Strong Asian Lead's Gold Futures Challenge Application

By Masami Moriya

 

Yesterday, June 30th, I finished my Gold Futures application. I gotta say, it was a lot, but also insightful for myself. It felt good to re-evaluate who and what Strong Asian Lead is. Below is our application to the 2022 Gold Futures Challenge. I share this so that you have our most recent goals, values, and mission.

 

Intro Video:

Here’s the Issue:

Few Asian American screenwriters are signed with literary managers who can submit their scripts to studios. Fewer scripts; equals fewer stories; equals fewer directors and actors. Young Asian American students are also discouraged from writing about their culture at film institutions in order to “appeal to the American market.”

We need more Asian American educators to empower Asian American artists to pursue a career in Hollywood and give them the resources to cultivate long-lasting careers.

Our Solution: 

We teach Asian American artists and storytellers how to break into Hollywood without going broke.

We provide workshops to Asian Americans that lean into their identity and give them the tools to become industry professionals. Through one-on-one and group coaching, we help new and experienced Asian Americans how to lean into their identity to write better stories, how to break into directing, or how to land a role as an actor. Understanding how the industry works as a business is just as important as the learning art of storytelling.

Our current programs include screenwriting, filmmaking, and photography.

We’re the right people to do the work because:

We provide for many, not the few. We advocate for the community and inform everyone of their legal rights and teach them how to advocate for themselves.

Ten years in the entertainment industry as a filmmaker, photographer, freelancer, and screenwriter has taught us many lessons and skills that helped us survive in the entertainment industry. Because we have the knowledge and wisdom, it is our responsibility to share our strategies and information with others.

Our Impact:

Through our coaching session, we’ve seen an increase in confidence in writers. One of our writers who went through our first draft workshop program is now a writer’s guild member. Another writer returned to their producers and found more traction in their project to get it off the ground.

We’ve learned that the biggest impact we can have is when we put in-person events together. More people feel served in physical space with others to grow the community and communicate with each other.

While our podcast was in production, we were reached out by publicity to book their Asian American clients for interviews.

Our organization works to ensure AAPIs are Seen, Heard, Empowered and United by:

 

 

 

We’d also like to share with you:

Our Pillars of success are to Celebrate, Educate, and Congregate.

We recognize the trailblazers who came before us and celebrate the 100+ years of Asian American entertainment. On-screen performers and stories written and directed by Asian Americans.

We hold workshops and panels of and for Asian Americans so that they have an equitable opportunity to learn from those who look like them and provide one-on-one development sessions to focus on long-term careers.

We gather in safe spaces to build community and work together in unity as equals while providing room to share feedback and grow as humans.

 

Our Budget Summary

 

Here is our budget. We show you this as transparency into our nonprofit. We don’t want to hide anything from anyone. This is how much it costs to run our nonprofit. Below you’ll see two budgets, our Ideal budget and our Actual budget from last year. To be extra extra clear, we are not making money. We’re currently in the red and that has come out of our pockets. (Side note: All legal nonprofit’s budgets are publicly posted on GuideStar. Strong Asian Lead is a fiscally sponsored nonprofit, so we aren’t registered with the state as a 501 (c)(3) and thus not required to post our budget. but we’ve decided to post our budget anyways.)

 

Annual IDEAL Budget

$183,688 (this is not our actual budget, just an ideal one).

 

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2021 Budget

-$19,776.31 (This is our actual budget from 2021)

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Is your organization operating under a deficit? If yes, please explain why.

I, Masami, have been running SAL for over 2 years. The first year I spend doing it out of my parent’s garage. In the second year, I used my unemployment savings to pay for my rent and EBT for my food. The crowdfunding all went to various staff and website fees. We only recently got new volunteers. The majority of the work has been on me to build websites, plan events, and meet with other organizations all without pay and in fact paying the bills, fees, and software out of my own pocket.

You’ll see in our 2021 budget, we’re in the negative -$19,766.31. This has all come from my own savings and emergency savings with the majority of it going to rent. Why rent? Most of my days are spent working on Strong Asian Lead. I’ve treated this as my full-time job despite no pay.

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What are the biggest challenges you face in your daily work? How can philanthropy help to alleviate these issues?

The biggest challenge is being able to keep the lights on while keeping a positive mindset. I notice that I’ll work many hours each day to push Strong Asian Lead forward, but I continuously burn myself out because there is so much to do and not enough of me to do it. We’re often making connections and networking, but this has not led to funding or staff.

 

Social media is not my forte, so I’ve cut that out of my responsibilities, which in turn makes it difficult for us to grow our social media presence. I would like to hire a social media manager so that they can focus on growing our presence and scaling our impact.

I would love guidance and strategy. Having been the main decision-maker for over 2 years, it’s been difficult to know how to fundraise properly, make big decisions, or what things aren’t necessary for me to do. If mentorship and guidance aren’t a part of the package, funding would be able to help me hire consultants, staff a few team members, and pay for events without having to pitch to companies for sponsorship.

 

I’d also like to award scholarships to screenwriters to help them with their screenplays so that they can get the support they need while not having to volunteer an extra 20 hours per week, on top of everything I already do, to read scripts, and schedule coaching sessions.

That’s It. Thanks for Reading

Reflection is a good process for everyone to go through. Everyday, I reflect on what I’ve done and think to myself if that was the right choice. Maybe it’s a Japanese-American thing, or an overall Asian-American thing, but I constantly think every action I take with or around someone is the wrong thing. But Strong Asian Lead is not that.

 

Strong Asian Lead has been and continues to be a great decision in my life. I may not have always been able to Communicate myself to others very well, or pissed off a few people along the way, but I’m not going to let that stop me from growing and continuing to become a better person and a better partner. Sure, my ego and my human want for attention has put me in situations that didn’t need to happen, or rubs people the wrong way, but I’m trying to do good for the people. I just hope those who think poorly of me after just meeting me once or twice keep an open mind that everyone is on the spectrum and we can all give grace to people when we don’t know their situation or social capacity.

 

No one is perfect, and I’m far from it, but I do know that Strong Asian Lead is one thing that I’ve done right in my life and I will keep fighting for it to stay alive.

 

At Strong Asian Lead, we want to help as many people as possible, but that takes time, people, and collaboration. Please consider donating or volunteering for a staff position, help us by spreading the word, or using our membership platform. If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation, please reach out to us at info@strongasianlead.com.

 

Thank you for reading. Consider sharing this with your friends.

 

 

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