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[Interview] Korean-American Actress Jennivere Song Lee

2013/01/20 | 1111 views |  | Permalink | Source

Born in Queens to Korean parents, Jennivere is a first generation Korean American. From an early age, Jennivere had a strong passion for the arts. She took tap, jazz and ballet classes throughout her childhood as in addition to playing piano and making costumes for church plays. As soon as she was of legal age, Jennivere worked two jobs after school. She worked weekdays after school at an ice cream bakery and as an orthodontist assistant on the weekends.

When she was 16, her mother enrolled her in fashion design classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Noticing Jennivere's restlessness, her English teacher recommended she take a drama class. Jennivere enjoyed the class but never considered pursuing it as a career, since it was rare to see Asian actors on television. Upon graduation from high school, she took a break to work, travel, write and soul search. After a year, she attended the Fashion Institute of Technology as a Fashion Design major. While at FIT, she learned of her more fulfilling first love - writing. After taking another break from her studies to work and experience life, she became a personal fitness trainer, a real estate agent, waitress, personal assistant, photographic model, artist model and even a street canvasser for Greenpeace during a very cold winter! She feels that her life experiences add enrichment and fuel her need to experience even more life has to offer.

During a period when she felt lost and confused about the direction her life was taking, she met an actor who encouraged her to give acting a try. He introduced her to several acting techniques and books. With her new love of acting, she trained at the Lee Strasberg Film and Theater Institute in New York City. After studying at Lee Strasberg in 2008, she began going on auditions and has since appeared in music videos, webisodes, a film for the Asian American Film Lab's 72 hour shootout, student films, short films, indie films and comedy pilots.

Jennivere has also been given the title of "Miss Photogenic USA" by the Miss Photogenic of the World 2011 pageant in London, U.K.

Her latest project is the film "Happy Hollowdays", a contemporary verse~script which has been in the works for several years. The cast is awesome - Amy Chang, Walter Masterson, Ann Marie Yoo, Jake Kim Choi, Jennivere Song Lee and Asian actors who have been working for years in the US Film industry such as Geoff Lee and IJ Shin.

ASIANCE: Jennivere, it is a pleasure to meet you. When you were young what did you want to be when you grew up?

Jennivere: Pleasure meeting you also, it sounds ridiculous but I wanted to be like Jem the rocker / fashion designer from the cartoon Jem and the holograms for a a few years. I even dyed my hair fuschia hot pink when I was 14 and maintained the look for a few years (this was a lot of work! bleaching my black roots every week and waiting for manic panic to absorb) and I dressed almost as outrageously as the characters on the show. I knew I wanted to be some sort of artist. I was really into art- painting, sketching, designing and making clothes. I remember staying up all night sometimes just writing poetry and 11 page letters to my penpals and best friend. At one point I decided I wanted to experience as much of life as possible and didn't have any aspirations besides wanting to be a poet/hobo. Now that I'm grown up, I'm pursuing my dreams. After we launch the indiegogo campaign for my film Happy Hollowdays, I'll be working on recording songs from my collection of poetry with a few musicians. I'm also available for freelance modeling and if you're a casting director or film maker please contact me if you'd like to cast me in your projects.

I was bitten by the acting bug not too long ago. I started going on auditions and castings in 2009 so its been about 3 years. At Lee Strasberg, we did some theater work, Stop Kiss by Diana Son and ...marigolds by Paul Zindel. There aren't too many roles for Asian Americans out there but as Asian Americans are one of the fastest growing populations in the U.S and watch just as much television as other ethnic groups. I'm hoping there will be TV shows, sitcoms, talk shows focused on the lives of Asian Americans. Many years ago, African Americans didn't have shows like The Cosby Show, Amos N Andy, Family Matters or The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. It would be great if Asian Americans had as many TV shows centered around an Asian people- an Asian American family, a sit-com about Asian Teenagers or professionals.

I'm hoping that with this short feature length version of Happy Hollowdays and the fundraising campaign on indiegogo we can attract the attention of a producer who gets where we are coming from and will see the cinematic potential of modern Asian American films in the US. "The diaspora of cinematic creativity happening in the states is fascinating" - Korean Film Biz. It would also be great if there were more roles out there for us right now.

ASIANCE: What is it you enjoy about acting?

