The world isn’t getting any less crowded these days, and that fact is best captured this year in Jessica Yu’s documentary feature “Misconception,” in which she details not only the growing world population that threatens the Earth’s resources, but also the underappreciated impact it will have on humanity.
Tell us about yourself. I wish I could use someone else’s words, but here goes: I work in documentary, scripted film, and other media and genres. In terms of docs, I recently directed “Last Call at the Oasis,” a look at the world’s water crisis, and “The Guide,” a documentary short set in Mozambique, which focuses on the human side of environmental sustainability. I was born in NY, grew up in the Bay Area, and live in LA now. I’m Chinese American, fifth-generation – which may explain why I don’t speak Chinese and why my parents were so extraordinarily permissive. My work is pretty eclectic, and I feel lucky about that.
What was your biggest challenge in completing this project? This is a big subject, to say the least. We wanted to approach it through stories as opposed to numbers — and we found such strong ones. Each of the three main stories in the film could be its own feature; it was painful to trim them down so they could live together in one. See how I just anthropomorphized them? That’s how attached to the stories I became. I also learned that the phrase “DVD extra?” is code for “Can we please move along?” But in the end, the goal is to make the film greater than the sum of its parts, and I’m happy with the balance we achieved (my periodic kvetching aside).
What do you have in the works? As the Magic 8 ball says, “Reply Hazy.” I’m excited about some things that are still in the works. But in the immediate future, “The Guide” is being packaged with EO Wilson’s new book, “A Window on Eternity,” due out this month. Both center on Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique. Wilson is a hero of mine (and a character in the documentary), so it’s an honor to be associated with his work.
What camera did you shoot on? We shot on 9 different cameras, not because we necessarily wanted to but because we needed to: we shot in 8 different countries. Sometimes you have to go with what is available on the ground when it’s not practical to bring in equipment.
Did you go to film school? If so, which one? No, learned on the job. Still learning on the job. Sometimes the same lesson repeatedly.
What films have inspired you? This is an impossible question to answer! There are different ones every year.
Indiewire invited Tribeca Film Festival directors to tell us about
their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and
what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up
to the 2014 festival. Go HERE to read all the entries.