“It is possible to reimagine and create a new system of storytelling that is grounded in equity, inclusion, and diversity. For me, as founder of BAYCAT and president of the Film Commission, it is more than a dream come true to be in this room with you and to manifest that hope. I believe it really is our collective calling.” -Villy Wang (she/they)
At InFocus: Diverse Storytellers Spotlight & Creative Media Mixer last month, BAYCAT President, Founder, and CEO Villy Wang (she/they) asked 230 energized Bay Area creatives to reimagine a new media industry. Presented in partnership with Walt Disney Studios, Pixar, Lucasfilm, Industrial Light & Magic, ILMxLAB, and Marvel Studios, BAYCAT hosted this mixer for diverse creatives to make meaningful, career-building connection. InFocus marks BAYCAT’s first public, in-person event since the start of the pandemic.
With stunning views of the city and the Bay Bridge framed by Diosa Bloom’s floral arrangements, the evening began with drinks and mingling over delectable farm-to-table pan-Asian cuisine by Culinary Eye. BAYCAT alumni reconnected with their program cohorts and forged new connections at our sponsor tables. Those newer to BAYCAT had a chance to learn about our programs and partnerships. Once settled in, all were welcomed by Villy Wang, Lucasfilm’s Manager of Global Diversity Recruiting and Programs Ryan S. Smith (he/him), and LinkedIn’s Independent Agency Lead Afiya Addison (she/her).
"We want to make sure that our storytelling represents our audience as well as the community we work in, and we need partners like BAYCAT to make sure that happens. This is not the normal scene and environment. We need to be the change.” - Ryan S. Smith (he/him), Lucasfilm
These inspiring remarks grounded everyone in the evening’s intentions, leading into a fireside chat with BAYCAT alums Laura Evangelista Becerra (she/her, Playstation senior producer and 2014 Intern), Cheyenne Siearra Gallon (she/her, screenwriter and 2022 Fellow), and Trent Hanible (he/him, freelance assistant location manager and 2013 Intern). The conversation flowed from what inspired them to join the media industry, to their BAYCAT experiences and their dream jobs. More than anything, this panel underscored that the path to a creative career is rarely straightforward, and takes not only tenacity and perseverance, but community support.
"Be open minded about stories. If they feel different, learn from those differences. Bring in the new generation of creatives, and help us succeed." - Cheyenne Siearra Gallon (she/her), screenwriter and BAYCAT 2022 Fellow
To bolster that sense of community, our creatives moved into the facilitated networking portion of the event. Liz Morrison (she/her), strategic storytelling consultant and BAYCAT Builder, led Community Conversations, emphasizing the importance of sharing stories. Mixing up emerging and established creatives, attendees gathered into small groups and discussed projects that they were proud of, challenges they’ve faced, and their career goals.
“People were able to talk about their passions in a more intimate space. With the pandemic being a big factor the last couple of years, it’s been rare to see other people being so passionate about their individual lives, careers, and artistic mediums. It was really refreshing to hear people talk about what they love to do.” -Jason Wu (he/him), 2020 BAYCAT Intern
Finally, our creatives were left to choose their own adventures! BAYCAT Equity, Inclusion, & Diversity Manager Zara Ahmed (they/them) directed guests to tables based on their specific interests, including producing & development, production, post production, animation & visual effects, documentary & journalism, marketing & communications, podcasting & audio production, and general community conversations. In the spirit of winding paths, participants were encouraged to visit multiple stations if they were passionate about different fields.
Throughout the evening, guests were invited to stay connected with their fellow attendees by joining the InFocus Creative Directory. Those who registered were entered into a raffle to win prizes including Pixar swag bags, a basketball signed by Klay Thompson and an autographed Steph Curry jersey!
The event revitalized the community by bringing together emerging creatives and media industry professionals with the shared vision of changing the storytellers to change the world. The evening could not have been more invigorating, and it truly was a manifestation of hope for the future. Thank you to our sponsors, LinkedIn, Amazon, the Golden State Warriors, and BAVC Media, and to our Presenting Sponsors Walt Disney Studios, Pixar, Lucasfilm, Industrial Light & Magic, ILMxLAB, and Marvel Studios for making InFocus possible. We look forward to seeing you there next year!
Follow us on Instagram to catch more highlights from InFocus, and stay tuned for more upcoming events!