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TFS’s Andrew Chung Learning the Showrunner Ropes at BIPOC TV & Film Bootcamp

Toronto Film School instructor Andrew Chung has found a new mentor in fellow Toronto-based writer, producer and director Anthony Q. Farrell – and it’s all thanks to BIPOC TV & Film’s 2022 Showrunner Bootcamp.

 

Billed as “a crash course for first-time and aspiring showrunners,” Farrell co-designed and leads the six-week, workshop-style intensive as a means of breaking down barriers for Black, Indigenous, and/or racialized Canadian writers who aspire to follow in his footsteps.

 

“We need more BIPOC showrunners in this country – that’s what this whole initiative is really all about. So we’re just trying to soak in all the knowledge we can get from Anthony,” Chung said of Farrell, who got his big break in the Emmy Award-winning writing room of NBC’s smash hit, The Office, and has since served as showrunner for the BAFTA-winning BBC series Secret Life of Boys, Marble’s The Parker Andersons/Amelia Parker, and, most recently, the primetime sci-fi comedy Overlord and the Underwoods.

 

“He’s a great leader and inspiration to a lot of the community here, and hopefully we can apply the knowledge he’s sharing with us at some point in all of our futures. He’s just such a compassionate and talented writer, and his whole thing is about inclusion.”

 

Indeed, Farrell recently told the Hollywood Reporter that the entire aim of BIPOC TV & Film’s Showrunners Bootcamp, which he co-designed with writer and executive producer Jinder Oujla-Chalmers, is to train mid-and upper-level BIPOC writers to make the jump to show-running so that they can “avoid the pitfalls of a Canadian TV industry too reliant on white gatekeepers.”

 

“They (BIPOC creators) might be a great writer, but now (as a showrunner) you have to be the manager of other writers, you have to answer questions to different departments, be part of postproduction — you have a lot of things happening which you have not been trained for as a writer,” he told the magazine.

 

Now three weeks into Farrell’s virtual Showrunners Bootcamp, Chung said he’s so far found the experience an enlightening one – especially having had the experience of already writing, directing and producing his own web series, Millions, back in 2013.

 

Chung wrote, directed and produced Millions, a digital series that followed an aimless group of Asian North American twenty-somethings as tragedy shakes their lives, spurring them to embark on an ambitious journey to become millionaires before they turn thirty.

 

“I technically ran Millions, but it was completely independent and the initial scripts were all written by me, so I didn’t run a writer’s room,” Chung said of the series, which toured film festivals in New York, Los Angeles, Vancouver, and Toronto, and won him Best Director at the 2013 Marseille Web Fest in France.

 

“I’d love to get into TV again, so that’s why this workshop is really important to me.  I want to get a better sense of what running a show actually entails because it’s something I hope to get more into in the future.”

 

In the meantime, Chung has spent the last six years writing, directing and producing a string of successful short films, including Lovebites and Sleepwalk, which toured international film festivals and were distributed worldwide, and Ma, which won Best Short Film at the 2018 Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival.

 

In 2020, his debut feature, White Elephant, won both the Outstanding Feature Film award from the 2020 Toronto ReelWorld Film Festival and Best Canadian Feature from the 2020 Vancouver Asian Film Festival.

 

 

Set in Scarborough in 1996, the 60-minute coming-of-age film tells the story of 16-year-old Pooja, who finds herself torn between her crush on a white boy and her disapproving Brown and Black friends.

 

“It’s based on a lot of my experiences growing up in high school, and reconciling that conflict between the fact that this character’s friends don’t really connect with her crush’s friends and this fairy tale kind of fantasy of what love should be,” explained Chung.

 

Recently sold to yet-to-be-announced streamers, Chung said he’s excited about White Elephant’s wide release this summer – in early June here in Canada, followed by its U.S. release date in July.

 

“I can’t announce which streamers yet, but hopefully everybody gets to watch it because it will be widely available,” said Chung, who teaches the Scripts, Production, and Production Management courses for TFS’s Film Production program.

 

Chung on the set of White Elephant, which he wrote, directed and produced.

 

As for his upcoming projects, Chung said he’s currently got two or three ideas for TV shows in development – one that he’s writing now, and a couple of others he has pitch documents for.

 

“Of the two that I’m mainly working on right now, one is a science fiction project and the other is a drama/comedy. But they’re still in still in development, it’s still really early – I’m constantly writing and rewriting and rewriting them,” he laughed, noting that he’s hopeful the BIPOC TV & Film Showrunners Bootcamp will help him move those projects forward creatively.

 

“I’m always trying to become a better writer, and that’s something I feel like I have to continuously work on – but that’s also one of the things I think I can really improve on through this Bootcamp.”

 

Chung also sees the Showrunners Bootcamp as a bridge to increased visibility for he and his fellow participants, many of whom have struggled to be seen in the industry. Being part of a workshop run by an organization with as much weight and credibility as BIPOC TV & Film, he hopes, will help “shine a light on all of us.”

 

“I just started this Bootcamp, so I’m not sure what the fruits of it are going to be yet for me personally, but I’ve seen other people definitely thrive from being a part of these kinds of initiatives – close friends who have landed an agent and been part of writers rooms,” he said.

 

“I know from those stories that this experience could have a real impact in terms of my career trajectory. I that the work that organizations like BIPOC TV & Film do does make a huge difference to the BIPOC community, and that matters.”