|Mitchell Scholar Chan Fuels Film Passion
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Scholarship winner Arthur Chan is hoping to fuse his passion for media
with social issues. A successful graduate of the Irish study program in
2008, he is currently a second-year student at the University of Michigan
Law School, where he is studying entertainment and intellectual property
Chan has worked in various capacities in the entertainment industry,
beginning his career in the mailroom of United Talent Agency. He later
spent a summer as an intern in the business affairs department, where he
assisted with transactions in the television department.
Before law school, he served as the assistant producer on comedian Mike
Birbiglia's off-Broadway one-man show, "Sleepwalk With Me" in New York.
The play earned 2009 Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Lucille Lortel
Award nominations. The New York Times deemed it a Critic's Pick
and New York Magazine included the play in its "Best of '08" issue.
in New York, he also served as associate producer on a reading of "The
Way of the Language," a dramatic staging of found text of the War on Terror,
presented by the Painted Filly Theatre Company of Dublin, Ireland. He also
collaborated on the film project "12 Films in 12 Weeks," where, as the
name suggest, he and his friends successfully wrote, directed, and edited
a short film a week for 12 weeks.
He most recently served as the associate producer of "The Rooster."
The film was directed by Eli Gonda, written by Danny Strong (HBO's "Recount"),
produced by Gina Duncan, Danny Strong, and Jonathan Rubenstein, and stars
Carla Gallo, Danny Masterson ("That ‘70s Show"), Danny Strong and Mike
Chan has interned with the Michigan Film Office, the government agency
that seeks to revitalize Michigan's economy by attracting film productions
to the state through its generous economic incentive program. While in
college, he co-founded and directed a summer leadership program for Asian-American
youth in Washington, DC. He also served as a social work intern for the
Juvenile Public Defender's Office in San Francisco, conducted research
on education reform in Washington, D.C., and taught at a summer program
serving low-income youth in San Rafael, California.
Chan graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in International
Politics from Georgetown University in 2008, where he served as senior
convocation speaker. He completed his MA with first-class honors in Contemporary
Migration and Diaspora Studies at University College Cork as a George J.
were you excited to receive notification of the Mitchell Scholarship? where
were you when received word?
Chan: I was ecstatic! After having worked so hard preparing the application
and for the interviews, I could not believe that it had actually paid off.
I actually saw the phone call in the middle of watching Rangila, Georgetown's
popular South Asian cultural show, and had to wait until intermission to
call back. I then told my friends around me and went up to the front where
I got a huge hug from one of my mentors.
IAP: how did you pick UC-Cork; what were the challenges there; the
fun aspects of attending school in Ireland and in Cork; still stay in touch
with Irish friends there?
Chan: I chose UCC and Cork in general for a couple of reasons. First,
the one-year old program in contemporary migration and diaspora studies
immediately drew my attention. I wanted to study at a university that had
recognized a social need and created a field of study to better understand
it. Second, Cork has the Cork International Film Festival and I knew I
wanted to get involved with the film and arts scene of Cork, which had
been Europe's Capital of Culture in 2005. Third, Cork is a sister city
of San Francisco (my hometown) and I loved its rebel spirit!
IAP: what's the value of the Mitchell Scholarships?
Chan: I can't even begin to explain the value of the Mitchell Scholarships.
The year itself was easily one of the best of my life. The US-Ireland Alliance
did not only provide support for my academic pursuit. They made sure that
we were able to fully enjoy all that Ireland had to offer. Furthermore,
being a Mitchell Scholar immediately to reach out to almost anyone I wanted
to in Ireland.
Outside of the Ireland, the Mitchell Scholarship has and continues to
have an immense impact on my life. I can point directly to the US-Ireland
Alliance for my ability to get my foot in the door in the entertainment
industry. Without the Alliance, I would never have gotten my first internship
at United Talent Agency.
director Trina Varga had hosted a golfing event in Ireland and invited
American business executives, including Peter Benedek, the founder of UTA.
He continued to stay involved as part of her planning committee for the
Oscar Wilde Honoring the Irish in Film pre-Oscar event. Having built that
relationship, Trina fired off an email to Peter with my resume and the
rest is history. I should add that this was only a few months after I had
found out I won the scholarship. I had not even left for Ireland yet and
she was already lending me this incredible support.
Speaking of the Oscar Wildes, I have been fortunate to be able to help
out with the event numerous times and meet some of the honorees.
IAP: where else did you travel around the island; who did you meet?
Chan: As a California kid, I love to say that I had my first surfing
lesson in Tralee Bay out by Clonakilty with my surfer classmate Dave. In
addition, the Scholarship secured sponsorship from Irish Rail that provided
us with rail tickets which facilitated travel all over the island. I went
to Galway to watch fellow Scholars Allison Barlow and Jimmy Soni complete
the Galway Bay 10K race.
I took a bus up to Belfast to visit Sarah David and Frank Macmillan
at Queens University Belfast. I made my way up to Dublin several times,
including staying there for a month to complete thesis research on Chinese
entrepreneurs in Dublin. A number of us also spent a wild weekend in Limerick
with Alliance friend Paul Hayes. For our year-end Mitchell retreat, we
went to the Dingle Peninsula. Needless to say, I was able to take in the
full Irish experience.
