Faces of BC Film – Louisa Phung, insurance broker and filmmaker

Louisa Phung. Photo: Eric Cairns

Louisa Phung. Photo: Eric Cairns

A 2013 report by Rowland Lorimer, Director of the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing at Simon Fraser University, states the creative economy in B.C. is growing at a faster rate than the economy as a whole.

Lorimer states the creative sector in B.C. employs 85,000 people, not including volunteers, making it the second largest of B.C.’s six major industrial sectors. The sector generates $4 billion annually in economic activity.

Lorimer aptly describes people’s inborn need for creativity: “Creative activity is a basic existential reality beginning in individuals and families and extending throughout society. . . Creative activities and innovative thinking are ubiquitous and constant—even in our minds as we sleep.”

So if creativity is so vital to most of us, how does the loss of a creative job affect people who see themselves first and foremost as creative? What does it do to their psyche?

Hungry, but not giving up

“I was scared to acknowledge that the career that I had known my entire adult life was finished. I hated that all I had worked up to until now was over,” said Louisa Phung, a Vancouver assistant director, on her blog post in October 2010.

“They say that over the course of your life, you’ll change your career five times. I don’t know who ‘they’ are, but they forgot to mention how scary and emotionally hard it would be.” 

At a pub after work, Phung carefully scans the menu for the dish of the day, hot chicken wings, with a healthy side of quinoa salad. She briefly contemplates taking a poutine instead, as that might be more filling. “I’m hungry, but I’m poor,” she says, adding she is renting out her condo to pay her mortgage bills.

Phung, 32, is an extroverted, self-assured Toronto-born, whose eloquence and quick thinking made her a successful third assistant director in Vancouver’s television industry, a job that deals with keeping the different departments on schedule with what’s going on at the set.

In 2010, after a steady decline in jobs, she hit rock bottom.

“It was such a step away from what I’ve normally done, that it felt like a death,” says Phung, who saw assistant directors from the feature film industry move into television, basically pushing her out.

“I was turning 30, so I was like ‘Of course I am turning 30 and everything was going to hell in a handbasket.’ ”

Phung sought a new career that would give her flexibility in working hours. She became an insurance broker.

The part time job –“I do houses, cars, businesses”– pays her bills, but her real passion is storytelling.

Phung has set up a production company, called As the Crow Flies Entertainment.

She plans on shooting a short in the fall and is equally ambitious about another project.

“I am trying to put together a proposal to the Ministry of Heritage and Culture to get Canadian trailers shown in major movie theatres prior to American trailers,” she says, adding that many people don’t know much about Canadian films, as she found out in an online survey she conducted.

One of her questions lists names of directors and asks the respondents to pick out the one who is not Canadian. “Only 40 per cent of people get the right answer, including film people,” she says.

Stats show incline of BC domestic productions

According to the BC Film Commission, the total amount of domestic productions in B.C. went up by 8.2 per cent, from 147 productions in 2011 to 159 productions in 2012. The summary includes feature films, TV movies, TV series, pilots and animation.

Next week: Independent filmmaker and storyteller Manjit Bains.

Reported by Katja De Bock

***This six-part series was originally created as a feature length article at Langara College’s journalism department. The series shows the faces of some of B.C.’s film industry workers who are affected by the recent decline in jobs. Some of them are involved in the #SaveBCFilm movement, others are relocating or reinventing themselves professionally. But all are passionate film lovers, and great people.***

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