Working with world-renowned actors such as Idris Elba, Michael B. Jordan, Adam Sandler, Sullivan Stapleton and Charlize Theron is just another day at the office for Phil Sun ’04, an agent at William Morris Endeavor Entertainment. But like many people in Hollywood, Sun worked his way up — starting in the mailroom.
For Sun, who graduated from the College with an international relations degree, pursuing a career on Capitol Hill only seemed natural. However, he decided that what came natural wasn’t what he wanted, and he moved to Los Angeles instead. “Even if it didn’t work out, I could look back and say I gave L.A. a shot,” he said.
But it did work out. Landing an opportunity to be a production assistant on the set of a film his brother was co-producing, Sun had the chance to meet Parker Posey, the star of the film, and the casting director on the project, Kerry Barden. “Kerry gave me my next job in casting, where I was lucky enough to meet Steven Spielberg and work with Leslee Feldman at DreamWorks,” Sun said. He then became a director’s assistant, where he worked with director Hans Canosa, as well as actors Aaron Eckhart and Helena Bonham Carter.
From there, Sun decided that a career in the entertainment industry was for him, and began to interview with different agencies. That’s where William Morris Endeavor gave Sun his big break — offering him a job in the mailroom.
Now Sun is thriving as an agent where his main responsibility is to create and execute the overall strategies that help his clients reach their full potential. Being an agent to many A-list clients, however, brings great responsibility and a hectic schedule. “Every day is a roller coaster going a million miles per hour,” Sun said. “WME has business around the world, so normal hours don’t really apply. You get up early in L.A. to make calls to Europe, then move towards New York City then to West Coast business hours, and then end with Australia and Asia,” Sun said.
With hard work comes great reward. Recently Sun earned a spot on The Hollywood Reporter’s Next Gen Class of 2013, which featured young up-and-coming executives in the categories of agents, managers, film, TV, digital, legal and publicity. But for Sun, being promoted to agent at WME is his biggest accomplishment to date. “The agency has given me my career, that’s for sure,” Sun said. “When you work at an agency that has so many ambitious individuals, it only makes you push yourself harder. With all of the departments and outlets that we have across the world, you can take your career, and your clients, in whichever direction you want to go,” said Sun.
Though now living on the West Coast, Sun still has fond memories of his time at the College. “What I liked the most about W&M is the community,” said Sun. “The fact that when you walked around, you were sure to know at least one or two faces going from Old Campus to New Campus. And as you get older, and especially as you move further from home, you really cherish those types of things. Oh, and also the Cheese Shop. Bread ends and dip — I definitely miss that out in L.A.”
Sun also credits his time spent at William & Mary in helping to prepare him for his career. “The best thing about being an international relations major was that it allowed me to explore so many subjects across the board, rather than focusing solely on one discipline,” said Sun. “Our professors always challenged us to think. Even if they knew our answers were right, they wanted us to know why our answers were right. And if we were missing the mark, they made us feel comfortable being wrong in a safe environment, and challenged us to get it right.” He says that this mindset he acquired from W&M — to always be learning, take risks and don’t be afraid to fail — is key to working in the entertainment industry.
Sun says that he will continue to push the bar as high as it can go, for himself and his clients. And for anyone who’s interested in pursuing a career in the entertainment industry, Sun has these words of advice: “Be ready to work, be ready to be rejected, be ready to lose. But be willing to get back up, shake it off and ask for more. And if you can do that with a smile on your face, you might make it through.”