Friday, July 11, 2008

Spy Scare (II)

My second encounter happened when I was studying film at USC.

One day when I was at our department office, an ad on the bulletin board caught my eyes. It was from a known production company, looking for a writer's assistant to work on a TV miniseries that the company was developing. Because it specified that they wanted someone of Chinese background, I answered it and was soon asked to be interviewed.

The interviewer was a woman VP in charge of development. In fewer than a couple of minutes, I learned two things about the job. One was that the miniseries would be based on the well publicized case of Wen Ho Lee, the Chinese-American scientist who was charged and then acquitted all but one count of espionage by the FBI. The other was that it's an unpaid position, i.e. internship, but as the woman VP emphasized, required high degree of calibre and diligence.

I've been working several years before entering USC and was well aware of the tricks played by some companies who hire interns so that they could get their work done for free. Perhaps because of this, there must have been a subtle change in my facial expressions. I didn't appear thrilled and most of all, I didn't jump off the chair and clap my hands: wow, what a great opportunity!

Then, she asked what I thought of the Wen Ho Lee case. I've read a few news reports about the case from the LA Times but didn't feel I understood it fully because those reports were written in such a way that they required some real insights and ingenuity to decipher them. So I said that there must be a lot of mysteries waiting to be uncovered. This, to my great surprise, ignited a fierce response from her. She said there were no mysteries in the case but only a cover up from the government side. It's not about espionage but racism. The fact that Wen Ho Lee was charged was only because he is Chinese...

From that point on, I knew I have failed the interview. Although she handed me a script at the end and asked for a coverage, and I completed and returned it in due course, I've never heard from her again.

The script I covered was later made into a film and played in theaters throughout the world. I was glad that in my coverage I recommended the script to be considered. But the miniseries which has brought me to this company at the first place died prematurely. It never made onto the TV screen.

No comments: