Jing Ai Ng


1) What was your first professionally directed work and when was it? 

My first professionally directed work was a 30 second fashion spot in Malaysia.

2) How did you get into directing? 

I’ve always been interested in storytelling, but I came to directing late. For the longest time, I thought I would be a novelist because I write obsessively; I was always a film fan and spent a lot of time daydreaming about movies as a kid, but since I lacked exposure to the industry I didn’t even entertain the possibility of being a director. I really only discovered directing my sophomore year in college while helping a friend make a video, and there was no going back. It just felt like this missing puzzle piece since I’ve always been a visual thinker; I could make the stories in my head a reality, and I find that so fulfilling.

3) What is your most recent project? 

I directed my most recent short film last month, and we’re currently in post. Can’t wait to share this one.

4) What is the best part of being a director?

Beyond getting to tell stories and letting my imagination run wild, I am in love with the craft of directing - the process. I’m a naturally curious person, and the craft of directing is this immense thing that I will always be learning about; I love how it’s always changing. Finding your directing process is this extremely personal journey. There are no rules. It asks for not only your own creativity, but for empathy, an openness to collaboration and finally, there are so many times you’re forced to examine the painful parts of life. I really find my joy in the process of it all.

5) What is the worst part of being a director? 

I’m notoriously bad at watching my past work once it’s completed... It’s an incredibly visceral reaction that I have. Nothing feels more stressful. I have love for my projects, but being in a situation where I’m forced to watch my own work is a personal form of torture! I do it, but I like to say I’m allergic to it.

6) What is your current career focus: commercials and branded content, television, movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre--comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.? 

I have a focus on narrative storytelling (movies and television), and I love telling stories about crime and friendship. I’m not tied to any genre; I really admire directors who can jump between genres while retaining their voice. I’m currently developing my first feature, but I’m also looking to direct commercials and music videos in the U.S. I love directing and want to do it all the time.

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? 

I don’t have a single mentor, but I’ve had great teachers at the AFI Conservatory (where I studied directing) and was extremely lucky with finding my friends when I moved out to LA. I was young when I met my best friends, and they had been working in the industry for a while, so I’ve always had them to look up to for the longest time - ever since I started directing. They’re all uniquely talented. They’ve encouraged me and motivated me- and shown me the value of dedication, persistence, and finally, patience. Always, patience.

8) Who is your favorite director and why? 

Just one? I love so many directors, and I love to love them. My favorite directors when I was growing up were Alfonso Cuaron and Bong Joon Ho. I got emotional when Bong won the Oscar this year. But… the truth is I don’t have one favorite director. If I had to choose a few other directors working today, I would say Denis Villeneuve, David Fincher, and Christopher Nolan. I enjoy the craft in all of their movies, but most of all the personal touches… Of course, those are all quite recent directors. If we were to go any further back, I don’t know how I would choose...

9) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content? 

Don’t ask me to pick! Martin Scorsese’s and Terrence Malick’s films had a large impact on me growing up, particularly Goodfellas and Thin Red Line. I also really loved Bong’s Memories of Murder. I constantly rewatch The Social Network. On television recently I loved Succession, Watchmen and I May Destroy You. I grew up with The Sopranos and binged Euphoria and Narcos.

My favorite branded content is actually a student spec made by Dorian & Daniel--“Dear Brother” for Jack Daniels. It made me tear up.

10) Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?) 

I grew up between Kuala Lumpur and Miami. Mostly KL, as part of a large Chinese-Malaysian family. KL’s the kind of city where nothing works like it’s supposed to, but life still continues. I’ll never forget learning to drive on a “six-lane highway” with no lane lines. It was absolute chaos and I love it… Miami can be that way as well.

I wrote - and write - every day, so I thought that I would be a novelist and pursued that when I permanently moved to the US for boarding school. I wanted to be a writer for a really long time before working in film. I moved out to LA, worked on sets and studied directing at the AFI Conservatory, where I graduated from in December 2019. I won a Directors Guild of America Student Film Award for my film, Fleck, and most recently, it was shortlisted in the best short film category at the 2020 Cannes Lion Young Director Awards. Now, I’m in postproduction on my most recent short and am developing my first feature.

11) How has the pandemic impacted your career, art, craft, shaped your attitudes and reflections on life which in turn may influence your work, approach, spirit, mindset?

The pandemic has been tough on everyone, and I’m honestly relieved thinking about how productive I’ve managed to be despite the challenges. I’ve written a few scripts and directed a new short. Who knows what the next year will look like? I think it’s really reinforced my belief in patience and also made me think more carefully about my work; I want to make sure I’m doing everything for the right reasons. I’m just really thankful that I have such great collaborators, even during a pandemic.


Contact Jing Ai Ng via email