By Kristi Alexandra
By all outward appearances, Brenda Wong is a lady. Poised, professional, and well-manicured, Wong shows up to our meeting a half hour early ready to talk to business. She’s gracious when I apologize for being late.
Make no mistake: under her polished exterior, Wong is a bad ass boss who has no qualms about using expletives in ordinary conversation – and she’s been on the receiving end of skinned knees and bruised body parts as a stunt double turned talent agent in Vancouver.
Her most recent credits include being a production assistant on the set of Warcraft, in which she helped out stunt coordinators using her background in stunting.
For those who haven’t been anywhere near a screen in the past 20 years, the film is a takeoff from the online computer game franchise World of Warcraft, which rose to fame in 1994.
“It’s considered a kid’s movie because you can’t [swear] in it,” Wong says, cavalierly. Though the flick is action-packed and the number of stunt doubles is an indicator of its level of combat, language is the ultimate barometer of what distinguishes a PG-13 movie from an R-rated one.
But let’s rewind to the beginning of Wong’s career—and how it turned into her managing others’ through her agencies, Modelco Vancouver Management Ltd. and MVM Talent.
“I used to introduce the Tom Jones show,” Wong reveals. “All I had to do was say, ‘This is the Tom Jones show,’ and they gave me a bag of money for it. I thought, ‘This is way better than babysitting!’”
While her peers were etching out some extra cash minding younger kids or doing paper routes, Wong got infront of the camera for a few minutes and earned considerably more.
“I was really a shitty actor,” she admits with a laugh.
“I never was good infront of the camera, but I liked racing cars and spinning out bikes and I knew some hand-to-hand combat and firearms and I was PADI-certified to scuba. I happened to have some skills that the stunt community was attracted to… I ended up falling down and getting up for living for a little while.”
A stunt coordinator by the name of John Scott hired her for a fight scene for a “movie of the week,” and liked that Wong was “safe” rather than a dare devil.
After her first day of stunting, Wong received a cheque for $2,500. Then she earned a few more days, and the pile of money grew.
“Before you know it, I was getting more and more days and it became a great way to sock money away,” she says. “I got that break in the business, but [Scott] told me ‘that water-flow of money isn’t going to last forever.’”
Enter Wong’s quick improvisational skills to becoming a talent agent, and building her own business from the ground up: Modelco Vancouver Management Ltd. and MVM Talent.
“I had an opportunity to be an agent and I took it. I started with a modelling agency and I built a talent agency to a multimillion dollar level. At that point, I went off on my own and launched my own business, which is the best thing I ever did because it was probably the best money I ever made,” she says, explaining her business lived through a couple economic downturns and the writer’s strike of 2007/08.
Through her companies, the latter of which she co-runs with talent agent TJ Lim, she manages budding and seasoned professionals from runway and plus-size models to character actors and, of course, stunt doubles.
“We do have a number of a stunt performers because of my personal background in stunts, so there’s a level of confidence there because they’ll know I’ll take care of them and I won’t miss anything,” she declares.
Her imparting advice to young women who want to act, stunt or model? Be smart about it.
“If you’re smart, you can grab the money from modelling, stick it in the bank and save it, come home and go to school. School’s always going to be there.”
And when that time comes, Wong and co. are on the ready to help with what comes next in the talent’s career.
“We’re very interested in management of a career. We don’t want to just roster you, book you for a job, spit you out and take your commission. We have long-term relationships with everybody on the roster.”
Along with managing her two businesses, Wong is one in a group of people lobbying for a stunt category at the Academy Awards, “for such a huge component in every feature film that we produce in our world.”
To find out more about Modelco Vancouver Management of MVM Talent, visit their website here.
Kristi Alexandra is an unabashed wino and wannabe musician. Her talents include drinking an entire bottle of cabernet sauvignon, singing in the bathtub, and falling asleep.