About

Sunny Chen

"You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it."

Maya Angelou

I'm a director, actor, writer, singer/songwriter (AKA Sad China), and community organizer. My pronouns are she/her and they/them. I provide creative and wellness coaching for artists. I help filmmakers write/direct/produce their screenplays, coach actors for self-tapes, guide trauma-informed wellness practices, and more. I co-founded MAGES, a safe and accessible space where marginalized creatives can learn, problem solve, collaborate together on digital media, as well as practice self-care and mental wellness (formerly known as FEMMES).

 

I trained with three choirs, hold a BA in psychology and English literature, and commit to healing myself for our community.

 

I wrote, directed, and produced my music video for "Ocean Girl", a survivor's anthem, working with a cast/crew of women of colour and queer folks. Skaters cruise the seawall and dance in the sunshine, set to an early 2000s vibe. View the daytime teaser below, featuring a remix by Holly BB (LA/NY).

Photo: Katrin Braga / H&MUA: Sabrina Fetterkind

My Story

I was born in a small city called Nanjing in China. At three years old, I had memorized all my favourite ancient Chinese poems so I entertained audiences of strangers by reciting them aloud whenever an opportunity arose. I also loved singing karaoke in the middle of our family-owned restaurant on the regular. Starting from that age, my mom signed me up for community piano lessons. Then, after-school English lessons.

 

My parents and I flew across the world to Burnaby, British Columbia, when I was six years old, where they enrolled me in Grade 1. (I would move three more times before finishing elementary school, so I had to learn how to be funny.) Then my sister was born, so my grandparents (my real life guardian angels) moved to Canada as well, to help raise my lil sis. We didn't have much and lived in a 2-bedroom apartment together, across from Metrotown. My mom invested in my passion for the arts and I started to dance ballet (and danced for four years) but stopped when we moved to Langley to accommodate my mom's new job. We lived in a basement suite the first year, and my mom signed us up for the toy drive so we could celebrate Christmas together. By age 12, I'd written over 10 pop songs. In high school, in addition to enrolling in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (goodbye sleep) and working part-time at Pizza Hut, I rehearsed daily and performed with the concert choir, chamber choir, and senior vocal jazz group, as well as played flute and piccolo in concert band. I was lucky to be able to travel across North America to compete in various festivals with my school. My first time stepping into a professional studio was with our school concert band at Disneyland's Anaheim Heritage Festival. I was 15. We rehearsed and recorded an excerpt from a Disney film score. I still remember listening back and thinking, "Wow, people get to do this for a living." Also: "This sounds like a Disney movie!"

When I was 17, I applied for a student loan, moved to Vancouver to attend the University of British Columbia, and escaped the dysfunctional environment at home, which caused me a lot of stress and pain growing up. My absentee biological father had finally left my family and there was a lot of tension and stress, as well as my mom's mental and physical health issues. I was also tired of being told I couldn't pursue art professionally. For fun, I auditioned for a lead in a university production of  Rocky Horror Show and, that fall, debuted as "Janet Weiss". It changed my world. I am forever grateful to the UBC Musical Theatre Troupe for that opportunity to shine.

 

From then on, I knew I wanted to perform for the rest of my life, to weave my part into a bigger tapestry. The truth is, I didn't grow up with a role model who looked like me, who could sing, dance, skateboard, play guitar, direct, or do anything I thought was cool. I did those things anyway, and I continue to try new things, despite the lack of role models in mainstream media. I continue to work towards healing from generational trauma and oppression, and provide support for others. Someday, I want my future children to look around and see well-rounded, intelligent, outspoken, confident gender diverse people who look like them on TV and in movies. Underrepresented people with unique stories to tell, love in their hearts, and fire underneath their footsteps.

I live as an uninvited guest on unceded land belonging to the XʷMəθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wúɁmesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ilwətaɁɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) nations. I still dedicate my life to healing, performing, nurturing community, and sharing stories whenever an opportunity arises. Now I am developing Open Ethnicity series (IMDb) and BIPOC-centered short films.

I love this rainy seaside city, and continue to do everything I can to make it inclusive and safe for everyone to live/thrive in.

I wrote the screenplay for Adewolf's "Dynamite" music video, and wrote/directed/produced my sophomore music video "It's Okay". I'm the creator, showrunner, and lead of Open Ethnicity, a dramedy about women and people of colour in the arts, set against the backdrop of "Hollywood North", i.e. Vancouver's film and TV industry. Think Broad City meets Frances Ha (2012) and GIRLS, featuring Vancouver's diverse up-and-coming creatives.

My short film "Miracles" (2020), created in April during the first lockdown of COVID-19, screened at Reel Youth Film Festival and was published in Bloom's digital zine. My written and mixed media work has been featured in SAD Magazine, Contrast Collective, Creep Magazine, the Ubyssey, and the Garden Statuary.

For more information or inquiries, please contact me.

Photo: Ashley Sandhu / Featuring Sassy

©2020 by Sunny Chen.

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