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What 10 Nights In Asia Taught Me About Hollywood

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Thanksgiving to most Americans is all about the T’s: Turkey, Tradition and… Turkey.

This past Thanksgiving however, I opted for my own “T” to observe the holiday: Thailand. Instead of going home to Colorado to over-indulge on delicious food, watch football, and shop during the epileptic horror show we call “Black Friday,” I decided to take a trip to the Far East and do something new for a change.

The sites I saw and things I had the opportunity to experience were life changing to say the least. I explored the many temples & palaces on the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok, shopped the weekend & night markets (with prices so low they’d sink Black Friday), rode elephants in the jungle, attended the life-changing Loi Krathong lantern festival in Chiangmai, and island hopped in the south for the Full Moon Party, to name a few things. Talk about being captivated by culture, cuisine, history and wanderlust; the urge to resist hash-tagging “blessed” on each photo was debilitating at times.

Every day while there I felt so present and alive – like a sponge absorbing all I could about this curious place. From lifestyle to norms, their human experience was so starkly different to what I’d been accustomed to. Though I consider myself well-traveled (I’m actually writing this blog post on my way back from DC) there was just something about the Orient that struck a chord with me. When I returned home to LA, I definitely felt changed. Sure the vacation renewed my spark and charisma after a busy year, but it simultaneously gave me a larger perspective on life, balance, and surprisingly Hollywood.

Now my LA commute flies by in comparison to Bangkok traffic. Happy Hours feel like rip-offs when I remember how a of couple of bucks could’ve bought me a 3 course meal in Chiangmai. And most interestingly, being a member of “The Biz” has a completely different taste, feeling and meaning.

Here are the 3 things I learned about Hollywood from my trip to Asia:

  1. We are not the center of the universe, but we help define it.

It’s true. Once you leave the Hollywood bubble – and later the American mega-bubble— you realize that there are people out there with real lives and actual problems. They struggle figuring out where their next meal will come from, not where they’ll stream their favorite show. They worry if their children will learn to read, whereas we worry about what we read in the tabloids.

Yet though a lot is taken for granted in our developed society (and we sometimes feed into it), entertainment is unique in that we can leverage our careers and wide-reaching platforms to impact others outside of the industry. After conversations abroad, both with travelers and locals, it’s apparent that what starts out as an idea we have as creators, can quickly blossom into meaningful content which impact several lives. Whether good or bad, Hollywood defines culture, fashion, trends and more, backed by distribution channels in a digital and global age. At the click of a button, visual messages are streamed straight to a device-of-choice in countries once deprived of foreign innuendos. From setting gender roles and social norms, to exposing political issues and rallying groups, we have and yield the unique power to connect humans and inspire change.

  1. You can’t spell heALthy without LA, but you can be healthy without it.

If you read my last blog post, you’d know that I’m a huge health nut and won’t touch carbs with a ten foot boom. HOWEVER, I do have to say that I learned a lot about health (mental, physical and spiritual) and consumption (of both food and ideas) is starkly different in our culture.

What was immediately prevalent in Asia was the food available and how that played into their values and behavior. They focused on fruits and vegetables over processed goods, had a ready availability of local and fresh ingredients, and best yet, lacked the obnoxious packaging we use to remind ourselves it’s FARM FRESH, LOCALLY SOURCED, ORGANIC, GLUTEN FREE, LOW FAT, and NON-GMO CERTIFIED. I was actually shocked at the volume and types of food I allowed myself to “indulge on” while abroad, and the fact that I actually came back slimmer than when I left! Crazier still was when I caught myself worrying in the beginning about if what I was eating met all my pre-determined criteria of “healthy,” until I realized just how subjective of a term and artificial my understanding of it really was…

I hate to draw a point and dig deep into a fact that may or may not exist, but traveling to Asia made me realize just how subconsciously impacted we are by the messages advertisers send us through media (commercials, programming, and sponsored content alike). These slowly change the way we think, influence what we want and/or believe we need, and impact our purchase behavior – whether it’s buying an apple or a movie on AppleTV. It’s all about the packaging in Hollywood, and from building the perfect cast/crew to packaging the finished product ready for distribution, the same rules apply. Influencing others is what we’re good at, and it’s what we in the biz are tasked with accomplishing.

  1. Gratitude is a mindset, not an outcome

One last thing I took away from this trip was my genuine interactions with people in Thailand, both local and international. The level of candid communication, connection, admiration and friendship was overwhelming and inspiring. Whenever people greeted each other –be it to a customer, stranger, relative, or anyone – they bowed in respect. The words and gestures of “thank you” were a predominant part of every conversation, to the point where it felt like “Khorb Khun Na Ka,” was uttered every minute.

In our “selfie generation,” it’s hard to remember that the well-being and ambitions of others can be just as or more important than our own. I can’t speak for the industry, but I speak for myself and others like me who live life always looking forward and anticipating the next strategic move. We say thank-you, but often only as a result of an action we desired (a promotion, nod of recognition, landing an audition, etc.) Maybe it was because I was on vacation, experiencing a travel high, or because I was removed from the daily Hollywood grind, but this trip made me realize that gratitude should be something I express constantly and proactively. And instead of obsessing over my own career, I hope I can now think about success as it relates to society and the bigger picture.

What’s interesting is that it was only by shifting my annual routine and doing something completely non-traditional for Thanksgiving, that I was able to truly appreciate it as day of gratitude. The first step I’m taking to express gratitude to those around me and who I met while abroad, is vowing to use the podium we’re graciously given in this industry and country to positively impact the world.

Back to Reality

That said, I’ll end this article short and sweet: Travel the world. Experience new thoughts and things. Remember that what we do at work and in our lives today can impact others beyond what you know…And be thankful that it does.

Reem Hassani

About Reem Hassani

Though originally from Colorado, Reem spent much of her life living around the world in places including: the Kingdom of Bahrain, Spain, New York City, and has travelled to many more. Since moving to Los Angeles in 2013 to pursue a career in film, she's worked in the marketing/publicity departments of studios including: Paramount Pictures, the Walt Disney Studios, and now STX Entertainment: the first large-scale motion picture studio to open in Hollywood in over 22 years. Her second passion however lies is in film production, where she's worked on projects shot in virtual reality for Oculus Rift, several independent shorts, and is a member of Wayes Entertainment: an all-female production company exploring the parody between modern gender roles in society. In her “spare time” Reem is developing a social media app with her sister, runs a blog documenting young Hollywood lifestyle and networking (www.HauteMafioso.com), and volunteers through local organizations.