I love writing, yet all the job interviews I've been to require writing about things that don't really excite me or give me the profound sense of satisfaction that comes with creating characters with depth. The human condition, people, love, family, life, friendship, stories that make people think and feel and understand why people do the things they do is what I love about writing. Writing about celebrities or pop culture or even the news doesn't tickle my fancy very much. Writing and acting are similar in that with both art forms you are portraying a character for the reader/viewer to understand.

ASIANCE: You have the female lead role in the film, "Sucker" which is presently in post production. Can you tell us a little about the character you play and the film? When can we expect it to be released?

Jennivere: 'Sucker' is a cool indie film written by Cory Gardner and Anthony Pallino and directed by their childhood friend Eddie Blumenthal. I play Scarlet, the love interest and ex girlfriend of Anthony Pallino's John and current girlfriend of "Mr Right" Tyger Barros' Guy. I really loved working with all of them. Cory is a visual multimedia and recording artist and writer. Eddie studied film and directing and Anthony is a dedicated actor and acting student at Weiss Barron. Tyger also studied acting and did theater in college. I really wish my childhood friends pursued their artistic dreams the way they have. I'd be a lot more prolific if I had a team of trusted friends I grew up with to make films with me on a regular basis.

We are post production at the moment and will enter it into film festivals very soon! I recently was also in a few scenes in a film called "Simple Moves" which was written, co-directed and starring Pau Maso. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2215515/ A psychological thriller centered on the life of a Russian boy who, after losing his family, tries to come to terms with who he thinks he is.

ASIANCE: What is the meaning behind the title of your latest project, "Happy Hollowdays"?

Jennivere: A Korean American family during the holidays. A play on words - "Happy Hollow (empty) days" as opposed to feeling fulfillment (Full of love, success, joy, achievement) with one self at the end of their lives. One of the main themes of the story is that "life isn't worth living without dreams" but the story has several themes, perspectives, ideas, characters and plots intertwined, so it's definitely a film the whole family will enjoy, highschool-ers, college students, 20 somethings, 30 somethings, mothers, fathers and grandparents. It would be a tear jerking date night flick for couples or a cool film to watch with your sisters, girlfriend or boyfriend and I think film buffs and music lovers will also enjoy it thoroughly.

There are some films I can watch over and over and over again and enjoy it just as much as the first time I saw it. Films like Trainspotting, Gone with the Wind, Girl on the Bridge, Romeo and Juliet, Breakfast at Tiffany's or films by Gus Van Sant, Aaronofsky, Lars Von Trier. I can watch a Scorsese film twice a year and still enjoy it.

ASIANCE: You play one of three sisters, Sanguine. How would you best describe your character?

Jennivere: Sanguine is a 20 something fashion design student/writer who does not know who she is and who she needs to please in order for her to be loved by her parents, family, her boyfriend, her friends ... then during the film she decides that for her the "the perfect life is you" (this is a line from a song of mine which will be on the soundtrack) - as if to say "It's up to you to decide who you are. You can't constantly shape yourself to please other people".... Sanguine is meant to appeal to the average young woman...it's a common theme in literature - finding yourself, hence the term "soul searching" whether it be finding what it is that makes you happy which may not be what your parents want you to be or who your current boyfriend wants you to be. For many Asian American females from My Generation this is usually being a model minority throughout their entire lives then becoming a Doctor or a Lawyer or what have you and getting married and settling down and having children - like they taught us at school - the immigrant's idea of the "American dream". Not that there is anything wrong with that but I think a lot of Asian Americans will be able to relate to this sentiment. One of the greatest challenges of life is about finding out what makes you happy, what you love or who you want to love, what you want your life's work to be, what you want to believe, finding your own sense of style instead of following fashions fads, just accepting yourself. It sounds cliche, but when you watch the entire film I think it will make perfect sense. It's a contemporary verse~script with a great soundtrack. Valentin Leonat's soulful psychedelic guitars, Gasim Aliev's electric violin, Korean recording artists Seouless and Blue Dream, El Hotel and the UK's chart topping girl band Rara Loud.

ASIANCE: Can you tell us more about your objective for this project?

Jennivere: My objective is to film a teaser for a contemporary verse~script titled 'Happy Hollowdays' which I've been working on for several years in order to raise funds on indiegogo.com.

I hope to also have my work published as a play and performed on the stage in the future.

'Happy Hollowdays' has also been adapted for the stage with Director Mark Bloom who has directed over 100 productions. He's also a stage designer. The Indiegogo campaign is launching very soon!

