#ProfilesOfTenacity: Sherry Liang
Why did you choose Grady and your course of study?
The only class I enjoyed in high school was newspaper, so I came into college as an intended-journalism major. I joined The Red & Black within my first month and became an editor the following semester. But I already felt stagnant, which is not a feeling you want as a freshman, so I sought a creative outlet with EMST. I wish I could reassure freshman me that both journalism and EMST would welcome (and continue to welcome) me with open arms — that pursuing both paths would change my life — but I think she already knew.
What are you passionate about?
A lot, sometimes too much. I’m passionate about independent student journalism and innovating the newsroom’s status quo. I’m passionate about people and our emotions — the way we interact and react — and finding the universal in the personal. The entertainment and journalism I grew up with rarely told the stories of my community. I never saw myself in the media industry, so I hope I can play my part in changing that for future generations.
What is your most memorable Grady experience?
I hope I’ll remember the everyday moments like mingling with friends between classes, group exercises in cinematography, staying up until 2 a.m. finishing a script, sheltering from a tornado in one of the many windowless first floor classrooms, busting a kneecap open after class (unrelated to the tornado), table reads in Writers’ Room or watching film premieres at Ciné and University 16 … the list goes on.
I also think back to when we planted seeds for ideas that would shape my college experience — like brainstorming web series concepts in Writers’ Room, pitching an AAJA chapter at UGA to Dr. Lough, the first conversations about the Backlight Student Film Festival, or the beginnings of what would become The Red & Black’s DEI Committee.
What or who has had the biggest impact on your life during your time at UGA?
The students, by all means. From day one, I’ve been inspired by everyone’s dedication to each other’s work at The Red & Black, The Industry, in classrooms and on the screen. Members of Writers’ Room, for example, have exceeded every conceivable expectation of mine when I restructured the club. From first-time screenwriters to EMST veterans, everyone’s bonded over these characters and scripts that we’ve created. I’m also beyond impressed by students on the Selection Committee for the Backlight Student Film Festival, who have spent nearly 10 hours across three weeks watching and judging film submissions. This level of commitment and collaboration is a trademark of the students at this college.
As I round out my senior year, I feel like I’ve finally found my place with my people. Graduating and leaving UGA feels bittersweet and pre-nostalgic, but I am mostly relieved that given the volatility of the universe and its infinite possibilities, we all found ourselves here, together, if only for a moment. (Existential thoughts courtesy of Everything, Everywhere All at Once.)
What has been your proudest moment in the past year?
Directing my first short film this semester was one of the most surreal moments of my college career. I’ve written a few scripts, so that part of the process was familiar. But as I watched actors bring the characters I created to life, heard people laugh at these jokes I wrote from my bed at 3 a.m., and witnessed an entire crew devote their many precious hours to execute my story — I felt a type of unbridled joy and gratitude that I had never experienced in a collaborative environment. I’ll chase that feeling and those people for as long as I create.
(Bonus full-circle moment: The film is about student journalism!)
What are you planning to do after graduation?
Lots of soul-searching, a bit of traveling, and hopefully some revelatory experiences — but first, the Cannes Film Festival.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from an instructor, mentor or family member?
Coming in as a beginner, I was intimidated by EMST before even setting foot in a classroom. But over the last two years, I’ve never had a professor who expected us to know everything. Professor Evans taught my first screenwriting class, and from day one, he emphasized improvement above all else. Your work doesn’t have to be perfect, it might never be, but you just have to do and improve. I’ve always had some level of performance anxiety, and reminding myself of that philosophy has been liberating. As a chronic procrastinating perfectionist, it’s what motivated me 24 hours before the deadline to write my first TV pilot that became a BEA Festival finalist. It wasn’t a perfect script — one judge’s comments made that very clear — but that’s one script (and an award) more than I had before I started.
Who is your professional hero?
I have so many. UGA alumnae Kendall Trammell, Elaine Reyes, Samira Jafari, Alex Laughlin and Amanda Mull are just a handful of the journalists who inspire me. Editors at CNN and The Red & Black have shaped my confidence and voice as a journalist. The writer-director in me also looks up to the power-duo of Lulu Wang and Barry Jenkins (who share a dog-child with a hyphenated last name — talk about life goals).
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I talk to myself a lot, entire conversations. Sometimes I’ll mute my podcast in the car just to hear myself talk … to myself. Most of these answers came from me talking to myself.
Where is your favorite place on campus and why?
My body is actually solar-powered. Give me some sun, a few trees, maybe a sprinkling of fall foliage or spring flowers, and I’m there. I frequent Herty Field or the MLC stone benches for napping, and outside the PAF for a solid four-legged table to do some work. You can also find me gazing off into the sunset at Lake Herrick to inspire an aforementioned revelatory experience … been doing a lot of that lately.
Date: April 22, 2022
Editor: Sarah Dorr, Sarah.Dorr@uga.edu