Queens native finds herself in the Hollywood spotlight

Shirlyn Wong (c.) stands with producer Dana Brunetti (l.) and actor Willem Dafoe on the set of her short film, Love's Routine. Photo courtesy Jameson First Shot
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Shirlyn Wong was beginning to think she had chosen the wrong career.

The Queens native had attended the United Nations International School near her Jamaica Estates home and then Brown University, where she graduated with a degree in computer science.

After taking a film class, she decided to try a different route and is now in her final year at New York University working toward her master’s degree in film production.

But after experiencing some rejection in the highly competitive industry, she began to have second thoughts about a career in film.

“I’d felt like I had chosen something so impractical, especially after coming from such a practical background,” she said.

But now, a few months later, Wong, 30, is more confident than ever that she has chosen the right path.

In March, she won the Jameson First Shot film competition and had the opportunity to direct Willem Dafoe in a short film she wrote.

The competition allows young filmmakers around the world to submit their scripts for the chance to direct an A-list actor. The films are produced by actor Kevin Spacey and his company Trigger Street Productions.

Wong submitted her entry at the beginning of January, and by mid-March she had been flown to Los Angeles to do the film. The whole project was completed in less than a month.

There were also winners from South Africa and Russia who created their own films. The experience gives budding filmmakers the opportunity to work with a large production budget and a full professional crew — about 40 people in Wong’s case.

Wong said winning felt surreal.

“There’s so much rejection in this industry that your first thought is that you’re going to get rejected,” she said. “When they told me I won, I thought, ‘It’s not possible.’”

She thought they might call her and tell her they’d made a mistake.

Before March, Wong had never been to Los Angeles, much less a studio lot.

“I told them, ‘This is like Disney World — can I look around?’” she said.

Wong’s film, “Love’s Routine,” premiered for the public June 19 at the Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, complete with a red carpet and a question-and-answer session after the film showing.

She said she learned a lot from the experience — most importantly, she learned to be confident.

“Before I’d hear stories where people say, ‘Don’t stop believing,’ and I thought that was a sham,” she said. “But now I’m a total believer. You don’t know where the road will go.”

Wong is now focusing on completing her master’s thesis, which she said is about a mobile stripper who drives around small town America in a pink RV to fulfill a dying man’s wish. She is fund-raising for it and expects to begin shooting in the fall.

To view “Love’s Routine” or learn more about the Jameson First Shot competition, visit

Reach reporter Bianca Fortis by email at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Posted 8:17 pm, July 3, 2013
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Reader feedback

Iris from Manhattan says:
Help Shirlyn fund her next film!
July 12, 2013, 8:20 am
Iris from Manhattan says:
July 12, 2013, 8:20 am

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