With her background and studies in music, to creative endeavors in filmmaking, dubbing, music, coaching, and mediating in media, Yumi Tanabe Arnaudo has enjoyed an extensive creative production career with notable awards.
Yumi is currently the COO and Head of Production at SYN, an award winning music agency and creative solution – providing music strategy, composition, sound design and sonic branding for advertising, cinema and television.
What’s your origin story?
My family and I moved to Texas when I was very young and it raised a lot of questions about identity. I was teased for being Japanese at times, while being welcomed without prejudice to Cowboy BBQs nights in the mountains.
Just as I was starting to realize my dreams of becoming a 13-year old teen cowgirl was upended when we moved back to Japan. There, I had an identity crisis – and upon my return felt so American in my homeland. I was invited to speak on a radio program about the differences, which sparked an interest in creating media that could really speak to kids.
That dream eventually came true when, many years later, when I launched Nickelodeon Japan heading production as Creative Director/Producer.
Since then, I have been committed to bringing creative content and unfolding stories – from broadcast to films and launching platforms — fortunate to be at the forefront of changes in media that can help connect people and facilitate understanding in many ways.
How did you get into media entertainment?
As mentioned, I knew from a young age that I wanted to give voice to others and bring out stories that I thought should be shared and unfold. But before going to my intuitive creative calling, I thought I needed to give myself real life experience and having come from a father who was in business economics, I took the opportunity to work in a British investment bank for Mergers and Acquisitions.
I quickly came to know the ins and outs from bulk factory operation to the stock market, but I also realized it’s time to take the leap to my passion. The GM at the time thought I was crazy to go into media, and I made a pact that I would return to the company by the age of 30 if I didn’t make it.
I also part timed in back street bars/clubs and was an interpreter/coordinator for broadcasters and concerts in Uni – basically brushing up and absorbing real world situations I hope to channel into my future creative producer/director career.
My first official entertainment industry job was at NHK for the Olympic broadcast production. It was intense, and I was often the only woman in the room, overlooked merely because of my gender.
Give a shout out to your mentors
While I may not have had a formal mentor in the traditional sense, I learned from listening to people from many walks of life…even learned lessons from unlikely places. My big boss then at NHK made a pathway for me, much to the surprise of some of my superiors.
With his recognition and the doors he opened, my career truly began. From then, I was determined to work to exceed his expectations and it reminds me to consider opportunities for other people who are talented but might otherwise be overlooked. To be able to give back, support and empower beyond genders.
While there will be others, what do you consider your biggest achievement to date?
Launching, producing and directing for a kids’ focused channel provided the opportunity to do many interesting things and it is hard to choose just one.
I chaired Promax in Japan, among other incredible opportunities. I worked at Netflix and Shiseido managing operations and creative, and then returned to my passion of filmmaking producing films including the recent Dancing In Her Dreams starring Masaya Kato, which enjoyed a theatrical run in Japan that was extended 11 times!
Now in my role at SYN, I can contribute with my diverse team of experts to expanding the power of music into various fields as music has always been a part of my life from the making to delivering whether it is a vital part of the visual expression as well as merely an enriched musical experience. It’s all a cumulative experience and fortunate to have various interesting opportunities.
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How about your biggest disappointment?
When I have witnessed collective feedback being motivated by petty politics and ego rather than looking closely enough at the truth of the matter. While we advance, information output is at the tip of our fingers aggressively, and I believe it is our challenge to bring attention to equal and open discussions in a more genuine way as a core responsibility.
If being a woman is your superpower, how has it helped you ?
I never attributed this to being a woman – in fact sometimes in Japan I am often seen as a “tomboy” or “avante garde”…people have a hard time putting me in a box.
But perhaps being a woman has given me opportunities to respectfully elicit and coax stories and information from people to help the storytelling process. I’m a producer but I always think about the narrative piece of each project first.
What’s your Kryptonite?
Negativity that aims to disencourage or demean other people.
How did a combination of pandemic, Black Lives Matter and QAnon affect you?
To realize how music made a difference across regions and worlds. With limited access and distance amongst us more than ever, I saw people communicate through music from balconies in Italy, on rooftops of Tokyo to tribute the people working sleeplessly in hospitals, renown artists creating songs together on the net with millions of people… all to embrace and bring messages to become closer, or to understand through the universal language of music.
I was touched and reassured of who we are and the power of music to bring us together no matter our ethnicity, backgrounds or experiences.
What can the industry do better to promote true inclusion?
We should make space to openly talk about issues and solutions and put ego aside as we open ourselves up to honest conversations.
Clubhouse is an app I recently enjoy for ground- breaking global discussions where people seem to really listen and engage…I’m looking forward to opening a room to share colorful discussions for a meaningful cause or even to just chill globally.
If you’re Batwoman, who’s Robin?
My (Japanse-French) son. His cheeky yet unconditional smile reminds me that I can keep going on with a mission: to be a good example and to help make dreams come true with subtle beauty in imperfection.
What’s the engine that pulls you?
A constant passion and curiosity to see, execute and learn more as a dream catcher at the service to output creative content without compromise. There’s always more that needs to be done, but that’s exciting.
Climb in a time machine and tell 15-year-old you something.
When I was 15 my dad left suddenly and my world was turned upside down. I was confused, so I think I would tell my sad soul that this too shall pass and dreams are there to strive for. You can do it, even if it feels impossible.
Creative deep thinking will take you on a fruitful journey/pursuit to enjoy for life no matter what.