To celebrate AAPI Heritage Month, Camera Ambassador and Subtitle are collaborating for a series of blog posts conducted by Subtitle's Alex Wen to highlight artists in Chicago making films, television, and other video work! This is our third round of interviews with Aimy Tien, Brian Almalvez, and Sean Raju. Check out the first and second editions too!

(The following interviews have been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.)


Aimy Tien

AW: Tell us a bit about yourself!

AT: I am a producer, writer, and actor among other things. What I love about Chicago and Chicago artists is how multifaceted people are. You see someone in one role on set or stage and on the next project they are doing something entirely different. Our careers here embody that. For me, I want to uplift stories about marginalized and underrepresented communities in whatever medium or genre best suits that story.

AW: What is the role of storytelling towards building a more equitable future?

AT: At the forefront of my work is Viet Thanh Nguyen’s concept of narrative plenitude—the belief that there should be an abundance of stories so that no single story has to stand as a monolith for an entire culture, group, or community. We are in need of stories that cover the range of our lived experiences—it can mean so much to young people and adults to see themselves in media. I think mainstream media often forgets that these stories already exist. We just need to tell them and to listen.

AW: How do you balance the variety of work and forms you engage with? What do you prioritize, which one do you focus on?

AT: When choosing projects I think about the sustainability of passion. On the one hand, that can come down to dollars and cents. But on the other hand, it also comes down to time and emotional investment. If I’m not fully for a project, I’ll only be able to work on it for so long. If you’re going to produce a feature or something longform, you need to know you can love it and pay your bills.

AW: What are some of your favorite directors and/or films?

AT: I’m a Libra so these types of questions always get me. I love work created and centering femmes. I also love distinct voices and point of views. Right now the people who come immediately to mind: Ava Duvernay’s slow, sumptuous style in Queen Sugar, Lulu Wang doing anything, Barry Jenkins doing anything, Michaela Cole’s balance of humor and frank vulnerability, Brian Fuller’s command of fantastical visuals.

AW: Anything else you would like to tell us?

AT: I have a few things cooking right now. A feature I’m very excited about is Go to the Body written and directed by Kyra Jones which I am producing with Angellic Ross and Sarah Minnie. You can see the trailer for the proof of concept here. I have a few projects on my slate with my company, tinheart productions, too. And, of course, I’m always accepting interviews and collaborations for The Queer Joy Project.


Brian Almalvez

AW: Tell us a bit about yourself!

BA: I direct commercials with people and food, but I’ve spent more time growing and running the business than actually directing. My favorite thing to create is sweet chicken vermouth with asparagus. Hella simple recipe but blows everyone away each time.

AW: How has the pandemic affected your work?

BA: We’re very fortunate. We haven’t been affected too badly. In the pre-COVID years, we really doubled down on the boring, yet very crucial basics of running a business which I believe is what carried us through.

Building a solid team with the right people & the right clients + investing in all-remote infrastructure when you don’t have to are way less flashy & exciting than buying an ARRI Alexa Mini LF. But the boring basics are how you build something that lasts. And how you build the capital to get that ARRI anyway.

AW: What’s been the biggest challenge working in this industry?

BA: Figuring out who we want to work with, internally & externally. Everyone at Pogi is required to read our culture deck before joining and on the 2nd slide there’s a quote about the goal not being to do business with everyone, but rather the people who believe what we believe.

We believe in working together collectively with each other. And collaboratively debating to find the best ideas, including with the clients. Once we defined that, everything else just followed.

On a more basic level—good communication is by far the hardest part about running the business. Harder than making the films. Harder than finding clients. Harder than getting clients to pay invoices. Like I said: the boring basics make or break you.

AW: What are some of your favorite directors and/or films?

BA: I was never a film nerd growing up. If Pogi needs to become a coffee shop to stay in the game of business, it will become a coffee shop.

But to answer the question, my favorite works are the ones that take the writer/director’s true-to-life perspectives and package it in a way other people can connect with. Hiro Murai’s work with Donald Glover and Atlanta is a great example, along with David Chang’s Ugly Delicious.

AW: Anything else you would like to tell us?

BA: We perpetually have 3-5 bids out for work that you’ll see on TV & never know it's us. But I have been working on a mini docu-series with Kevin, one of the senior guys at the studio, called Personal Legends. If you’ve ever read The Alchemist, you’d probably be a fan of it. Here’s a teaser!

Sean Raju

AW: Tell us a bit about yourself!

SR: When I was fourteen years old, I had absolutely no doubt what I wanted to be when I grew up: an astrophysics professor researching in finding hospitable extrasolar planets. My screenplays that I wrote in high school were, of course, a transient hobby that I would grow out of.

The hobby became a passion and, though I ended up getting that physics degree, I’m a self-taught filmmaker. I’ve spent the past several years traveling around the country as a video producer for several political campaigns including Elizabeth Warren’s in Massachusetts. I’m currently freelancing as a writer and director, always looking to create films that explore themes that, when I was thirteen, I had once looked to physics to answer: why are we here and what is our purpose?

AW: What is your favorite aspect of filmmaking?

SR: What an impossible question! If I had to pick a single aspect, it would have to be writing. I write to amuse myself. Sometimes that can mean writing the perfect joke for the right character, but other times it’s finding satisfaction in constructing a really well-paced moody scene. I can only hope that the joy I find in the process of writing leaks onto the screen. With that said though, there’s nothing quite as exhilarating as being on set and collaborating with a team of incredibly talented people to make a vision come to life. I guess it’s the ebb and flow of the energy needed to be deeply reflective in the solitary pursuit of writing mixed in with the energy of working with collaborators that is my favorite aspect of filmmaking—which some would rightly point out is a complete cop-out answer to your question.

AW: What are some of your favorite directors and/or films?

SR: Right now I’m obsessed with noir. I can’t stop thinking about the zither from Carol Reed’s The Third Man. I’ve also been recommending Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur films to all my friends. It’s a perfect noir series and great introduction to some fantastic modern Indian filmmaking.

AW: What do you like to do in your free time? Other hobbies?

SR: Reading, basketball, and watching movies (does that count?). A favorite book that I’ve read recently: Munshi Premchand’s Godaan. It’s been an up and down season but I’ve watched most Warriors games in the middle of this pandemic. And I can’t stop binging the Criterion Channel!

AW: Anything else you would like to tell us?

SR: I’m in post-production on a short film titled, A Nickname. It’s the personal story of how I got my nickname (Sean!) when I moved to America and explores what nicknames can mean for immigrants. It was pretty wild having to cast a younger version of myself and my parents but it ended up being one of the most exciting projects of my career. If folks would like to check it out, I’d recommend they visit the website, and sign up for our newsletter. And if anyone would like to learn about my other work, they can go to

Due to scheduling, we aren't able to interview every artist & collaborator that we'd like. Nevertheless, check out the following AAPI artist & some of their work:

Rivkah Reyes, Actor & Writer, on IG at @rivkah.reyes

Patrick Abella, Director/DP, on IG at @_patrick_abella_

Andy G Cat, DP, on IG at @andygcat & online at

If you're interested in being included in a upcoming edition of our collaboration with Subtitle Magazine, let us know!