Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Interview with Justin Lee, Asian American Film Lab's New Shootout Coordinator

Today's interview is with Justin Lee. Justin is Asian American Film Lab's new Shootout Coordinator. Justin joins AA Film Lab at an exciting time. AA Film Lab just had the Asians on Film Festival in Los Angeles, which is the first event that it's had in LA. Justin Samuels: What has interested you in working with AA Film Lab?

Justin Lee: I wanted to be around independent filmmakers. I wanted to be around more people like myself, people who are all making sacrifices to be around what they love. That was my initial interest. However, after talking to lovely Jennifer (board member); she made me realize the wider spectrum of the 72-hour shootout. For example, I get to come up with the theme! JS: Have you yourself dealt with the lack of diversity in the media?

JL:Yes. I work at a advertising production company- and the lack of diversity in the whole industry is astounding. Not that it’s on purpose or inherent- it just is. I think it’s backlash from not having more diversity when filmmaking was just coming out, but I’m sure a film historian could tell you more about that.

The lack of diversity isn’t just racial, it’s everything. Their promoting a certain shape: chiseled chin, dark brows, tall, skinny, ripped, big breasts...etc. If you don’t meet the criteria (I certainly don’t), people tend to pay more attention those who do. It makes who you are as an individual, what makes you interesting & good- irrelevant.

I think due to the lack of diversity, people lump minority groups together and stereotype them according to what they see. I deal with the lack of diversity in the media every time someone calls me Jeremy Lin, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Bruce Lee...etc. I want to be defined by me, not by some middle age white guy sitting in some Hollywood exec office saying “This Kung-fu movie is going to be great!”

JS: How do you think the film, tv, and commercial/advertising media can be diversified?

JL: I was attending a panel where Spike Lee mentioned how films got green-lit. He brought up the film Soul Plane, a movie considered hurtful to Black America. It’s a film that basically reinforces black stereotypes.

I remember Spike Lee reeling about how there was probably no black person in that conference room when they decided to make the film. No one in that position of power who can say “Hold on a second, this movie is about what?!”.

We need more diversity among positions of power and influence. We need someone in that conference room saying “You know what? That’s pretty racist. No.”

JS: What can you tell us about the 2014 72 Hour Shootout? Where are the films screened or shown?

JL: The screenings are usually run through Asian American International, and a theatre will be provided to the shootout as time gets closer.

I can tell you that I’m super excited for it! I’m a big advocate for individuality and visual expression. I can tell you that we’ll probably see some form of those two as the 10th annual theme for the shootout.

JS: What does the Shootout Coordinator do?

JL: I think the most exciting thing about being the shootout coordinator is how much of our personality/work can be put into each shootout. We get to come up with a theme, a promotional video, do interviews, and basically represent each years shootout.

Usually when I coordinate it’s to support the producer. A lot of bookings, budgets, and a logistics (Which I will also be doing for the shootout). It’s kind of refreshing to be able to put some of my personality into this job.

JS: Have you ever worked with a non profit film organization before?

JL: Yes! I volunteered for the Asian American Film Festival back in 2011- but I think that’s it.

JS: Do you have any additional work planned with AA Film Lab?

JL:I really hope so, but you should get back to me at the end of the shootout!

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