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Celebrating AAPI Month: Q&A with Cybill Lui Eppich

Producing a film takes a working knowledge of art, commerce, and the human condition. But Cybill Lui Eppich doesn’t just produce films. She does so much more. 

Born in Hong Kong and raised in Toronto, Cybill has built a career around fostering diverse young women to discover and create art. Whether she is chairing Girls Quest’s Young Professionals Committee, raising funds to build proton radiotherapy cancer treatment centers in the U.S. from institutions abroad, or producing smash hits like The Silencing (2020) and WARNING (2021), she has spent her career advocating for and providing a platform for much needed voices. 

To celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, we invited Cybill to reflect on the trajectory of her career and where she sees the entertainment industry going. We’re proud to lift up diverse creators at Clarity, and are inspired by Cybill’s true embodiment of our global, fearless, positive ethos.

Cybill Lui Eppich

You went from being an investment banker in NYC to a producer in Hollywood - how and why did you make that transition?  

At the time, I was 25 going on 40. Closing a $100 million deal on my own was fun and exciting but by the second time I was already pretty bored. The thought of doing this for the rest of my life felt claustrophobic and stunted. I needed more from life than working towards making MD (Managing Director) and making lots of money. 

I started producing some short films with friends in NYC and realized that producing is the perfect combo of business meets art. I was very creative growing up in a musical household (my parents owned piano stores and Mom was a Cantonese opera singer) and loved movies (I had a Blockbuster gold card which, you can’t buy, they just sent to me after renting a ridiculous amount of movies) so I did as much research on producing as I could and started charting out my exit a couple years before. 

Some of my clients on the media side of investment banking took me out to LA, so every time I went out to LA I met with as many people as I could, took producing classes at NYU, optioned some material, got a bunch of job offers, and eventually landed on two opportunities which brought me over to producing in LA.

What have you found to be the most challenging aspect of your life as a producer?

The most challenging thing about being a producer is that so many things are outside of your control. You can work really hard and do everything right but a million things could go wrong… and they usually do. 

For example, we’re currently going through the Writers strike. There’s nothing we can do about it as indie producers; their fight is with the studios/streamers, and I’m all for writers getting paid more and being able to make a decent living doing it. We’ll see how long it lasts and what the ultimate wins and fallouts are but it certainly has an effect on all of us.

What excites you the most about being in the entertainment industry? 

The constant flux. The highs and lows. The flexibility with what one can aspire to do, and then just being able to do it. When I first started, I was a financing producer but over time I switched over to a creative producer. And with every movie, you learn more, do more, as every movie is different from the last. You experience a different story, different people, different locations - things are never entirely the same, really. And ultimately, it’s just fun being able to put something out there that people enjoy.

What type of stories do you think audiences are most interested in right now? 

Entertainment is reflective of what’s going on with society… it provides the lens with which we see ourselves, and all good art says something about the times we’re in. That said, because we’re finally coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic feeling somewhat “normal” now, I think audiences are hungry for fun, feel-good, different, and diverse content they can relate to and talk about to their friends and family with. 

Whether that’s horror, action, romcoms or comedies, people want to be entertained and not have to sit through two hours of dark, depressing dramas that hit too close to home (no offense to dramas). 

Audiences are really smart now and can tell from the marketing if the movie is any good. If it’s not something that makes them really want to spend the time and money to sit in a theater, they’ll wait to watch it at home, and then they’ll wait even longer to stream for free versus paying USD$20 or USD$7 on PVOD/VOD [Premium Video On Demand/Video On Demand].

How do you think the diversification of entertainment (gaming, TikTok etc.) has affected the film and TV industry? How has this challenged producers and studios to reach audiences? 

It’s definitely made it a lot harder to get the younger generation to care about movies as much as we did growing up. Kids/teens spend so much more time gaming and on social media. I get it, I used to play a ton of video games growing up and the games have gotten so good now. And, nothing is more immediately gratifying than social media. 

Meanwhile, there’s a lot of so-so film and TV content being put out there. Why sit through an OK movie for 2+ hours when you can play a really fun, immersive video game with your friends across the globe? 

And I’m not sure the next gen’s viewing habits will ever “go back”, I don’t really see them sitting around the television watching cable TV for hours after dinner. We have to figure out how to make film and TV content more interesting and relevant for them. 

The great thing about other platforms within entertainment is that they can really help with outreach and be super complimentary; take a look at the TikTok dance for M3GAN and Wednesday. It was so fun to watch everyone get so into it, and make it their own.

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given? 

It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

What summer movie are you most anticipating? 

Can’t pick just one! Joy Ride, Mission Impossible, Barbie.
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