Helping other immigrants through film

October 2005

All those jokes about former child stars don’t apply to Jiming Lindal, MBA ’98.

Once a successful child actor in her home country of China, Lindal starred in two major movies and performed in TV dramas. She ultimately rejected a life in the entertainment industry but seems to have an affinity to life in film, even today as a UB alumna living in Los Angeles.

Lindal worked as an actor from the ages of 7 to 11. The lifestyle, however, “wasn’t what I wanted. I found myself working until 2 a.m., often away from home.” Instead, Lindal went to the top engineering university in Shanghai and with her producer-director mother established a film studio in that city.

Her desire for a top-notch master’s degree in business led her to UB. At the time, financial resources weren’t available from her home country. So, she says, “I checked rankings and costs of many schools.” UB, she found, “was the best value for money.” She also checked out the faculty, and obtained a particular recommendation on UB Professor Brian Ratchford. Lindal also discovered that UB welcomed international students. All three factors influenced her final decision to apply and—even though other schools accepted her—enroll at UB.

Once on campus, she realized UB professors were there to “guide,” not to “please.” For instance, she studied with Professor Arun Jain, who emphasized excellence. Says Lindal, “I told him I understood only half of the material. He said that ‘half knowledge’ was very dangerous, and his comment benefited the rest of my career. You can’t be satisfied with half knowledge.”

After graduating from UB, Lindal spent several years in project management positions at AC Nielsen and Milward Brown to gain branding expertise. Life in film, however, was calling – but not the same life she’d experienced as a child. Lindal wanted to use her experience as an immigrant in the U.S. to help others. Arriving in this country, she explains, “I didn’t know which hospital provided language service to Asians. Lots of immigrants in L.A. don’t have the language and knowledge to access services.”

Her solution was to found The Visual Voice, a nonprofit organization specializing in educational and documentary films that will help Asian immigrants navigate their new lives in this country. Lindal’s mother and a filmmaker friend in Hong Kong are assisting. Lindal also has organized a board of directors that includes Lily Lee Chen, the first Chinese woman mayor in the U.S.

The organization’s first shoot took place in November 2004. Lindal hoped the completed film on developmentally disabled will be shown in Asian communities in several cities. “We want to do public screenings for free,” she says, “so we need sponsorships.”

Lindal is also trying to obtain funding for a series of educational films about different areas of immigrant life—how to access healthcare, use the banking system, overcome culture shock, etc. “For an entrepreneur, a leap of faith is important,” she says, “but I believe it will happen and am putting my faith in this organization. So far, I have a good board and a good crew.”

Though Lindal’s international background obviously influences her work with The Visual Voice, her UB experience also plays a role. At UB, says Lindal, “I interacted with students from different backgrounds and understood different points of view. That’s important for the workplace.”

Just as she puts her background to good use, Lindal recommends that other international students do the same: “At UB, I found international students are not very active on campus. They think they have a disadvantage because of language problems and their immigration status. I want to emphasize using your ethnic background to help you instead of thinking of it as a barrier.”

Indeed, she continues, “it all starts at school, so take advantage of the opportunities open to you at UB. If you focus on the right thing and believe in yourself and your future, you will get there.”

Written by Grace Lazzara