Tracy Choi

Movie director, her documentary I’m Here won the Jury Award at the 2012 Macao International Film and Video Festival and was subsequently invited to various festivals in Asia and Europe. Choi received her MFA degree in Cinema Production from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. Her graduation film Sometimes Naive was short-listed in the 2013 Hong Kong Asian Film Festival. The Farming on the Wasteland won the The Jury’s Commendation Award of the 2014 Macao International Film and Video Festival. Her latest production Sisterhood was selected in the competition section at the 1st International Film Festival & Awards‧Macao and won the Macao Audience Choice Award at the festival. In addition, Sisterhood got two nominations at the 36th Hong Kong Film Awards.

Hobby and job

06 2019 | Issue 33

It is very fulfilling to be able to turn one’s own hobby into job. We hear about such comment all the time. But it is worthy of a deeper discussion on whether it is true or not.

Let’s go back in time and talk about my days back in college. I was quite a rebellious kid back then. Very few people would think the film industry in Macao was actually a thing at that time. That said, nobody thought it was possible to make a living through producing films. Even today it is still kind of difficult to have a sufficient income from simply doing this line of business. But it is no longer impossible. At that time I had naive visions for myself. I felt like if I could not make movies after graduation I should at least spend four years studying something I liked for my college education. I thought that could get me closer to movies. Looking back, that decision did benefit me. Since I was under the impression that I might not be able to make movies in the future, I actually had an all-in mentality back in college. When I was studying for my undergraduate degree, I took every course very seriously. I was curious about everything related to films and I was heavily motivated to learn more. I didn’t feel tired. Whether it’s appreciating films, analysing them, or studying them, they all excited me. I didn’t need any other incentive to keep me going. 

At present I occasionally teach at some universities as a part-time lecturer. Sometimes the students’ attitude in class would disappoint me. Of course, I am not teaching students majoring in film studies. But I assume that the students are interested in film-making or they did an undergraduate study that’s related to films since they have decided to take my course. Perhaps it is not that important whether they pay attention in class or not. The disappointment comes from the fact that I fail to see their desire to learn. It’s like they are forced to be here and get a college education. I think this is quite meaningless. If these students only go to college for a diploma to have some sort of social recognition, then the college experience would surely be painful for them. But sometimes I also feel like I understand these students. After all, not every person can quickly find the things he or she really likes. It’s also true that not everyone is in the position to study whatever he or she wants. However, life is short. It really is a waste to have four clueless years in college.

After I started working, I entered a different realm. I came back to Macao and worked at the TV station for a short time after graduating from college. I also did advertisement shootings before. The jobs I was doing seem to be relevant to film making. But I wasn’t happy. Sometimes I would wonder why I still found it hard to enjoy what I was doing even though I tried to turn my hobby into job. I once heard that there are several key elements of a “good job”. A “good job” should provide a high salary and a good benefits package. It shouldn’t consume your life and should be enjoyable. What’s more, it should give people a sense of purpose. Generally, it will be favourable if your job has one or two of these elements. The job at the TV station actually had good pay and good benefits. There was also a lot of time I could enjoy off work. But I didn’t enjoy it. It didn’t give me a sense of purpose either. That was the reason why I started to consider whether that job actually suited me or not. I started to think about whether there were things that I really wanted to do. At the end of the day, I came to the conclusion that making films was the thing that I truly longed for. I was hoping that I could have a job that’s related to the film industry. After a lot of considerations, I decided to go to Hong Kong and pursued a master degree in film studies there. 

My postgraduate life in Hong Kong was great. Like I said before, I was like a sponge, eager to absorb all the knowledge that I could get my hands on. But I still had very practical issues to consider after my postgraduate study. I can’t really make a living making films in Macao. So I had to change my own mentality in the beginning. In order to keep making films, I had to do other works to support myself first. The first two years were hard. Sometimes I didn’t even have a hundred in my bank savings so I couldn’t even withdraw money from the bank. When it’s very difficult, I would sometimes consider finding a fulltime job and put off my film career. But at that time I was waiting for the opportunity to make my first feature film. If I started working a fulltime job, I wouldn’t be able to make a thorough preparation for it. It would also be unfair for the employer who would be paying me. Ultimately I decided to continue doing different odd jobs. 

When I finally got the chance to produce a film, it became crystal-clear to me what it really feels like to turn hobby into job. Producing a film is no easy task. In the initial phase, you would need to prepare for all kinds of things and look for investment. During the filming process, you would need to bear great pressure. After you finish the filming, you would worry that the final product would be bad. But I really enjoyed the process, especially when I needed to watch a bunch of films to collect relevant information. At that moment, I felt like it’s very fortunate for me to be able to make film-making as my career since I love it so much.

That’s why I think turning your hobby into job makes you happy. But it’s surely not easy to get such a job.