WILD Profile: Sara Newens + Mina T. Son: Journey of the Teenage Table Tennis Elites

by: Julia Lola Wang

July 17, 2012

Who: Sara Newens and Mina T. Son
Born: Mina: Anaheim, CA; Sara: Omaha, NE
Live now: Mina: Santa Monica, CA; Sara: San Francisco, CA
What they do: Documentary filmmakers

Sara Newens and Mina T. Son, filmmakers of Top Spin

What are you currently working on?
Top Spin, a feature-length documentary about the journey of elite teenage table tennis athletes competing for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.

What drew you to the project (Top Spin)?
The inherent drama of competition and life as a teenager combined with the nostalgia-infused quirkiness of a largely unrecognized sport.

Why and how did you and your co-directors/producers get into ping pong and the film?
We read an article in the New York Times about the Bay Area being a hotbed for young ping pong champions and as soon as we saw them play we were hooked – though we quickly realized that our skill level has a lot to be desired, despite our earlier claims of great dexterity.

Why do you think/feel your story here is important?
People of all ages and backgrounds will be able to relate to this story. It’s more than just a film about ping pong. It’s about family, sacrifice, growing up and following your dreams.

What do you hope to accomplish with the film?
We want to entertain audiences and show them how cool table tennis really is! We’ve become huge fans of the sport and want others to fall in love with it, too.

How do Lily, Ariel, and Michael inspire you in your own career and personal endeavors?
We’ve been incredibly inspired by their hard work and dedication, but mostly with their ability to handle things under pressure. Win or lose, they’re able to keep moving forward – something a lot of adults have difficulty with.

What does good energy mean to you?
Mina: It means surrounding yourself with good people and good thoughts.
Sara: Engaging with others in a meaningful way.

Favorite memory?
Mina: For whatever reason, the first thing that comes to mind is going to summer camp when I was a kid.
Sara: Hard question. A more recent memory is when one of my shorts screened right before Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours at a film festival in front of 3,000 people.

Five things you wouldn’t want to live without?
Mina: Family, friends, water, hope, my baby blanket
Sara: Friends and family (is that two?), a creative outlet, a passport, my camera, and good coffee.

What is the WILDEST situation you have ever experienced?
Mina: Bungee jumping three times in one day.
Sara: Trying to get tickets and finding a seat on a train in Beijing.

What would you like to leave to future generation?
Mina: A sense of hope.
Sara: A love for authentic storytelling, and a lot less reality TV.

It’s a busy time for you now, but what future projects are you thinking of?
Mina: Sara and I have talked about doing a web series together. I’d also like to make documentaries in Korea and Japan.
Sara: What Mina said.

What is your WILD Wish?
Mina: To finish Top Spin and release it to the world!
Sara: That ping pong becomes the #1 sport in the U.S.

Support this project on Kickstarter

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