Minding The Gap
1) What was your first professionally directed work and when was it?
Both Minding the Gap, my feature directorial debut, and America to Me, which I was a segment director on, premiered at Sundance Film Festival 2018.
2) How did you get into directing?
I started making my own films as a teenager and kept doing so as I worked behind the camera the past 10 years. In 2015 Steve James hired me to be a segment director on his 10-hour miniseries, America To Me.
3) What is your most recent project?
Minding the Gap is still in the festival circuit. My newest documentary, about how memory is accessed when its buried underneath trauma as it pertains to young men who’ve experienced gun violence in Chicago, is in development.
4) What is the best part of being a director?
Being able to have a voice—when I was growing up the stories I craved weren’t being told, so I began telling them myself.
5) What is the worst part of being a director?
Probably the stilted idea of the word “director” itself—I think in many ways we’re just glorified entertainers, ha!
6) What is your current career focus: commercials and branded content, TV movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre—comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.?
I’m focusing on making more movies and building a commercial reel. I am drawn to the themes of coming-of-age, race, class, middle America, masculinity, and trauma—which were all explored in Minding the Gap but leave a lot of room to go deeper.
7) Have you a mentor and if so, who is that person (or persons) and what has been the lesson learned from that mentoring which resonates with you?
To name a few: Thomas Ciciura, Gordon Quinn, and Steve James. Thomas gave me my first film job 10 years ago and taught me that true mentors in this business are hard to come by, so to soak it in if possible. Gordon introduced me to documentary storytelling in more ways than I can name. Steve took a chance on me hiring me for his miniseries; he later told me that if I remain humble and keep taking storytelling risks, I’ll do fine as a filmmaker.
8) Who is your favorite director and why?
Probably Harmony Korine and Richard Linklater. Harmony told stories that felt more real, true, and close-to-home than any others I’d seen growing up. Richard was able to tell stories that asked bigger questions of its audiences.
9) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
Waking Life; The Office; pretty much anything Spike Jonze has done.
10) Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I moved from China to Alabama to California to Illinois before I was 8-years-old. I majored in English at University of Illinois in Chicago, where I graduated Magna Cum Laude. I began my career as a grip before joining the International Cinematographers Union and worked on TV shows and films for many years. In my free time I like to hang out with friends, skateboard, and go the movie theater.
Loretta Jeneski, Nonfiction Unlimited
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