Monday, June 1, 2009

Entrepreneurship and Kal Penn

Pop culture and Politics - that's what I thought "An Evening with Kal Penn" event was about. Hosted by Sanskriti at Stanford University the blurb said: "Kal Penn looks at the intrinsically political nature of pop culture. He also gives us a glimpse into the darker side of the entertainment industry, full of prejudices and comically misguided casting agents ("Where's your turban?"). One of the few Indian-American actors -- so far -- to break into Hollywood, he looks at how pop culture can reinforce, but also challenge and overturn, racial stereotypes." In actuality there was less about politics than there was about entrepreneurship. In person he turned out to be charming and while there was humor, there was no negative energy. And I think that is a key to his ability to break barriers. For example when asked repeatedly about his opinions on Slumdog Millionaire he laughed and said "why? like I can't have an opinion on Milk?" All in all, he was candid and open with the audience and his top three entrepreneurial skills, that came through in several of his stories were:
Passion - It was clear that Penn was passionate about his acting career but at the same time understood the barriers he faced and was willing to tackle them.
Flexibility - Penn took on some roles because "he needed the job". They allowed him to continue working even if not perfect roles
Communication (Ability to Dialog) - when he got some unfavorable comments (a letter about his role in Harold and Kumar) he wrote back positioning the film from the characters' perspective explaining how that forces us to see beyond the ethnicity of the two characters.

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