Masashi Niwano is the Festival & Exhibition Director for theCenter for Asian American Media (CAAM). He is a Bay Area native who holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Film Production from San Francisco State University. Masashi has been associated with CAAM for almost a decade, starting as an intern, then becoming involved in theater operations and, finally, being chosen as a selected filmmaker (Falling Stars, 2006). Prior to re-joining CAAM as Festival & Exhibition Director, Masashi was the Executive Director for the Austin Asian American Film Festival. He is also an active filmmaker, who has worked on numerous films and music videos that are official selections at Cannes, Outfest, Newfest & South By Southwest.
Who? name, age, what you identify as (or not)
Hello. My name is Masashi and I’m a queer, Japanese American. I’m thirty years old and lived most of my life in the Bay Area (except four lovely years in Austin, TX).
What? What do you do for a living or things you would like to do.
I’m the Festival and Exhibitions Director at the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM). Every March, we present the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF), the largest film festival dedicated to Asian American and Asian media. Being Festival Director, my main responsibility is to design an exciting space, where attendees can engage with artists and mediamakers. With the rise of online media sources, on demand options, streaming films, it’s our mission to evolve with the changing media landscape. Aside from SFIAAFF, I’m an active filmmaker. In the future, I would love to work closer to the music industry, either as a musician or a concert organizer.
When did you come out? Any stories?
I came out in college, when I met my partner, Curran Nault. Nine years later and I’m delighted to say we are still together. As many know, coming out truly is a process. I believe that year, I came out over a dozen times. Luckily, I only lost two good friends. The hardest part was coming out to my mother; she was devastated. I knew it was going to affect her, but not to this degree. And what made the situation worse was after I came out, she would continue to ask if I had a girlfriend. I continuously had to reminder her that I was gay and every time, she took it very hard. I can’t say that she’s completely fine with my sexual orientation today, but our situation is much better now. My mother even buys my partner Christmas presents now, which shows how incredible and loving she is.
How did coming out impact your career or relationships with others?
There are so many reasons why I love living in San Francisco: the cold, foggy weather, my friends and family and most importantly, how progressive the city can be (for the most part). Being gay has not affected my career as a Festival Director. Plus, working within non-profits and arts organizations, I’m surrounded by other members of the queer community. However between 2006-2010, I lived in Austin, Tx and that was a different story. Although the city leans more liberal than most Texas cities, I still decided to stay closeted in my day jobs. My coworkers just thought I was extremely shy, since I would never divulge my personal life. It forced me to feel “on guard” at all times, which isn’t fun.
Advice you can give to other Asian, Gay & Proud readers.
In my opinion, being Asian American and Gay in 2011 isn’t as hard as it was a decade or so ago. That’s from my own personal experience. However, depending where you live, your family situation, your career choices, etc, hard times are bound to arise. Sadly, I don’t see discrimination leaving our society anytime soon. So, be confident and PROUD of who you are. Find out what makes you unique and what you have to offer this world. Once you know that, no matter what people say or do to you, it won’t hurt as much. Find your support foundation (which can range from friends, family, gay friendly organizations to progressive church groups) and share your experiences with them. Live out loud.