ASIANCE: You wrote the screenplay and also directed the short film and teaser. Has this project been in the works for awhile and what was your inspiration to write it?

Jennivere: It's a collection of poems and letters from my friends I saved as a teenager and diary and journal entries throughout the years. The short film version will be used as the 10.00 perk to raise funds to film the feature film which will have a Part 1 and Part 2 - 2.5 hours approx. I registered the rough draft screenplay in 2008 with the Writer's Guild of America and I added and subtracted, tweaked and rewrote certain parts and characters throughout the years while pursuing acting, taking classes, traveling and working survival jobs. I also wrote a novel and have a few other short scripts I hope to work on one day. The short film version was co-directed by a photographer and friend Johnny Chen - JcPhotographic Studio who I've shot with since 2009. Jared Kasanofsky, who I met on a comedy pilot and worked with on a couple of other projects since 2009, is a cinematographer/Director of Photography and he also filmed a scene for the short film. The entire short film was shot on Canon 7d which Moviemaker Magazine notes is the industry standard for low budget film makers. Post Production was the most time consuming. I edited the scenes on my Mac which took me about 2 months and our motion graphics editor Patrick Tsao is currently creating the intro and ending credits. With Jc, Jared and myself, we make up the creative team.

ASIANCE: One of the things we have spoken about in the past are the problems that Asian Americans are always offered stereotypical roles. What impact would making this film have on the Asian-American film community?

Jennivere: When I was growing up in Queens NY, on every Asian New Year/holiday, they would show us The Joy Luck Club. We must have seen that movie every year since the 1st grade all the way through 12th grade. Then they made us watch it again in one college course or another. Help us make a new Asian American classic that appeals to our generation of Korean Americans. Though not apparent from watching the short version which has a faster, music video feel to it the feature length script should appeal to Asian American Parents and even grandparents as well as the younger generation.

ASIANCE: As far as the 'Happy Hollowdays' team is concerned, who else are you seeking to complete the production?

Jennivere: I'm currently seeking someone who can sell the final product in the states as well as in Korea and help me with budgeting and scheduling as soon as possible, while we raise funds through our indiegogo campaign. Also, if you are an indie rock band interested in being on our soundtrack please send a few songs to [email protected]. Of course, we are definitely interested in hearing from production companies, film distribution, film publicity and anyone else who is experienced in the business side of film.

ASIANCE: You are looking for funding on IndieGoGonow. Can you tell us how much you are looking for and what the money will be put towards?

Jennivere: The more funds we raise, the better our film can be. For instance, rather than filming with 2 canon 7ds, we would be able to rent better equipment and add a lot of motion graphics during post production.

The cast consists of professional and dedicated actors who need a paycheck like everyone else and we need to provide meals for the cast, crew and production team. We also need funds to rent locations. There are many people involved such as make up artists, wardrobe, post production team, the film crew, not to mention the Director, Director of Photography, sound and lighting, and the costs associated with screening and distributing the final feature length film.

ASIANCE: For those of who may want to contribute to "Happy Hollowdays" what is the website and url?

Jennivere: Just search for Happy Hollowdays on indiegogo.com and help us make this film! Also, visit our website www.HappyHollowdaysFilm.com and join our email list for weekly updates and please Like us on Facebook.

ASIANCE: Personally, where do you hope to be five years from now?

Jennivere: I'd like to work with some of my favorite directors or up and coming directors that make films of substance and style. I love art house films, Lars Von Trier, Zoe Cassavettes, Gus Van Sant, Sophia Coppola, Martin Scorsese and Ang Lee. I'd love to work with independent film and foreign film directors which would give me an excuse to travel to a foreign country. I'd also like to get some of my bands music onto film soundtracks. Valentin Leonat and Gasim Aliev's sound are both very unique and are providing their music for Happy Hollowdays. Please contact them if you need composers to score your soundtrack.

ASIANCE: Where can we go to find out more about you?

Jennivere: If you're a casting director or film maker please watch my reel

You can also add me to your professional network on LinkedIn:
http://www.linkedin.com/pub/jennivere-song-lee/35/4ab/bbb

www.soundcloud.com/jennivere

If you'd like to "donate" a track to my film (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2390259/soundtrack_)

www.happyhollowdaysfilm.com

www.reverbnation.com/jennivere

Indiegogo campaign

www.indiegogo.com/HappyHollowdaysFilm

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