Film veteran advises BC students

Jocelyn Sandusky, Features Editor

BC professor David Kanoasamoa hosted assistant director Jeff Okabayashi, whose film credits include “Avengers: Endgame,” “Transformers” and “Pirates of the Caribbean,” for a Zoom Q&A session on April 30. Okabayashi briefly introduced himself at the beginning of the call and quickly turned it over to the students, who asked questions about his time in the industry for over two-and-a-half hours.

Okabayashi did not break into the film industry by accident. For a year, he worked a minimum wage job after graduation because he lacked the personal connections he needed to start his career. He took a proactive step and applied for the Assistant Directors Training Program. For months, Okabayashi studied for the eight-hour aptitude entry exam, and out of 3,000 applicants, Okabayashi landed one of 10 coveted spots.

“Every Saturday and every Sunday, I would take an eight-hour test. For eight hours, filling out all these questions in all these big, fat books and just going for it, for every weekend until the test came,” Okabayashi said. “People say you can’t do anything about it. You can do something about it. It’s just your will and your desire. You can try harder by doing something.”

Okabayashi said we can apply this same philosophy to how we view the effects of COVID-19.

“If you’re sitting there watching Netflix for five hours, and you know, going through so many series like I have, then you probably could be doing something else and learning stuff. […] You want to be the best? Then you have to be ready for everything that comes along,” he said. 

But he acknowledges that people will not put in the extra work unless they find an area that they are passionate about. To be successful, people have to have a leg up on their competitors, and they need to have a desire to always learn and better themselves. Opportunities may present themselves, but individuals need to have the experience and knowledge to take full advantage of them. 

“If you’re going into some field just because you kind of like it, then you’re not going to give 120 percent all the time. You’re not going to tell your friends that for three months you’re not going to see me because I’m going to give everything I can to pass a damn test so I have a shot. You have to want it. […] You have to want it more than the next guy,” Okabayashi said. 

Still, many qualified people will compete for the same job. People who want to work in a competitive industry like the movie industry will have to fight for a limited amount of jobs. Okabayashi suggested that if someone really wants it, then they will not stop searching for an opportunity because they cannot envision themselves doing anything else. 

“[If] you’re willing to do whatever it takes to get it, you have to keep that mindset all the way through. Some people get disappointed.[…] I used to tell people if you knocked on a hundred doors to try to get a job, you only need one door to open because you can only do one job at a time,” he said.

At the beginning of his career, Okabayashi had to do exactly that because Hollywood was hiring mostly white male assistant directors. He had to find someone to give him the chance to prove to the industry that Asian assistant directors could be as good.

Okabayashi said that the key to success and standing out is having the drive and energy to master the craft.

“I think the biggest thing is you gotta have energy. You gotta not sit on the couch. You gotta get off your ass and go do something and learn it because you’re not going to get anything,” he said.