Interview – Irene Phan – Senior Vice President of Global Finance and Operations, MBS

Photo of Irene Phan at three quarter angle in front of a gray background, wearing a white blazer and dark cami-top, with shoulder length bobbed hair and a big smile.

I have always said that entertainment is three-legged stool made from the intersection of art, technology, and business. Not every job in entertainment is about creating content or designing technology; some people’s creativity and innovative thinking appears in that third leg – the business aspect.

A case in point is Irene Phan, who honed her experience in finance, operations and sales, added strategic thinking, a growth mindset, and a love of collaboration, to rise to her current senior executive role in one of the fastest growing, most prestigious production support companies in the global industry. Visit MBS to see their worldwide collection of facilities and services.

Not only that, but she has proven her commitment to expanding the role of women in all aspects of filmmaking and supporting women’s professional development in general. She has long been a member of such organizations as Women in Film and Women in Media, as well as recently founding a private networking organization dedicated to advancing senior executive women in management and leadership, Chief.

With Women in Media in particular, Irene has been instrumental in bringing MBS into the partnership that created the Illumination Trainings for women, especially below-the-line, and gives WiM members the opportunity to train with people working at the highest professional levels of the industry in various departments. She is a key part of the sponsorship relationship between MBS and the WiM CAMARAderie program.

I’m so grateful that Irene has taken time from her busy schedule to answer my questions and share her insights into this side of the biz.

  1. What was your first job in entertainment, and how did you get it?

My first job in entertainment was when I was growing up, I was a professional lip sync singer, however I never got paid 😉. My first paying job in entertainment, I was an extra in a TV show. I honestly do not remember the show and I got the job through my agent. 

2. What about your second?

Throughout my career in finance, I’ve always worked with various entertainment companies but mainly through an indirect role as a consultant or advisor. I would say my second job in entertainment where I had a direct role within the business and operations would be for The MBS Group, the current company I am working for now.  The MBS Group is the world’s largest studio advisory and production services company. The company services more than 430 sound stages in North America, the United Kingdom and Ireland and supports more than 450 productions a year.

3. What is the best piece of career advice you were given?

Find a way to be competitive without getting to concerned with comparing your path with your peers. Everyone’s path is different and comparing yourself to others will only cause you to lose focus of where you want to go and what you want to accomplish. I know it is easier said than done, I still compare myself to others and will sometimes remind myself not to.  The key is to have a multi-year plan with specific goals (e.g., what are the steps/credentials/relationships that you need to achieve your long-term goals, what do you want to learn at work, who do you want to work with on special projects, how can you strengthen your personal and professional network).  I’ve come to realize that career success is a combination of preparation, opportunity, and luck.  Two of these; preparation and opportunity are what any individual can control

4. What is the worst?

Stay within your lane. 

5. What advice would you give to someone starting out who wanted to do the kind of work you do?

It is important to see the big picture and understand what others do – take away the blinders. People’s roles and responsibilities and how they do their job will have an impact on yours.  In today’s dynamic work environment, being able to see the interdependencies of different roles, and improving on the interactions between groups/individuals to help “work smarter, more efficiently” will be a key success factor.  It is not about knowing how to do their jobs but how it impacts yours. By knowing, it will only make you a better professional – this applies to any job and career. 

That is one of the guiding principles of the MBS Illumination Training program – helping those entering the industry to understand more about lighting & grip and any jobs that are considered below the line.


I will add that the last round of Illumination Trainings also included my area, the art department – the sessions were so enjoyable!

Thank you Irene!