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In this interview, Mia talks about her personal experiences, career aspirations and pressures as 21-year-old minority woman trying to break into the film industry.

 Why did you decide to be a Film major?

There wasn’t ever a moment where I was, like, “Yes, I want to do film!” It was a combination of things over time… so, like, watching The Wizard of Oz and Finding Nemo over and over, and not being able to fall asleep without having a movie on.

When I began to apply for colleges, I thought it was only right to apply to film school. And when I told my parents, they were like, okay, that’s cool.

What do your parents do?

My dad’s retired, but he used to work in technology licensing consulting. My mom’s a flight attendant.

Speaking of traveling, have you done some yourself?

I’ve travelled to Spain, the U.K., the Netherlands, Mexico, and China. I love to travel. I even have a tattoo on my thigh of an airplane. I’ll get obsessed with countries for years at a time.

Apart from the airplane tattoo, do you have any other tattoos?

I have one on my back that says, “Esse qualm videri,” which is Latin for “to be than to seem.” Another one on my hip says, “in victus,” which means invincible, unconquerable.

I totally plan to get more, I’m just trying to spend my money wisely. Isn’t it like that Pringles thing, “Once you pop, you can’t stop?” [laughs] That’s how it is for tattoos.

What are your future career aspirations? With film or otherwise?

I would love to be a writer-director for film… I wouldn’t mind directing television, but writing I think is harder.

Since the film industry is notorious for being one of the toughest industries to break into, and many of the recent unpaid internship cases have come from production assistants– can you share any bad working experiences you’ve had?

My only real internship has been with “Hello Halo,” this independent video label. I’ve been doing behind-the-scenes work with them since my sophomore year. I did a sketch for “Funny or Die” with Justin Long.

I don’t think I’ve had any bad experiences…but I know friends who have. All my experiences have been positive, but I think I definitely need to network a hell of a lot more.

Aside from working experiences, have you felt any pressures in your film courses as a female production major?

It’s so apparent even in Tisch now. Some Tisch alumnus just wrote an article for Indiewire about how she noticed the sexism was already there. The cinematography track is mostly men, the sound track is mostly men. You can definitely tell they feel kind of, like, higher up than the women. There are snide comments about women on set. Some of them you laugh off, but then you realize, wait, I should have stepped in and said something. It really grinds my gears, when I’m carrying equipment on set and the guys tell me, “Hey, I’ve got it, don’t worry about it,” even though I was totally fine.

I’m a female, but also a female of color. We have to work twice as hard just to prove ourselves. It’s not fair… but it’s motivating.

Can you describe your greatest fear?

Other than heights and caterpillars, my greatest fear is not doing what I love. If I was stuck doing a regular 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., I would go crazy. If I was working in like some office, like in taxes like my sister, I would just hate it.

 Do you ever feel a pressure to settle down as a 21-year-old looking ahead, or are these secondary to your career goals?

When I was studying abroad in Cuba where there was no Internet, all we could do was talk to each other… about growing up, about what it means to be an adult. When I turned 21, I was like, “Oh my god, society considers me an adult now.” [Among the] thirty American kids in the program, the ones who wanted to go into business and politics had a plan. And us art school kids, we had a plan-ish.

I don’t see the point in marriage other than financial benefits. One of my friends is in this weird relationship with this guy and sometimes they feel like they’re boyfriend-girlfriend but other times, they’re just friends. But she realizes they’re the only people who can tolerate each other.

So I feel like as long as I have a person who can tolerate me, and I can tolerate them, that would be fine.

By DIANA TAO