May May Luong is a film producer based in fabulous Las Vegas! After leaving the tech company she worked for, Luong began honing her craft in Las Vegas by joining the Film Department at UNLV. Since getting her MFA in Writing for Dramatic Media, she’s accumulated some impressive credits, including filming the Stanley Cup tour for the VGK’s first season, controlling the Bellagio Fountains and the Mirage Volcano, and the film Popovich and the Voice of the Fabled American West! Luong also works on advertisements and commercials, and teaches at Nevada State College and UNLV. She names writing, collaboration, and empathy as some of the most important skills in her arsenal, and advises young artists to “notice that everything around [them] is art,” and to press on as creators, no matter the obstacles ahead. Read on to learn more about May May Luong and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
Name: May May Luong
Heritage: I’m Chinese, but my family is from Vietnam, and we are Vietnamese refugees.
Hometown: I was born in Hong Kong in a refugee camp, but was only there for two months before our family was sponsored to come to the United States. Our family moved around after arriving and finally ended up in Las Vegas. I consider Las Vegas my hometown.
Current City: Las Vegas
I work mainly in advertising and commercials. I’m currently working on a variety of projects and I’ve been in talks to line produce a feature length film being developed by producers in Los Angeles. I’m not sure if that will come to fruition, but if it does, it will be a very exciting project.
What are some of your favorite credits/projects:
I love all of my projects and especially enjoy working with wonderful, talented people who are passionate about their art. I think one of the most fun was Popovich and the Voice of the Fabled American West, because not only was it challenging due to performers’ schedules, but it was a great film for the entire family. It didn’t hurt that there were a ton of cute animals and amazing circus tricks involved.
Any advice for young people getting into the arts?
Look around and notice that everything around you is art. Someone created everything from designing the chair that you’re sitting in to creating your most loved game, television show or film. There will be many times that people will say that you can’t make a living working in art, but there are so many opportunities as long as you don’t listen to the naysayers.
How did you get your start?
I was working at a tech company in the San Francisco area, and then 9/11 happened. I always had an inkling that I was unfulfilled in my career, and decided that life is too short to pursue a path that didn’t have any meaning for me. I quit my job, left San Francisco, and moved back to my hometown, Las Vegas, to attend UNLV and try to pursue theater. When I got to UNLV and started in the Theater program, it still didn’t feel right, and eventually found my home with the Film Department. From there, I experimented for a little bit with all of the different departments, and discovered how much I loved producing.
Do you have any favorite moments in your career that you'd like to share?
I feel extremely lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to experience so many things and get paid to do it. I’ve controlled the Bellagio fountains and the Mirage Volcano. I’ve learned about the importance of Oyster Shell Recycling on a boat in Maryland. I’ve filmed the Stanley Cup when it came to tour Vegas during VGK’s first season. And along the way, I’ve met so many wonderful people, celebrities and hardworking crews.
What have you found is the biggest challenge in your career?
I still feel a lot of self doubt. Being in my position, there is never a project that is exactly the same. I’m always coming up to new challenges, and I don’t always have the experience on how to work through those challenges, so I have to figure it out.
Do you have any organizations you work with you’d like to highlight?
I love film festivals. They’re a way to connect filmmakers and showcase work. The Nevada Women’s Film Festival has an amazing mission. Each year, it continues to grow and I hope that more people in the community will support them.
Do you have any mentors?
David Schmoeller, who directed Puppet Master and many other films, is my main mentor. When I was completing my undergraduate degree at UNLV, he showed me how to be logistically creative and what that did was help me figure out that you can create art without money. In terms of advertising and producing commercials, my mentor is Christopher Hume, who was the Chief Creative Officer at MGM Resorts International. He supports creatives and the community in so many ways. He taught me how to navigate the corporate structure and I’m continuously learning so much from him.
Do you have any other “special skills?”
Besides producing, I earned my Master in Fine Arts in Writing for Dramatic Media which is writing for films, television and stage. I think of writing as another one of my skills, and always try to develop it as much as I can.
If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?
When I was younger, I wanted to be an actress but at that time (and even still), there were no Asian actors on screen besides the few that could do martial arts. If I could go back in time, I would tell my younger self to push past that and figure it out. It’s not until later on in my life that I saw how important it is to see representation on screen and maybe I could have helped increase representation somehow.
What skills did you find to be the most helpful in your career?
I find empathy and people skills the most helpful in any career. Knowing how to read people and work collaboratively is key.
Where did you study at?
I studied at UNLV Film, and I think the program and professors are magnificent.
What do you love most about what you do?
As a producer, I love that I get to see a project from the beginning to the very end. I meet people of all different skill sets and because every project is different, I’m never working with the same people. Most of the time, I get to choose who I work with so I work constantly with people that I consider to be my best friends.
As a storyteller, how do you pick the stories you want to work on and what goes into putting a story together, whether on stage, page, or film?
I get sent a lot of scripts to look into developing. When I was starting out, I would seriously consider every single script because I like to help people achieve their dreams of making a movie. However, as I’ve become more busy, I only look at scripts that I love and think contribute to inclusion and diversity. I also look at the team involved to see if this is important to them and if they are willing to increase representation in front of and behind the camera.
What inspires you?
I teach at UNLV and Nevada State College, and the students that I teach inspire me.
Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook:@maytwice
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