Kepler X-47

Erin Li

1) How did you get into directing?
Growing up, I had always wanted to be an artist, to create. There were many forks in the road where I could’ve chosen the arts, but instead took what I believed to be a more practical route. For instance, choosing a major in college. I decided on business administration, and minored in drama at Carnegie Mellon.

At CMU, I took a TV production class. For the first time in my life, I stepped foot onto a set. I instantly caught the filmmaking bug. After graduation, I accepted a finance job in New York, but eventually decided to follow my passion for directing and moved to Los Angeles. I haven’t looked back since.

2) What is your most recent project?
I recently directed Kepler X-47, a sci-fi short film about a woman who is forced to adjust to a new life in a human zoo exhibit on an alien planet.

All in all, it’s been received well, and has screened at many showcases and festivals, including LACMA Young Directors Night, American Cinematheque, Sci-Fi London, etc. My co-writer and I are currently adapting Kepler X-47 into a feature film.

3) What is the best part of being a director?
The process itself—it’s a privilege being able to do creative work and collaborate with talented artists. I can’t imagine anything more fun or rewarding.

Seeing what you visualized and imagined come to life - first on the page, then on set, then on the screen.
Eliciting emotional responses from audience members. Telling stories, entertaining people and transporting them to another world.

5) What is your current career focus: commercials & branded content, TV, movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre—comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.?
Commercials and branded content—drama and visual storytelling. Next up is a commercial that I’ll be directing this summer—the client is an online retail company that makes bespoke suits for men.

I’m also developing two feature films to direct—one is sci-fi, the other is drama. I’d love to get my hands on a horror film as well.

7) Who is your favorite director and why?
Stanley Kubrick—he’s worked in a variety of genres. Kubrick’s visuals, sound design, themes are powerful, and his films evoke a visceral response.

8) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
Some favorite films: 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining, In the Mood for Love, Before Night Falls, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Some favorite commercials:  Canal+, “The Bear”; Levi’s, “Go Forth”; Channel 4, “Meet the Superhumans”; Philips, “Carousel”;  Volvo, “Epic Split.”

9) Tell us about your background (i.e. where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
My parents immigrated from Taiwan. I grew up in the malls of New Jersey.

Some past jobs: grocery bagger, Dunkin’ Donuts cashier, YMCA basketball and floor hockey coach, graphic design intern. After college, a financial analyst in New York and Hong Kong.

After moving to LA, I interned at a couple of production companies, then assisted a documentary director and built a niche in the doc world. I recently co-produced HBO’s feature documentary, Tales of the Grim Sleeper, directed by Nick Broomfield.

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