Since college, Reed Tsuda ’10 has enjoyed a rising career in Hollywood, working in casting for many notable TV shows and films. But after the pandemic paused production, the young alumnus saw an opportunity to pursue his next act as a writer, director and producer.
With an interest in diversifying the stories being told, Tsuda is enrolled in screenwriting and other film classes at UCLA, and is now writing scripts and developing television concepts, from fantasy dramas to spy thrillers. He’s rooting his stories in multicultural settings, and delving into the complex social, economic and political issues arising in these communities.
No doubt, his current pursuits connect to his time growing up in Hawai‘i, living in Japan and Guam as a young boy, and traveling. “Coming from Hawai‘i, I think part of my goal as a writer, and eventually a writer-producer or writer-director, is amplifying Pacific Islander, Asian American, hapa and cross-cultural voices across the industry,” Tsuda said. “Right now is the time where Hollywood is looking internally, and saying that we need to be more inclusive with our stories.”
While crafting scenes and dialogue, the teachings of Tsuda’s mentors are never far from his mind, from Loyola Marymount University instructor and Punahou graduate Bobby Simmons ’86 to Punahou Academy English faculty Sheryl Dare ’66 and the late Academy English teacher Norman Hindley. “Especially now as I’m writing, I’m still hearing their voices,” he said.
Tsuda’s overall interest in the notoriously competitive TV and film industry began at Punahou, when Yuri Biersach ’87 – then director of the Punavision student production – spotted his talent and drive and encouraged him to apply for film school.
At Loyola, Tsuda landed coveted internships with notable Hollywood casting directors, and has since worked on such TV series as “Mr. Robot,” “Westworld,” “The Umbrella Academy,” The Act,” “Homecoming,” “The Sinner,” “Suits” and “Dirty John.” He also worked in casting for the film, “The Walk” and two currently unreleased feature films, in addition to projects for NBCUniversal, HBO, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, Warner Bros and Tristar.
Casting involves rubbing shoulders with celebrities, but that’s only one aspect of the job, Tsuda said. “Hollywood is good at making a glamorous vision onscreen. That’s our goal, but when it comes to the day-to-day business, it’s a lot of work.”
It requires working with directors, producers, executives and others to fulfill a creative vision, while tackling the logistics of auditioning, scheduling and managing PR for actors. It’s a combination of business strategy, finance and the creative process, which Tsuda finds fast-paced, challenging and rewarding.
Getting to know actors professionally is a rewarding part of his job. Another is being on a team that discovers and casts rising stars. Although Tsuda wasn’t part of the initial casting of the USA Network series, “Mr. Robot,” which starred Rami Malek, he was thrilled to see the actor go on to win numerous awards, including an Oscar for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody.” “Rami Malek is an inspiration, and he’s such a humble guy,” Tsuda said.
When productions are safe to start up again, Tsuda hopes to transition into a new career as a screenwriter, and eventually, as a director and producer. “Although it was challenging initially when production shut down, I’m looking at this time as a way to expand creatively,” he said. “I’m developing my own portfolio. I’m working on scripts. This is something that I wouldn’t have been able to do before.”
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