (by the Grace of God I have been provided for many times in miraculous ways), and there will be times where you are required to be very flexible and often leave your comfort zone.
Our identity sometimes gets wrapped up in what we do for a living and we begin to see ourselves as the profession we have chosen. Have you ever had this identity struggle? How do you deal with it?
When you asked me if I would like to participate in this interview, I was honored, yet at the same time when you asked me what I did for work, I wasn’t sure how to answer! I am someone who often thinks, “Okay great, I currently work in social media and entertainment. Is this the end goal that God has brought me to? Is this where I’m called for the rest of my life?”. I think that answer is different for everyone.
I sometimes battle with career identity, but I’ve found that my identity is not in my work, in how many followers I have online, or what my finances look like. But it’s who God says I am.
Regarding career callings and purposes, I really don’t believe this is a black and white answer. We are all called to different seasons in life: school, career, dating, and family. We have different personalities and preferences. Do we prefer stability vs. risk? Fun vs. familiar?
I believe at the end of the day we need to ask ourselves, “The place that I currently am in, is this where God needs me? And if it is, am I doing my best with what He has given me?”.
I’ve learned to slowly silence the voice of this cultural idea of what my “identity” is, because following God and what He is bringing us into (even though at times it’s incredibly hard), is so much more fulfilling.
That’s so encouraging. It’s not easy in any profession to stay focused on what God wants for us but I bet that the entertainment industry has its own set of struggles that Christians here are up against. Would you say this is the case? How do you respond to it?
Yes, the entertainment industry is competitive, cut-throat, self-glorifying, and full of temptation. Each person struggles with something different: some with greed, some with pride, some with lust. The entertainment industry has every kind of challenge that you can imagine.
I personally believe that God has called people to every industry: entertainment, politics, education, business, etc. But we really need to be following His call and not forcing ourselves onto a playing field that we are not ready to take on.
Working in entertainment, I have found that there are times I need to ask myself, “Am I going to compromise my values right now because I can get a leg up in this industry? Or am I going to be a light and believe that it’s not based on my ability or works but rather it is God bringing me where He needs me.”
That’s good! So how do you go about “being a light” in this industry?
I’m always praying to have wisdom and discernment whenever I am working or even when I’m in a social setting within those circles. There are so many gray areas that require a supernatural shrewdness, yet innocence, to appropriately deal with.
There was a time where I was shooting a TV commercial and the director had already decided the roles and we had started filming. Midway through the shoot, the director asks the lead actor to take a break and then asked me if I wanted a run at the lead role.
What do you do in this situation? Do you go for it? What if someone else loses what they had worked for so that you can gain? Maybe God had planned for this to happen and was opening a door for me?
I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I do believe that before we even go into these situations and even before we start the day off with prayer, God is working in us for His glory, to show the world that we are different, that we look out for others and not for our own personal gain.
These things are incredibly hard to do on our own but thank God we don’t need to rely on our own strength and will to do this. I believe when we do something that is so counter-cultural it turns people’s heads, and they ask why we did what we did. And what other answer can we give?
That’s right! Many young people are interested in pursuing careers in acting, modeling, and media. What advice can you offer those considering these paths?
If you love it, pray about it, ask for advice from those who are in the industry, and pray about it some more. I believe that everyone is given certain callings that other people can’t fulfil. Be wise and learn how to be firm and decisive about your faith and values. Get ready to work harder, sleep less, and socialize less than you ever would if you were in a regular 9-5 job.
Wise and honest advice! Well Brian, thank you so much for sharing your story with us today! Personally, I was surprised by some of the realities of this industry and I’m sure many readers were too.
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