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Natasha Lee | SHOOT New Directors Showcase Event
Natasha Lee

“In The Visible” (trailer for her short film)

Natasha Lee


What was your first professionally directed work and when was it?
In The Visible, a film that dismantles Asian American stereotypes and the model minority myth through storytelling in the words of the community members themselves. It was filmed and completed in 2020, during the height of the Anti-Asian hate crimes.

How did you get into directing?
I’ve always been a storyteller. When I was a kid, I used to fill blank notebooks with stories and illustrations. However, it wasn’t till much later when I got my first PA job on a commercial set that I saw firsthand what a director did. I fell in love with the short format and noticed that a lot of my favorite music video directors at the time were also photographers. I started experimenting with stills and trying to find my voice that way but my path to directing has been pretty circuitous. After art school, I worked for awhile as a designer/art director for broadcast design studios and then in digital publishing before making the transition to travel, food & lifestyle photographer. I’ve been wanting to tell more immersive stories for awhile and it was during the stillness of the pandemic that I really listened to my inner voice that had been telling me for many years to take my desire to direct seriously.

What is your most recent project?​
In Transit, a short depicting the quiet moments and joys of travel. It is about time spent in between, the percolating of thoughts during transit and the stir of ideas and concepts that appear out of nowhere, days or years after a trip taken.

What is the best part of being a director?
I genuinely love the entire filmmaking process from beginning to end–I love beginning with the seed of an idea…whether a concept, feeling, boards, or a script. Then digging deep and imagining what is possible…letting curiosity lead the way. I love getting into the reality of production and casting and getting to collaborate with a talented team of creatives to bring the idea to life.

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.?
As a director and photographer, my current career focus is finding my place in the commercial and branded content world, telling experiential stories that transcend culture and place. I’m interested in stories that inspire a new perspective on the world, seeing through another person’s eyes–whether it’s through exploring a new place, experiencing a new taste, having an unexpected interaction. I’m excited to bring my photography background to the table and immerse myself in campaigns where I can take on both roles. I’d also like for the projects I work on to continue to bring more diversity and representation to the commercial world, both behind and in front of the camera.

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?
Commercial director Jordan Brady has been very supportive of my pursuit of directing while also demystifying a lot the workings behind building a directing career. His emphasis on the craft and process behind filmmaking is one of the lessons that resonates with me the most.

Who is your favorite director and why?
There are a handful of directors I feel are masters of creating mood and place…who are able to make a setting feel like character in their films- like Sofia Coppola with Tokyo in Lost in Translation, Wong Kar Wai with Hong Kong, especially in Chungking Express, and Alfonso Cuarón with Mexico City in Roma. With all these films, the heartbeat and energy of a place is such an indelible part of the story and characters.

What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
Lost in Translation is one of my all time favorites. I love that Sofia Coppola lets both the quiet and comedic moments unfold on their own time and how she’s able to communicate so much with so little dialogue.

Lately, a series I’m still thinking about is White Lotus. I loved how Mike White made a place that’s known as a tropical paradise feel so ominous. He pulled off such sharp commentary about current society in a wildly entertaining way. And the sound design was killer!

Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I grew up in Penang, Malaysia, a small island with a big food culture. Growing up, my parents spent many weekends seeking out undiscovered hawker stalls who were rumored to be the best at a particular specialty. We immigrated to California when I was 9 and I found solace in art–mostly drawing and painting–while trying to navigate my new surroundings in a Bay Area elementary school.

Since the move, we fly back often to visit family and splitting my time between east and west for the last few decades has cultivated my love for travel and culinary storytelling. I’m always curious. I’m always looking for the nuance. I’m deeply empathetic to any person or group perceived as outsiders and have become adept at adapting to new environments and moving between various cultures.


Unaffiliated: Contact Natasha Lee via email