Meet Our 2018 Armed with a Camera Fellows

In its sixteenth season, the Armed With a Camera (AWC) Fellowship for Emerging Media Artists nurtures the next generation of Asian Pacific American artists to capture their world, surroundings and outlook on life. VC works with the Fellows for six months and provides special training, mentoring, networking opportunities, access to facilities and equipment, plus a cash stipend to create four to five-minute digital short films that will premiere at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.

Meet our new AWC Fellows below!

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Johnson Cheng

Johnson Cheng is an award-winning Chinese American writer/director hailing from the San Gabriel Valley of L.A. County. After receiving his B.A. in International Relations, he joined Columbia University's M.F.A. Film Directing/Screenwriting program. His films have screened at international film festivals such as Tribeca, Reykjavík, Uppsala, Los Angeles, and Palm Springs. He is an alumnus of the Reykjavík Transatlantic Talent Lab, Telluride Student Symposium, and the Smithsonian Institute/National Endowment for the Humanities’ Emerging Filmmakers Lab. His film, “Iron Hands (铁手)”, had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival and won the Best Student Live Action Short Film Award at Palm Springs. Johnson began his career as an intern at PIXAR, working on feature films such as “Monsters University” and "Coco". He went on to work as a Story Editor on “The Book of Mojo”, Asst. Editor on “The Book of Life”, and Asst. Editor on DreamWorks Animation's “Kung Fu Panda 3” – the first animated co-production between the U.S. and China. Johnson is a member of the Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective Writers Workshop and the Motion Picture Editors Guild.


Varun Chopra

Born and raised in New Delhi, Varun Chopra graduated from LMU School of Film and Television in LA where he focused on stories of common people with aspects of social justice. He was the recipient of the SFTV Dean’s Scholarship. At 23, He became the youngest Indian national to screen at Cannes. His films have screened at various International film festivals and screenings. He was recently featured in LA Times among a team of diverse filmmakers on a discussion on diversity in Hollywood. Varun works in LA as a freelance director and is currently editing a TV Show streaming on Netflix.


Jing Niu

As an immigrant filmmaker who grew up in the American South, Jing Niu started creating in a bubble isolated from other filmmakers like herself. She created documentary-experimental films stemming from her experiences—about growing up in take-out restaurants, being an immigrant woman of color in a bigoted environment, and about living a diasporic life. Jing shot her first film on 16mm with a Bolex camera, which went on to screen at experimental film festivals across the world. Her autobiographic film DEPARTING toured prestigious art museums in the South, in an exhibit with the likes of Andy Warhol and Carrie Mae Weems. In 2016, Jing received the Boreas Traveler’s Grant to retrace the footsteps of an unknown Japanese feminist explorer who walked across Japan. Currently based in Los Angeles, Jing spends her time creating films that dismantle the model-minority myth by featuring independent female Asian protagonists. 


Jingyi Shao

Jingyi Shao is a Chinese-American writer director working extensively in China and the US. A graduate of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, Jing brings a uniquely multicultural and naturalistic aesthetic to his work. An experienced commercial director, Jing’s nuanced and emotion work for brands like Levi’s, Johnnie Walker, Holiday Inn, Huawei and Honda has been highlighted in ad publications such as SHOTS, SHOOTonline and Adweek. He recently wrote and directed a texting PSA called Text History of Jane that received awards at Cannes, D&AD and the AICP Show. Jing has also received worldwide acclaim for his narrative work.  His short film Toenail was a finalist in the HBO Visionaries competition and was distributed on HBO platforms.  His most recent short, A Conversation, was selected for the prestigious Sloan Foundation Grant.  He is currently working on a TV series and several feature films.  Jing’s ultimate dream is to write, direct and produce stories that bridge his Chinese and American backgrounds and inspire hope, compassion and understanding.


Dawn Shim

Born in South Korea, Dawn Suhyun Shim was fortunate to be exposed to the arts and culture at a young age.  Throughout her youth the camera became her tool to express her creativity as she explored the world living in various locations throughout Asia and Europe.  In 2012, Dawn was accepted to the American Film Institute in Los Angeles where she elevated her skills and forged lifelong partnerships with the film community.  Her work has been showcased in film festivals such and Cannes, South by Southwest and LAAPFF to name a few.  As her professional career continues, Dawn is now focused on writing and directing her own stories with the intent of becoming a powerful voice for the future. 


Rajendra Thakurathi

Rajendra Thakurathi is a Nepali writer, director and a recent MFA graduate of USC School of Cinematic Arts. He likes telling meaningful stories that explore what it means to be human beings. His films have screened at Durban International Film Festival, Drama International Short Film Festival, Cannes Short Film Corner, among others. He was a finalist in Project Greenlight’s music video competition for Plain White Ts last year. Two of his scripts have advanced to second round at Sundance Screenwriting Lab and he was featured as a “Filmmakers to Watch” in Cinephilia & Beyond. Some of the most interesting jobs he’s done include steaming crabs at a sea food restaurant, traversing nooks and crannies of Iowa as a newspaper photographer, and selling firecrackers on a July 4th. He likes telling good stories across genres and mediums and making people laugh. He recently worked as an edit intern at Pixar in their upcoming film.

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So Yun Um

So Yun Um is a Korean-American Film Critic and Filmmaker. She runs the film website & YouTube channel, So’s Reel Thoughts which highlights international, independent, and genre films. She is affiliated with various LA Film Festivals and is part of the Women Film Critics Circle.