Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Blazing Her Own Trail

Sarah Tadayon by Phil Holland
One of my friends recently made a HUGE change in her life, all for the sake of pursuing a career in acting. She moved from Los Angeles to TAIWAN!  She went clear to the other side of the world as part of her strategy to launch her career!  I found this move to be very intriguing as most people try to move to Los Angeles for acting, not away from it.  I wanted to learn more about her motivation in making such a big change and asked if she would participate in a quick interview.

Without further adieu, live from Taiwan, an evening with Miss Sarah Tadayon (Official Website)

How are you adjusting to Taiwan?
I am sweating non-stop.  I recently went for a bold hair move and got a perm, and in L.A., it looked awesome, but here it's just a mess of frizz.  I am covered from neck to toe in mosquito bites.  The bedroom I rented out was pretty dusty and unkempt.  My apartment is in a popular district for foreigners to move to, to teach English or study Chinese, so it's had such a big turnover that nobody really took the time to sweep out underneath the bed or dust the room.  I spent all of last night just cleaning, and I found an exorbitant amount of old garbage and belongings, including a Hentai (Japanese cartoon porn) DVD in one of the drawers.  Awesome.  But all feminine complaints aside, it's the best life decision I've ever made.  I love it here.  I love the metropolis lifestyle.  I love the metro system.  I love the people here.  I love the fruit here!  My mother's family is here too, and I am enjoying getting to know them better.  They are truly so kind, they are truly the best support system.

Why did you leave L.A. and move to Taiwan to pursue acting when everyone moves to L.A. for acting?
Pure math.  Here's the explanation: I had already been pursuing acting in L.A. for the last five years and I've done pretty well for starting from total scratch at age 17, finding my own representation, classes, auditions, etc.  I got to work on a few indie films and a couple of television co-stars.  But I felt that I was never getting as many auditions as I wanted.  Maybe it was my cast type, or the people working for me, or that I wasn't presenting myself in a way that showed other people that I had the confidence to do well.  It is most likely a combination of all three.  Really, I felt like a tiny fish in a humongous pond, and I felt like I was drowning.  My mother (who is from Taiwan) always told me I should try the Asian film market because of my look (Sarah is half Chinese and half Persian) and my language abilities.  While I was here in December for three weeks on a family trip, I thought I might as well reach out to the Asian industry.  I ended up booking Zhong Yi Da Ge Da (Asia's most popular variety show) within the first week, which airs on China TV, and it was kind of a big deal.  But because I wasn't familiar with the show, the host, or the repercussions of being on a show like that, I didn't feel any pressure, and I was free to just... entertain.  It was an incredible experience, everybody was so kind, and they invited me back.

I was in Taiwan for a week and landed a major show, versus being in Hollywood for five years and barely scraping by with one or two lines on television and a handful of low budget films.  If my life as a performer was a science experiment, the odds are definitely greater that I would find the success that I want in Taiwan, rather than Hollywood.

What's your overall strategy or plan in Taiwan?
Well, yesterday I called Chang Fei (host of Zhong Yi Da Ge Da) and left him a voicemail.  Six months ago, he and his production staff asked me to come back to the show whenever I was able to relocate here.  I'm hoping they will still feel that way now that six months has actually gone by.  The industry is fickle, and I don't expect anything to go as I think, so if that doesn't follow through, it won't be the end of the world for me.  I plan to find a top agent here in the next month for print modeling and commercial work.  I love film acting, but I know that the Taiwanese market works on popularity and hype, even more so, I believe, than Hollywood.  Because my Chinese isn't perfect, and because I look everything but Asian, I know I'll be limited as an actress unless I gain enough popularity that people will want to give me the opportunities to act.

You've already seen some success by appearing on the most popular variety show in Taiwan.  Do you think that will help you get in front of more casting directors?
Well, yes, of course.  But I don't think Taiwan has casting directors... I'm not sure how casting works yet... but logistics aside, yes.  I'm positive that being on that show will help me.  How could it not?

Where do you go to meet other artistic people in Taiwan?
Word of mouth.  Knowing people who know people.  "My church friend's daughter represents S.H.E. Let's go have lunch with her and see if she will introduce you to her daughter" etc.  Also, the night club scene apparently.  Overall, I'm not sure, but I'll let you know when I find out.

Typically, Asian parents aren't too supportive of their kids pursuing the arts.  Is the entire country of Taiwan the same way?  Or are they more supportive of creative pursuits?
Well, I can't speak for the entire country, but I can speak for the people around me.  My 17 year old cousin is a classically trained pianist, and her parents really invest in her lessons, competitions, recitals, etc.  My other cousin who is my age is a pretty well known actress and model in Taiwan, and I just saw her mother yesterday and she seemed pretty proud of her daughter.  One of my aunts is pushing me hard to eat well and exercise a lot so that I can look good on camera, but my other aunt seems to think the whole idea of even becoming successful in the business is a joke, an impossible thing.

When do you plan to return to the U.S.?
I can't answer this question.  I have no idea.  Six months?  One year?  Never?  I have a one year open ended return ticket, so I will definitely be back at least for a visit, but do I plan on moving home?  I have no idea.  It's only day three.  Ask me again in three months.

Thank you, Sarah, for taking the time to share your thoughts with the Los Angeles Graffiti community!  Best of luck to you!

I hope, my dear readers, that you've found this interview to be inspirational/motivational.  Does Sarah have all the answers to a successful acting career in Taiwan?  No, but she came up with a plan and she executed that plan.  That's already 90% of the battle.  Kudos to her for putting one foot in front of the other.

You'll never know unless you actually go out and try.  I'd much rather live life knowing that I tried my best and failed, instead of forever wondering "what if..."

What's your next move, fellow artists?

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