Ximan Li: Filmmaker, "In a New York Minute"

Ximan Li Highlights

Ximan Li Highlights

My Native Admission Statement: As a first time female filmmaker of color, I have experienced issues both as an immigrant coming to the US for grad school and entering the male dominated story telling world of filmmaking. This film is a personal journey for me because it explores one’s identity and true self. It’s easy to lose one’s way in a busy city like New York and each of the three main characters are lost in their own way, whether it be one’s identity, being caught between two lives or a societal outcast. Two of the main goals that I wanted the film to serve is Asian representation in front of the camera and female creatives behind the lens. The three main characters are Asian American actresses and each story has a respective Asian supporting actor. The majority of key creative roles are held by driven women in film. Both Asian actors and females filmmakers are still trying to find a creative voice in film and I hope this movie shines a light on one of the many stories we want to tell.

How did you choose to be a filmmaker?

From childhood through high school, I always visualized the stories I read. Also, my father works in the television industry in China so he introduced me to a lot of western films and shows at an early age. That sparked my decision to study filmmaking in college. My education mainly focused on writing screenplays and character studies. Whenever we had a chance to make films, I found working with actors the most gratifying. That influenced my focus on directing.

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Dr. Greg Reid: World-renowned speaker, Best-selling Author, Filmmaker & Entrepreneur

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My Native Admission Statement: As an entrepreneur, I highly value expressing to others how they can turn seemingly complicated situations into simple, digestible concepts for success. There is a firm belief in the importance of win-win partnerships and aiding others to succeed. It brings me great pride to be as much as a service to others. My tenth novel, Wealth Made Easy: Millionaires and Billionaires Help you Crack the Code to Getting Rich, has been recently released which is an extremely rewarding accomplishment for me as this was one of my favorite pieces of work I have ever been a part of.  Sharing some of the most effective tips for success from the minds of the most reputable millionaires and billionaires was an experience that was like no other.

How do you motivate others?

Luckily as a public speaker, I am able to motivate others for a living and it is one of the most rewarding experiences each and every time I am able to speak somewhere. For me, I think the best way to motivate others is to instill in them a “no quit” attitude and emphasize the overall power of perseverance. When you can grant your audience with a sense of inspiration that they can accomplish whatever it is they set their mind to, they start to believe that themselves. This, in turn, inspires the drive for a great sense of personal achievement, which is exactly what I want to motivate every individual to aim for.

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Megan Griffiths: Writer & Director

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My Native Admission Statement: I am a writer/director working in film and television. I have premiered films at top-tier film festivals such as Sundance, Toronto, Tribeca and South by Southwest, and I have directed episodes of television for HBO, EPIX, TNT and Netflix. My focus is on empathy-centered storytelling, and I work hard to understand the motivations of the characters in every narrative, as I think that helps me and the audience to better understand the people in our own lives.

My Most Challenging Moment?

Every moment when I’m not actively on set directing, because those are the moments when I’m trying to build something new—and that always feels next to impossible.

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My Native Admission Statement: If someone can feel like they’re being talked to as a person or understood on a human level, that’s all I can ask for. Even in my merchandise, I’ll have small details like a tag or a thank you postcard that lets anyone who receives it know that I see them as a person with needs, and that I am the same. It’s the small stuff that makes all the difference in the world. The first round of merchandise I ever made, I wrote everyone’s names in calligraphy and hand wrapped every hat and shirt. It was an immense amount of work but I think it’s equally important to have that careful intention regard- less if I’m hand-packing something or not.

How did you get into the industry?

I started posting dance videos on YouTube which turned into making personality-forward videos to help give people a break from their daily stresses. Now I’m uploading weekly to YouTube and also helping via my comedic advice podcast called Just a Tip.

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Abigail Disney: CEO, Fork Films & Founder, Peace is Loud Charity


Bio: Abigail E. Disney is a filmmaker, philanthropist, activist, and the Emmy-winning director of The Armor of Light. As CEO and president of Fork Films, the documentary production company behind the groundbreaking Pray the Devil Back to Hell and PBS series Women, War & Peace, Abigail is committed to stories that create dialogue across divides and move the needle on social change. She has executive produced and supported over 90 projects through Fork Films’ funding program. Additionally, Abigail is the founder and president of Peace is Loud, a nonprofit that uses media and live events to highlight stories of women stepping up for peace. Recently, Abigail co-founded Level Forward, a new entertainment model and enterprise in which profit and principle go hand in hand. The company, formed in partnership with Killer Content, builds on the legacy of making stories that matter, with a commitment to innovation, inclusion and impact.