My Scholar class was also fortunate enough to be in Ireland for the
10th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, which the Alliance commemorated
in Belfast. I had the immense honor of sitting next to Oscar-nominated
director Jim Sheridan. While there, I also got to meet Sen. George J. Mitchell.
I also met Morgan O'Sullivan, the producer of the television series The
Tudors (filmed in Bray), as well as series star Jonathan Rhys-Meyers.
Finally, while in Dublin, Paul organized tickets for a few of us to go
see Ryan Tubridy, a big Irish TV personality, and we got to meet him backstage
after the taping of his late night variety show.
IAP: had you ever been to Ireland before? ready to go back?
Chan: I had never been to Ireland before my Mitchell Scholarship year.
If you had told me and my family at the beginning of college that I would
spend the year after graduation in Ireland, we would not have believed
you. I cannot wait to get back to Ireland! I'm hoping to go before I graduate
from law school in 2012.
IAP: are you helping with any other films, beyond The Rooster?
Chan: One of my high school friends, Owen Drake, just finished shooting
his feature film debut, Messina High, a modern-day adaptation of
Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. I'm helping him with finding
distribution for the film and hopefully we will able to set up some screenings
in Los Angeles this summer. It's a fantastically film with a knockout script
and I hope people will be able to see it.
IAP: what attracted you to this project, what was your roll; is this
your first film? How did you get involved?
Chan: I was attracted to The Rooster because of the quality of
the script. Danny Strong, who was nominated for an Emmy for writing HBO's
Recount, wrote it. It's first and foremost hilarious, but also gets at
the deeper emotions that people go through during the aftermath of a relationship.
I got involved because I had worked with most of the team behind The
Rooster on an off-Broadway show in 2008-09 called Sleepwalk With
Me. Gina Duncan, the Associate Producer of Sleepwalk, was the
lead producer on Rooster and asked me to be involved. I was in the
middle of my first year of law school and the film was supposed to shoot
in New York (and I was headed to LA) so I did not think it would be possible.
By some stroke of luck, the shoot got pushed back to the summer and relocated
to LA so it worked out!
As associate producer, I helped with much of the logistical planning
that goes into shooting a film: equipment rentals, scouting locations and
related jobs. I was Gina's right-hand man. It helped that we had worked
together so well on Sleepwalk. I also designed the poster.
IAP: what is the film about, is it getting good showings - mostly
at festivals? Was it more work than you thought?
Chan: The Rooster follows Dwight as he and his friends plot to
get back his prized glass rooster from his ex-girlfriend, Stacy. You can
figure out the metaphor. Along the way, we get to see how important relationships
are, what we lose when they end, and what it is we really want to get back.
It's The Break-Up meets The Hangover.
We've been accepted to a couple of festivals and we are waiting to hear
back from some others before we explore different distribution options.
With the variety of video-on-demand and social media sites available, I
think we will be able to find a way for as many people as possible to see
IAP do you want to do more films?
Chan: I would love to do more films in the future. In the far, far future,
I would like to be involved with films that are both able to address social
issues yet still attract a large audience.
IAP: do you prefer documentary or feature films?
Chan: I prefer feature films, but I enjoy good storytelling in all forms.
I also thought that Exit Through the Gift Shop (the Banksy documentary)
was really clever and enjoyable.
Chan: do you have a favorite director? A movie? What star?
Chan: My favorite directors are James L. Brooks, Woody Allen, Billy
Wilder and Preston Sturges. They each had their own unique way of telling
comedies that hit you with an emotional impact that you didn't know was
coming. I credit my screenwriting professor and mentor in college, John
Glavin, with introducing me to Wilder and Sturges.
Some of my favorite movies are Broadcast News, The Purple
Rose of Cairo, The Apartment, Sullivan's Travels, American
Beauty,and Goodfellas, For making me gape in awe as a young
kid, I'll also add in Jurassic Park.
IAP: what kind of law are you going to practice?
Chan: I'm planning on practicing general corporate or intellectual property
law first and then hopefully transitioning into media and entertainment
work from there.
IAP: what's your family heritage, any smidgen of Celt in that mix?
Chan: My parents were both born in Hong Kong and came over to California
in the 1970s. Unfortunately no Celt in that mix! However, I will say that
in the course of my research, I met Chinese immigrants to Ireland who were
starting their own businesses. It was like speaking to a version of my
parents 30 years after they had arrived in the States.
IAP: what do you do like doing when not traveling to Madagascar,
Ireland or to law school classes.
Chan: I'm a big tennis player. I'll take any excuse to get out there.
The weather in Michigan does not cooperate, but I've managed to get in
my court time. I've started cooking some, a "skill" (the quotes are intentional!)
that I picked up while going to the English Market in Cork during my Mitchell
year. I also continue to do some graphic design work on the side.
IAP: anything else?
Chan: I could write more, but exams are looming!