WHAT DO YOU DO?
Narrative is my one true love as I love working with actors, and telling stories in significant ways. I also am a photographer and musician.
WHAT STEPS DID YOU TAKE TO GET TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW?
I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker when I started understanding myself as a multi-disciplinary artist. This didn’t really happen until college, because until then, I never knew I was a creator. I grew up as a Taiwanese American in suburbia where most of my friends were either involved with Asian gangs or on the contrast, extremely focused on school academics. I was taught to study hard and work hard on a relatively straightforward path. Of course I had artistic ventures; I was involved with theater and photography since middle school, and I was also a musician, but those were things I did for fun, not take seriously.
At my undergraduate program at University of California, San Diego, I gained a deep appreciation for film theory and history, as the media program valued theoretical criticism, creativity, and intelligence over technical specialization. I distinctly remember in a film history class analyzing the composition and cultural meaning of “The Birth of a Nation” by D.W. Griffith frame by frame. It was then that I realized the incredible impact and responsibility film has on society and culture. My fascination with film, media, and the art of storytelling led me to devour a range of classes from photography, acting, playwriting, French New Wave cinema, and portrayals of ethnicity in American history. As I experimented with my own avant-garde projects, I began to see that I possibly had a voice as an Asian American female filmmaker, with my own perspective.
Without any professional experience, I was given an opportunity to go to Cairo, Egypt, for six weeks to film a documentary on Sudanese refugees in 2006. I jumped at the chance, saving money from my part-time job to purchase a Sony HDV camera and lugging it around in a large duffle bag. I made a strong connection with the Sudanese community, drinking in their resilience and ability to be joyful even in the midst of being displaced. I came back to the U.S. with my passion to tell stories about the marginalized fully fueled. The experiences from that project will stay with me for the rest of my life.
I eventually went to Art Center College of Design’s graduate film program and gained more practical experience. I moved to New York City after and began working from the ground up starting as an intern, earning a living as a Casting Director, Line Producer, and Post-Producer while still directing my own passion projects.
How do you stand out in your field?
In my film work, I am committed to bring a voice to women, the under-represented, and strongly believe in contributing to the Asian American community. I also love bringing new, fresh ideas come to life visually, and enjoy working with all mediums, from Super 8mm to high end digital cinema cameras. I like to be involved in all aspects of production to ensure the end product has a focused vision. I’m really into music and cinematography and sound design and production design and makeup and hair and… can you see where I’m going with this? Literally I like to collaborate with every department so we’re all on the same page.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?
As 1 of 8 women in the AFI Directing Workshop for Women this year, I am directing a very personal, exciting short film called HELLO FROM TAIWAN in July 2019. The film is a poetic drama about a Taiwanese American family who struggles to reunite across cultural and language barriers. It is set in the late 1980s and told from a child’s perspective.
WHAT'S YOUR STYLE/PERSPECTIVE/TASTE? DO YOU HAVE A PROJECT THAT REPRESENTS THIS?
I think my style is poetic and dramatic, but I also like to be playful, whimsical, and theatrical as well. I’m interested in creating cinematic, feminine, and story-driven work, finding surreal moments in authentic situations. I think it’s important to be especially thoughtful when it comes to concepts and forming the message of what a spot gets across.
As for a project that represents my taste, I'm not sure I have one that hits all the marks because every one of them has a direct focus in terms of tone and style.
WE ALL HAVE MULTIPLE SKILLS OR WORK IN VARIOUS INDUSTRIES, WHICH ONE DO YOU WISH YOU COULD FOCUS ON MORE?
Simply directing! Sometimes I end up producing, or half producing my own projects. I would really love to focus solely on the job to do the best I can creatively for the best result of the project. The DREAM.
WHAT IS FRUSTRATING YOU RIGHT NOW?
I tend to over-organize. My practical / responsible side can sometimes get in the way of my creative side. I end up doing a lot of admin work and don't allow myself the creative freedom I want to have in order to keep making work that is true to me.
IF YOU COULD HIRE SOMEONE FOR $20/HR, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE THEM DO TO MAKE YOUR DAY EASIER?
I'd have them draft my emails, scan my paperwork, take care of day-to-day scheduling, make me lunch and smoothies, and also handle all of my social media. I know, that's a lot for $20/hour. Haha!
LET'S BRING OUT THE TIME MACHINE. WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU COULD HAVE TOLD YOURSELF, WHEN, AND WHY?
So much. Don't listen to that bully, don't let sexism get to you, and stay focused on the art-making at hand. At all points in my career.
IF YOU COULD TALK TO AN EXPERT TO GAIN MORE INSIGHT ON SOMETHING, WHAT WOULD IT BE ABOUT?
Financial advising and investments.
WHAT KIND OF OPPORTUNITIES/PROJECTS ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?
I'm interested in finding solid commercial and narrative representation and management.
I'm looking for projects that are about inclusivity and bringing visibility to the overlooked. I'm also about environmental and social causes. I’m excited to work with creative teams with a strong level of support.
DESCRIBE YOUR IDEAL JOB/CLIENT/COLLABORATION.
There’s a lot of subjects that interest me so it’s difficult to nail this down, but I was thinking a good example of a commercial project I’m dreaming to work on is a cool car spot (think electric car) that is feminine and geared towards women who care about being greener environmentally but also stylish. The copywriters and creative director really have a strong vision to make the concept subtle but also appealing to progressive women of the future.
Another ideal job collaboration is to direct the feature film I’m writing with an awesome cast and crew of diverse backgrounds. I’m super excited about this project and really want to make this happen!
WHAT IS YOUR HOURLY RATE, RETAINER, OR SALARY RANGE?
It does depend on the project and the needs. I’m relatively flexible, especially if the content is something I care about. It is important that the client knows that I have to hire or bring on a team, and rent equipment when it comes to video work. Sometimes they expect me to execute an entire project solo and think the budget is enough. If that’s the case they have to consider that I need a larger budget in addition to my day rate.
WHO IS A CREATIVE THAT HAS HELPED YOU ELEVATE YOUR WORK?
I don’t know how to write this list because in the film industry I know so many amazing people in different departments and capacities that everyone should hire. So contact me and I’d be happy to send along recs for the specific person you need!
HOW SHOULD SOMEONE APPROACH YOU ABOUT WORKING TOGETHER?
I welcome emails, texts, phone calls with any details you can share!
HOW DO YOU STAY CREATIVE?
Surf, enjoy nature, surround yourself with good energy.
This member profile was originally published in March 2019.