Who is SKO?
Hi. My name is Stephen Ko and I am a creative director, cinematographer, and editor. I love to tell visual stories that entertain, educate, and inspire others. At this point of my life, I made it my goal to film and experience life as much as I can, while capturing big and small moments that I can share with everyone. If you're curious about the path that lead me here, please keep reading!
I was born and raised in the great state of New Jersey. Exciting, right? My parents are from Taiwan, and they moved to the United States when my dad was getting his masters in computer science. After graduating, my parents worked full-time, 9-5 jobs taking care of me and my sister. It was pretty much living the suburban American dream.
As I'm sure many of my Asian-American brethren understand, growing up Asian certainly has its pros and cons. I was a very stereotypical Asian kid. Shy, quiet, and studied impossibly hard. I very much had the mindset that the only way to live a good life was to go to a good school, get a high-paying job, and eventually raise a family. Although there is certainly nothing wrong with that lifestyle, I didn't realize how much LIFE I would be missing out on pursuing this route. Anyways, right on schedule, college came around and guess what I was studying? Drugs! I mean, medicine! That right, I was going to become a doctor (a pharmacist more specifically).
So how did college life treat me? Well I definitely wasn't a crazy party animal, that's for sure. Being an over-achiever in a super competitive program meant I studied for an insane amount of time. Between the countless exams, all-nighters, and work, I did discover something I never knew about myself. I loved to make videos. It all started my sophomore year, when I came across this video contest sponsored by Samsung to win a tablet. I decided to give it a shot and made this stupid/silly video with windows movie maker. Somehow, I actually won the contest and it was the most fun I ever had making a little bit of money. I started to look into other video contests and I realized there are actually a lot of very lucrative ones going on all the time. So every time I had a break or holiday from school, I would try to enter a video contest. Sometimes I'd win and sometimes I'd lose, but it didn't really matter because I enjoyed making these videos. With each video, my skills improved, and I started to win more and more. This little hobby of mine became pretty self-sufficient. As much as I loved making videos, I just didn't have the cojones to just drop my major and pursue filmmaking. So, I persevered through my program and at the tender age of 24, I was finally able to call myself a doctor.
Before entering the big boy job, I had a chance to travel to Taiwan with my family. At the time, the Taiwan Tourism Bureau, was hosting a video contest where the winner can receive a round-the-world airfare ticket. All you had to do to win, was make a video about traveling in Taiwan. Prior to this, the only places I have been outside the United States were Canada and Taiwan, so I definitely wasn't considered a well-traveled individual. I haven't even really thought about travel a lot because I was so focused on school. Learning about the contest, I started to research the prospect of traveling the world. I read and watched countless blogs and vlogs about traveling and became very inspired (some of my favorites: Nomadic Matt, Psycho Traveler, Fun for Louis, Devinsupertramp). So I decided to enter the contest. I hiked Teapot Mountain, explored the magical town of Jiufen, and explored the city of Taipei on foot, all while capturing it on camera. In the end, I came up with this video. Unfortunately I did not take home the grand prize (I was top 10 though), but the travel bug did claw its way into my soul.
So the fun was over and it was time for the real world right? That's what I thought too, so I went home and started my new job. Work was okay for awhile but it just wasn't what I was most passionate about. As I worked these long hours (definitely more than the so-called 9-5 jobs), I started to have several reoccurring thoughts. If works makes up about 1/3 of your adult life, shouldn't I be doing something that I love? What was I working so hard for if I wasn't doing what I wanted to do? I remember reading several articles online about what people regret most at the end of their lives. In most of these lists, I'd come across these 3 things: I wish I worked less, I wish I traveled more, I wish I pursued my passion. So I decided I would start saving up and actively pursue what I believed in. The saving up part actually came a lot quicker than I expected, thanks to this video contest. I remember I used a week of my precious vacation days to enter this contest, but it all paid off as I won the GRAND PRIZE ($10,000). Needless to say, my confidence in myself and my abilities was at an all time high, and I truly believed I could achieve whatever I set my mind to. Shortly afterwards, I threw in the towel and quit my job.
Today, I've been creating videos full-time for over 10 years, and traveling whenever I can. I've been able to work with some amazing brands, creating content I never thought I'd be able to make. I believe everyone owes it to themselves to see where their passion can lead them, so I'm taking the first step. There's so much to see in this world, and I want to take you with me on this journey.