Adrian Patenaude’s academic and creative ambitions are shaped by her multi-cultured background. Born in Texas and raised in Thailand, the young filmmaker has recently discovered what it means to be a “TCK”, and has since published a photography project about other cross cultural individuals, and how their lives and backgrounds affect their realities.
What comes to mind first when I ask, “Where are you from?” and why?
My answer at the moment would be Thailand, the beautiful country I grew up in as a missionary kid. However, after four years of college, I’ve also started to experience rather home-like feelings for Texas. And who knows what my answer will be five years from now?
What is your field of expertise? Why did you choose it?
I was given my first journal in elementary school and have been a writer ever since. Writing has always been a powerful channel for me to capture experiences, explore ideas and connect with God. It’s also an excellent workplace skill, so I recently graduated with a degree in advertising and public relations. As for creative writing, my main interests include short stories, screenwriting and poetry. I also blog at adrianpatenaude.wordpress.com.
How do you feel being a TCK has affected your life?
It has definitely given me a broader perspective of the world. It doesn’t mean I’m an expert on all things cultural, but it does mean I know just how much I don’t know. And that’s made me curious. My experiences with different cultures have also given me a rich history to draw upon in my writing. I feel very blessed to have been given such a unique upbringing, but I also feel the burden of being a bridge person between cultures. I have the benefit of seeing things from multiple perspectives, so one of my goals in my writing is to accurately portray different cultures. I try very hard not to resort to stereotypes when writing my characters.
How do you use Storytelling in your daily life?
I use storytelling to help me see the bigger picture. When I’m discouraged about my life, I often fast forward a few weeks or years into the future and evaluate whether what I’m experiencing at the moment is really going to matter in the end. Sometimes it’s not important to the story, so I just tell myself to move forward. On the other hand, it very well could be an important moment, like the “call to action” scene in a movie. Will I take responsibility as the protagonist of the story or will I sit passively by as some other hero comes along? I tell stories to inspire myself to live a better story.
How does your photography series on TCKs differ from projects like “Humans of New York” or “Portraits of Boston”?
First of all, while HONY is actual street photography with random models, my project was staged. My subjects were friends of mine and I found locations near my college that simply evoked the feeling of different countries. I’m honored to be compared to HONY, but my project is obviously on a much smaller scale. It would be incredible to expand it at some point, though
Which culture do you feel most attached to and why?
I feel most attached to Thai culture, but that’s probably because I hold tighter to that culture when I’m in the U.S. My appearance as a white female doesn’t betray that part of my identity, so I feel the need to prove in other ways that I am Thai at heart. I truly do love the culture because it’s the context in which my childhood took place, but if I’m honest with myself, I probably identify more with American culture.
Where do you want to live (i.e. make a permanent home, eventually)? Why?
I plan to stay in Texas for the foreseeable future. I’m interested in advertising/public relations and film, and since Austin has both, I could see myself spending my 20s here. I would love to continue traveling, though. I’ll probably make my way to Thailand again and I’d love to visit Japan at some point.
Tell us more about your video. What inspired you to do it, and what do you take away from it?
I wrote Id Infinity in one of my college English classes and it was the first time screenwriting really clicked for me. I had also recently discovered a love for science fiction as a way of exploring human issues by playing them out to the extreme in fantastical worlds. I wanted to write a story about the TCK experience, so I used the metaphor of a shapeshifter to explore the tension between the different personas we assume based on our cultural context. In the end, my main character had to decide whether it was better to choose one identity for the sake of simplifying her life or to accept her ability to shape-shift as an identity in itself.
After I finished the script, I decided to gather a team and enter it in the student short film festival at my college. While the main actors were American, the crew and most of the extras were international students or TCKs, so it was incredible having them involved in the process. In the end, our film won for Best Technical Direction! Of course, the best part of creating anything is getting to share it with people. I had several TCKs tell me about how it captured their experience and helped them to appreciate their often complicated identity. Even non-TCKs appreciated it, because the question of identity is such a universal one. So I’m very proud of this film! It created some great conversations and it felt so good to see something I made up in my head become a reality. I have my wonderful cast and crew to thank for that.