Going for Broke: An Interview with King Yaw Soon, video editor at Electronic Arts (EA)
Written by Cherng Meng Lim (Associate of Campaigns and Outreach)
Raising the Curtains
King Yaw Soon, a video editor and filmmaker, spent his early years in Tawau, Sabah, as the oldest of three siblings in a single-parent household. His mother was solely responsible for meeting daily expenditures to provide for him and his brothers, as well as enduring societal bias on how single-parent households are somehow incomplete and their children suffer as a consequence. Though his mother was supportive of his journey in pursuing the arts, opportunities for creative expression were scarce in the backwaters of Tawau. Recognising this, King decided to pursue a diploma in digital animations at the One Academy before transferring to the United States, where he could better showcase and cultivate his artistic abilities. Every year the Academy organised competitions to award scholarships to outstanding individuals. After four years of perseverance, he managed to secure a full scholarship for a degree in film studies at the San Francisco State University. He currently works as a video editor for Electronic Arts (EA) where he creates visual narratives and edit trailers for titles like The Sims 4, Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes, FIFA and NBA Live Mobile. On the side, he produces short documentary-style films; most recently, ’My Mother, Myself & I’ and ‘All I Did Was Smile and Say Hello,’ which premiered at the KQED Homemade Film Festival in 2020.
Challenges, Locally and Abroad
An international student in the United States typically has 60 days after graduation to either enrol in another college for further studies or to enrol in an Optional Practical Training (OPT) programme to extend their F-1 visa status for a year as they worked, trained or interned. Six months before graduating, King waded through 50 to 60 job applications and received two callbacks for two different positions— one of which, it happened, was EA. After the extensive interview process, King was selected in 2018. Presently, he finds time management and effective communication to be one of his greatest assets in fulfilling his day-to-day responsibilities as a video editor.
Even at the One Academy, King recalls how only a fraction of graduates sought to pursue art as a professional career. Local opportunities for alternative careers seem limited for two reasons: firstly, due to conservative definitions of success embedded in our culture; secondly, due to the lack of organised platforms for artistic expression. Social mobility has traditionally depended on qualities like education, median household income and occupational status. Hence, parents would often shepherd their children into conservative, high-status professions where they can be protected from potential discrimination from their clients and peers. Unsurprisingly, alternative careers do not adhere to this archetype of a high-paying, professional job— more so, they bear an inherent risk as these careers involve subjective evaluation and would thus expose their children to bias. King would sometimes chew over the fear of under-achieving during his time at university, and it was through the support of his mother that he managed to pursue his passion: ‘in a way, because of her faith […] I knew that if I tried hard enough, if I did my best all the time, something could really happen.’ Personally, King also feels that it would be easier for creators to be involved in large-scale international projects if they are based abroad. For instance, the United States provides more opportunities for artists to participate and express their creativity through platforms like independent and international film festivals. Malaysian artists are as talented as they come, but they lack exposure to bigger projects and to the media.
Our Voice in Films
King has always gravitated towards non-fictional stories that portray personal conflicts and come from a place of truth. When producing documentary-based films, he finds that people tend to feel as if their stories carry no weight and are ‘unworthy’ of being shared. But in actuality, deeply personal stories can often resonate with a wide audience and encourage self-reflexivity, thereby creating meaningful conversations about certain topics. Marginalised communities with the desire to convey their stories to a large audience may thus seek to express themselves through creative mediums like film. King also notes how, conversely, popular culture can sometimes misrepresent the realities of marginalised groups-- falling into tropes that oversimply or romanticise the hardships of poverty, illiteracy and discrimination. Films and other artistic modes may also require substantial monetary investment to operate effectively. Even expenses for short films rake up in renting equipment, hiring a casting crew, purchasing insurance and more of the like. Without programmes to aid underrepresented communities, it may be difficult for the stories of marginalised groups to be heard.
The Drive for Change
For those who wish to pursue alternative careers like video editing or filmmaking but lack the necessary support or resources, it is important to have clarity about what you want to do, your goals, your aspirations, and having the drive to achieve these. King mentions the availability of digital resources at the tip of our fingers: social media, online courses, articles, news outlets, learning communities. King notes that you can learn the basics of video editing in a week if you’re dedicated enough. Technology has introduced many opportunities for individuals to channel their artistic prowess and present themselves to the world, now more than ever. This desire for change extends to most things. King knew his studies in the United States would not be feasible if he failed to secure a scholarship, struggling for four years before pulling through at the One Academy. What matters is not beaten down by every drop of rain— many artists have the talent and ability to manifest their dreams but feel constrained by their circumstances or insecurities. During his first months at EA, King would often brood over his capacity to perform his duties and his ability to communicate effectively in English as a second language. For those who wish to create something truly special, it is important to believe in your abilities since you are more than capable of achieving your dreams.
King exemplifies the importance of persevering through the challenges between you and your goals. We at MSGA believe that a person’s economic and geographical background should not impede their journey towards success. Like King Yaw Soon, anyone can have the ability to pursue their passion insofar as they have the drive to withstand any hardships for the sake of their dreams. Regardless of your circumstances, it is up to you to make something of your dealt hand.