(2012 January RE:NEW Magazine)
What are some of your achievements in the art world?
I was an intern at Disney at 1988. They were looking at eight kids from the country. I didn’t give up and just gave it a shot. I was there for a while and I went to Warner Brothers, then another company and I worked at Star Wars. My dream came true and I did it with all my heart.
Tell me a little about Kendu Films.
My job was being a production designer. What we do is that when we are done with one film, agents help us scout out for another job. The idea for Kendu Films came in San Francisco. One day, I bought this bag of cookies. It was so bad that I tossed it in the trash. The next time I came out, I saw all these ants picking up the cookies. I said, “Wow, these ants are such hard workers.” So I thought Mr. Ant must have gotten an Academy Award or the Lifelong Achievement Award. What a great resume he would have for his life. But this Mr. Ant has no idea that in my eyes this bag of cookies is like trash. For him, it’s the best thing ever. Yet in my home I have this refrigerator that has more food than the cookies. This is like a parable for me of the treasure in heaven. God is showing me that heaven, like the refrigerator heaven has far more abundant treasures there. My life is worth more than many Academy Awards. It’s worth more than Academy Awards to bring one soul to Christ. My value of success is different than how God values success. I began to look at what I could do to serve Him with my gift. And so I started this company called Kendu Films. It’s all about the animals’ perspectives of the stories in the Bible.
How are having Asian parents like?
I grew up in Taiwan, and my grades have always been the last or second to the last. My parents tried to make my grades improve, but it was completely hopeless. My mom even wanted me to play piano, trying to have me fit the perfect tag of Chinese kid growing up in Taiwan. So I never quite fit. I’ve always liked drawing, but it was not an option. But I came to America in 1982 when I was 13 years old. I couldn’t speak English, but I continued to like art and one of the my teachers submitted my drawing for a competition, and it won major awards. I don’t have a knack for math or history, but I realized my calling. So I pursued art.
Even though you struggled academically, what are your thoughts on education?
Education is important. Every kid needs to do the best they can to find their calling and their passion. But it would be unfortunate if every kid has to be a doctor or lawyer, because each person has a unique gift. As a teenager going through school, you need to ask yourself, “Who am I? What will I do for the rest of my life?” I realized that I was a B- kid. But I knew who I was. I told myself, “Even if I starve to death, I’m going to be the best artist there is”. Find your voice in this world and use your gift to contribute to society. Live as who you are. I always say that in Taiwan they manufacture straight A’s. I felt like I was a cricket in Taiwan, but in America, I was a firefly. I have a very unique gift. When I am a firefly, I don’t need to be a butterfly or a bee, but just to stay true to being a firefly.
Interesting! Seems like you like nature!
Yeah! As a kid I grew up with monkeys, dogs, cats, and birds. As a kid, I observed nature carefully. Nature is the greatest teacher. Animals tell great stories to old and young people. Just look at Lion King. It’s a story about a lion. But it’s not really. It’s a story about a father and a son. We just took it from the lion’s perspective and it’s multi-cultural. Telling stories from animals’ perspectives is more interesting and creative.
I know that coming to America was quite tough for you. You even got bullied! Can you tell us some experiences about bullying?
I went to a school in Florida, and it was a school of all African American kids. I’ve never seen a black kid ever in Taiwan. It was major culture shock. I was expecting blond hair, blue eyes. I thought I was in Africa. They never asked me “Hi, what’s your name?” They just asked me if I knew kung fu and if I knew Bruce Lee. So the first two words I learned in America was kung fu. They always challenged me to see what a Chinese kid can do. Unfortunately, I don’t know kung fu and Bruce Lee. But I like to draw and drawing became a tool where I made friends. It was a tough time. My parents bought boxers for my Physical Education shorts.
What’s your perspective on bullying?
Every teenager is trying to find their voice, manhood or womanhood. Bullies are looking for approval, and victims get really wounded. But I got stronger because of being a victim to bullying. I became strong because I realized that I am not someone that society presses me to be. God created me and I’m not to be pushed around. God doesn’t tolerate anyone being bullied. Look at King David. He was bullied by the giant Goliath. I realized that I needed to stand up. Bullying sharpened me to recognize who I am and helped me later working in society.
How did you come to know God?
I was a miracle child. I was dead in my mother’s womb and the doctors were about to do a C-section on my mom. But my heartbeat came back. Growing up, God was like a genie, I wasn’t very close to God. I knew all the scripture and my dad made me read the Bible. But I had a problem of stealing money because I wanted to buy things. I had a mix of different kinds of influences. In America, as a teenager I was rebellious. In my third year in art school, I went to the beach during summer. As I was out in the water, all of a sudden, I was under the water and faced death. I was out on the ocean for nearly an hour. I was completely exhausted. When you are completely at the end of your rope you think about what matters. It was my first time crying out to God: God save me! Then God saved me, and I came back. I realized that it was not by chance that God had saved me. He has a design and perfect plan. God is real. Boy, you can’t see Him with your naked eye, but certainly with your heart. I started to speak to Him, to surrender to Him. I was 19 years-old when I turned my life around.
How can teenagers focus on God through social media and technology?
Media and Internet are so big nowadays. We don’t do snail mail, but email. Some kids watch seven movies a week. There is a lot of information in the entertainment industry – it’s the future and it’s going to be digital. You should try to find your gift and serve through media. Media is a good and evil tool. We need to be careful of the windows to our souls, the eyes. We can hear uplifting sermons online or see the worst garbage online. This can also be a great temptation for teenagers, and so they need to guard their eyes and hearts. Proverbs 4:23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Satan is busy trying to deceive so it’s important to guard your heart.
What would you like to say to this generation?
Live your life to the fullest. Remember that Jesus came to give you abundant life. No one should live a life of an underachiever. Most of us think that mediocre is okay. Living life fully, finding your place, and discovering your gift are important. Once you discover that gift, the most difficult thing is to follow your voice. Have that courage to follow that dream. It’s something that God has put in your DNA. Teenagers usually follow what everyone else is doing, following the leaders. I think it’s hard for young kids to pursue what they believe in. Even Steve Jobs said, “Find what you love, and do it with all your heart.” I would continue to encourage every young person who is trying to figure out their career, to ask yourself, “What would you do if you had only one more month to live?” Do it with all of your heart. Really find your place and purpose. “What is your purpose in life?” God has a purpose for everyone in His grand design. Unfortunately teenagers nowadays, they just want to find a career, mate, and marry. At age 19, God told me that you are not a marble but a diamond, that you are so precious and that you have no idea that you can change the world. Not you, but God can use you to change the world. You can say, “God here I am, can you show me who I am?” and I believe that God does that everyday to those who humble themselves.