J + J (Jess Zou and Jing Shao)
1) How did you get into directing?
We’re into a lot of things. Literature, philosophy, movies, music and photography all had their impact on us. Directing is our expression of these interests and influences. It’s terrific.
2) What is your most recent project?
We are shooting a web viral for Chinese telecom Huawei. The story takes place in a North American city but we’ll be shooting in Guangzhou, China. It ain’t easy.
3) What is the best part of being a director?
Taking something absurd from our mind’s eye and making it reality. Also, people have to listen to you. Sometimes.
4) What is the worst part of being a director?
Going against an instinct and then regretting it later.
5) What is your current career focus: commercials & branded content, TV, movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre?
We are working primarily in commercial and branded content in Asia. In the next year we plan to do more work in the US and abroad while also finishing our first feature scripts. In our commercial work we love to explore and try different genres, styles and formats. In our writing, we tend to be a bit different.
Jess loves family and slice of life films, particularly the coming-of-age genre. Jing likes more crime dramas and psychological thrillers.
6) 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 most with you?
Jing: I don’t have one particular mentor but every time I direct I draw from a mental pool of stories, quotes and lessons. For me, the most important thing to remember is to have my “own angle” of looking at the story then staying true to that angle.
Jess: My grandma, she is really kind. Some of the Magnum photographers. Weegee. To be both spontaneous and decisive.
7) Who is your favorite director and why?
Jing: I like a bunch. Verhoeven, Wong Kar Wai, Kubrick and Refn are up there. I think Kubrick probably influenced me the most and the earliest. He provided me with my, “whoa, this is what movies can be” moment. Recently I’ve been really into Yoann Lemoine aka Woodkid. That guy is a major talent.
Jess: David Lynch. He is the shit.
8) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
Jing: Probably The Thin Red Line. I fell asleep the first 3 times I watched that movie. The 4th time I couldn’t sleep I was so devastated.
Jess: Hard to pick one fav movie...I like Blade Runner, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blue Velvet and Ratcatcher. My favorite commercial is “Swimmer” by Lynn Ramsay. It’s so beautiful.
9) Tell use about your background (i.e. Where did you grow up? Past jobs?) (Response may be up to 50 words)
Jing: Shanghai born, Jersey Raised, New York/LA educated, Shanghai reeducated.
Jess: I grew up in Fujian, China and Shanghai is my second home.