My Goal of the Day:

To try as hard as I can to leave the world better than I found it every single day.

My Thought of the Day:

You can’t do anything alone, so find partners.  At the same time, don’t wait for others to start.  Get out there and lead.

My Action of the Day:

Connecting.  Above all connecting.

My Deed of the Day:

Supporting other filmmakers.  I feel an intense responsibility to look after not only my own work, but to support the work of others who might not have the access and privilege that I have.  So I spend a lot of time doing as much as I can to help other filmmakers. 🙂

My Tip of the Day:

I have never, ever regretted a decision I made that required either courage or generosity.  Everything might not always have worked as I’d have wished, but even when that happened, something good always ultimately resulted.  

A Day in My Life:

What do you love most about Your City?  

I love that my city, New York, is a big bubbling stew of people and art and ideas and politics and business.  Everybody is either there, or has been there or wants to go there and when they get there everything speeds up.  New York is my non stop injection of adrenaline and joy.

Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant?

I am not a big fan of breakfast.  I usually eat it out of necessity.  Le pain Quotidien is right by my office and has great avocado toast which wards off hunger for hours.

What are you doing at:

6:00 AM – Oh my god is anyone really awake at 6???

10:00 AM – Hopefully I’ve finished my work out and most of the email that came in overnight and early in the morning.

12:00 PM – Favorite Lunch spot/meal?

Usually having lunch meeting and it changes locations all the time.  Big salad with some protein.

7:00 PM – If I’m lucky, I’m having dinner with one of my kids or a friend or my husband.  But more often I am somewhere I have to be.  Meeting, conference, airplane, fundraiser.

11:00 PM – Trying to unwind.  The problem with my addiction to adrenaline is the unwinding.  I usually read a novel or something till I fall asleep.  If I’m being dumb and compulsive, I’m on email again, trying to catch up on all that came in over the day.

What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?  

I apologize that it is Diet Coke, but I try to keep it to one or two a day.  Beyond that it is sparkling water with a little bit of cranberry juice and lime.  If you put it in a martini glass you look like you are celebrating with a cosmo.

Most used App/Favorite Instagram Account?  

Twitter.  I don’t know why I love Twitter. It kind of brings the worst out in people.  But I love the occasional snark.  My favorite account is @floridaman

What should everyone try at least once?

I am tempted to say scuba diving, but that’s not very realistic for everyone.  I do think everyone should try to learn an instrument at some point in their lives.  I didn’t take piano lessons until I was in my forties, but I learned so much about music, even if I’m a terrible piano player!!

Where do you enjoy getting lost?  

Two places.  Bookstores.  And cooking stores.



Pelle Nilsson: BRF Founder & CEO


Read The Native Influence Full Q&A

How do you motivate others? I like to let people get the space to build confidence. Listen a lot and try to make them make the right decision through conversation and not finger pointing. For creativity, you need to let people know it’s okay to fail and that we all do that. We have to fail to learn and advance, and to come up with the next big idea. Being an international business, you also have to understand different cultures and adapt to them. Motivating people in the U.S compared to Germany is very different.

Career advice to those in your industry? You have to show that you really want something and you have to go for it. When you see the opportunity, take it and never look back. If you want to work with something that you’re really passionate about, it doesn’t feel like a job and that’s when you know you’re on the right path.

As a director and producer you have to always be curious. It’s hard and almost impossible to follow all trends, but if you’re passionate and curious, it will come naturally. Continuously try to find new ways of storytelling, learn about new technologies, distributions and platforms. This diversity will not only elevate your portfolio, but also create opportunities for you to thrive. 

Phillip B. Goldfine: Hollywood Media Bridge Founder


Read The Native Influence Full Q&A

How did you get into the industry? I was always in love with the idea of entertainment from a very early age. I remember watching television and just loving it. What 5-year-old kid doesn’t? Throughout high school and college—even though I was involved in other academia—the entertainment business remained a draw (as it still does today). My story is much like many others. I interned for various companies and worked my way up the ladder.

Industry Challenges: I think the challenge is going to be finding quality projects for the new streaming services and the VR technology that’s emerging. Five years from now, there will be an entirely new landscape in the entertainment space.

Pelle Nilsson: Founder & CEO, BRF

My NativeAdVice:


Pelle Nilsson is Founder and CEO of global production company BRF. Ever since opening the company’s doors in 1995, Pelle has been dedicated to pushing all kinds of filmmaking, whether it’s a commercial or a feature film, and has always been inspired by new ways of storytelling and trying new formats on behalf of clients. Nearly two decades later, this still rings true.

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