Reel Career Profile: Stephanie Sy

Stephanie Sy is a Filipino-Chinese Filmmaker born and raised on Treaty No.1, Winnipeg. Her career began on stage, working all across Canada and North America and has since transitioned to Film and TV. Credits include: Violent Night, Champions (Universal Pictures), The Porter (CBC/BET), Burden of Truth (CBC), First Person Shooter (Tubi), Seance (Shudder), Ruthless Souls (ImagineNATIVE), several Hallmark and Lifetime movies (check out IMDb for more details if you’re interested), and most recently joined the cast of a new Netflix series titled, FUBAR starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Stephanie Co-Directed the APTN web series titled DJ Burnt Bannock, worked as an Associate Producer on Eagle Vision’s feature film, Finality of Dusk, and was one of the 2021 recipients of The Harold Greenberg Fund, where she wrote, directed & produced her very first short film titled Knots.

When and how did you start in the media production industry? 

The very first set I ever worked on was “Todd and the Book of Pure Evil,” I played ‘Bra-Stuffing Girl,’ an excellent beginning to my career in Film! 

I had done a lot of professional theatre and musical theatre up until then and wanted to start doing more film and TV but was *reeeeally* horrible at auditioning. I truly embarrassed myself every time but knew I wanted to do more, so I decided to commit to getting better at it. I took classes, auditioned as much as humanly possible, and applied to be Kristin Kreuk’s stand-in for Season 1 of Burden of Truth. This is where I really learned how a set worked. I felt really lucky to have this opportunity because, at that time (and mostly still), there weren’t any Asian female leads coming to Winnipeg that I could be a stand-in for. That time on set was education I wouldn’t otherwise get; it was invaluable, and I learned so much from watching Kristin work.

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What area of the film industry do you work in now and why? 

I work as an actor and have started my journey as a writer/director and producer. I think I’ll always be an actor, it’s helped me grow into a human with a wide range of emotions, it’s deepened my empathy, my connection with people, and has guided me hugely as I navigated and embarked on these new positions of leadership. I haven’t been a writer or a director for very long, but I’ve worked with writers and directors my whole career, so I’ve picked up a lot about what I think works and what definitely does not. 

Being a director hugely helped me as an actor as well. I have a deeper understanding of the importance of an actor in the grander picture/vision of the project, and I feel calmer when working as an actor because of it. As far as producing goes, I think a lot of artists learn early that if you want something you’re not getting, you have to make it yourself. Being self-employed for so long has made me really crafty. You learn to do things with little to no money and on your own, and those skills have been really transferrable when producing. So, as much as I kind of hate producing, I don’t see myself stopping if I have ideas I want done. 

What has been a substantial change in the industry since you started?

When I first started in the industry, it was really difficult to get your foot in the door as a local, and I do feel there has been serious recognition of the talent that Winnipeg has to offer. Always room for that to grow though 🙂

If you could give yourself advice today to yourself in the past, what would it be?

Stop unnecessarily saying sorry. 

What advice would you give to someone starting off in the media production industry?

MAKE SLEEP A PRIORITY. Treat everyone with respect always. Be eager to learn, and don’t wait for people to tell you what to do. Every good impression counts. LEARN TO READ THE ROOM. If you see someone who is good at the job you want, ask them questions. SEEK GOOD MENTORS. Stay connected to communities outside of the industry. Practice builds confidence! Choose *good* people to surround yourself with. HAVE PASSIONS OUTSIDE OF THE INDUSTRY!

Is there something about you or an interesting past experience that you’d like to share with your colleagues?

I write in a gratitude journal every day. It helps keep my relationship with this life & industry healthy and intentional. 

I really believe the key to joy is recognizing what you have. There’s no way to evaluate your success/progress if you’re not thankful for your growth. 

Why is learning and training important?

Learning inspires and builds curiosity. Curiosity creates art. 

Training and practice build strength and confidence. Confidence allows you to enjoy it all! 

Where do you see yourself ten years from now? 

Oh wow, honestly, I haven’t thought about it. I don’t think I’ve ever really had any long-term plans, just a lot of dreams. And most of, if not all, my dreams involve being rich enough to spoil the ones I love. I guess I just hope I’m doing the same things, but more of it. And I hope I’m healthy and still finding joy.

FTM is a non-for-profit charity and member of the Province of Manitoba’s sector council program (through the Department of Economic Development and Jobs). FTM conducts workforce development and training to build a highly skilled and adaptable film industry to support the activities of Manitoba production companies. FTM collaborates with members of the film and television industry to identify the training needs within the community.