About Anita Gou
Anita Gou is the founder of Kindred Spirit, a film production company focused on creating content that features underrepresented voices and stories, aimed at a global audience. Most recently, Anita produced two feature films that premiered in competition at the Sundance Film Festival 2019: The Farewell, starring Awkwafina and Honey Boy, starring Shia LaBeouf and Lucas Hedges. Previously she also took To the Bone as well as Assasination Nation to Sundance, the renowned annual selection-based film festival and competition in Utah.
Anita spoke to us recently from Taiwan, though she typically splits her time between Taiwan, China, and LA. She grew up all around the world in Singapore, Taiwan, LA, Hong Kong, and Beijing before attending NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts to study film. Recently featured in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list which highlights visionaries and leaders across industries, Anita has a strong passion for storytelling, and her cross-cultural approach stems from a young age.
Read on to discover more about Anita’s passion and her experience in the entertainment industry as a female founder!
Anita Gou, founder of Kindred Spirit
Tell us more about your journey to becoming a producer - how did your upbringing shape your choices along the way?
I identified as a multicultural kid growing up. Answering the question of “where are you from?” is always complicated: it’s not just one place, it’s my entire life story. I come from a family of entrepreneurs, so as their business moved and grew, I moved with them all around the world. Throughout my childhood, I was always interested in film; in particular, I spent a lot of time going to the movies with my father as our “together” time. It clicked in early high school that I could actually produce movies as my career, and after that, there was no going back for me. You have to have that all-or-nothing passion for film though. It's a very unique business with very unique work hours so that passion and dedication has to come organically.
How does your multicultural childhood influence the projects you choose to take on?
I’ve always gravitated towards stories that haven’t been told before or haven’t been told yet by the people who are experiencing them. Growing up, I was always in new places and always noticing what is new, what is different, and what is different about the stories around me from my own. My education was very cross-cultural, especially in international schools, which are such a melting pot. So as a kid, it was easier to move past different skin colors, different cultures, and people who were different from myself. This cross-cultural experience constantly informs my work. Overall, I would say I’m still a fan of movies first, and work in it second. So as a viewer, I think about, “What kinds of things would I want to see? What haven’t I seen yet?”
Anita Gou (far left) moderating a panel discussion at an industry networking event hosted by Kindred Spirit
What inspired you to start Kindred Spirit?
Growing up with a family full of male entrepreneurs, I knew I wanted to pursue a similar path, but in the entertainment business. I recognized that I was fortunate to be able to go to film school at NYU, and I really wanted to make the most of that opportunity. As a student, I interned every chance I got for the experience and to learn. As a producer now, I see every project as entrepreneurial. A producer is really just like an entrepreneur: every project is like a new venture, and you have to know how to put everything together, finding the right people and identifying the right strategy.
As a pioneer being a young, female producer, what is your perspective on the barriers you faced entering the industry?
Being one of the “firsts” in any industry is always a challenge. If you don’t have people in leadership positions in the first place and if hiring practices aren’t diversified, people starting out their careers don’t see that representation and successful examples that look like them. So I sought out mentors. Mentorship is so important in different forms especially when our families might say, “Don’t go down this path because there is not an example of success.” Their fear is that there’s no safety net or assurances because there’s no proven path.
Ultimately, it has to start somewhere, and we need more volume of success stories so that the few who are doing it don’t have to carry the full burden of the success or failure of the community. As individuals, we seek to connect with those who reflect ourselves, so it’s especially hard as a newcomer. This industry is so heavily based on connections, but things are changing. It all started with a few brave people who kept chipping away from it, and I’m grateful for those pioneers and mentors who paved a path for me.
Anita Gou (bottom right) alongside Peter Saraf, Daniele Melia, Lulu Wang, Andrew Miano, and Eddie Rubin celebrating "The Farewell" winning best feature at the 35th Film Independent Spirit Award
What has been your biggest challenge as a female founder? Do you have any advice for females in male-dominated industries?
As a female founder in the entertainment space, the gender and racial divide is still very stark. You don’t have enough female or minority representation at the leadership level. So when you are just starting out and you feel alone in that way, it is really hard to assert your voice. At the same time, you have to learn to accept that you don’t know everything, yet still have the confidence to know that you belong in the room. I’ve realized that even people that have 20 years more experience than me are still figuring certain things out, because the industry is constantly changing, so I find comfort in that. You have to continuously learn by doing, no matter how much experience you have.
It can definitely be hard to believe in yourself when you don’t have a very clear path to follow and examples at the leadership level, but my advice is not to falter just because you are alone in the room. Identify people who can be your mentors, people who you can learn from and are willing to help. And in the end, have the confidence to take a leap and know that you will continue to learn as you go.
All photos courtesy of Anita Gou