In conversation with Alice Gu

You can’t be what you can’t see. In an industry where from 2007-2016 there had been virtually no increase in Asian directors, film has been in dire need of asian representation. We spoke with filmmaker Alice Gu about what it’s like to BE the representation we need in Hollywood.

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Tell us about yourself and what you’re up to

I’m Alice Gu, a director/ DOP based in Los Angeles, CA. I’ve just premiered my last feature, REALLY GOOD REJECTS, at the 2022 SXSW film festival and currently shooting a documentary about the world’s first and premier south asian a cappella group.

How important is identity to you? To your work?

Identity is hugely important to me and my work.  I mean, it’s really difficult to separate the two. My identity is so deeply a part of me that it comes out in my work. I'm always passionate and curious about the human experience and looking for universally relatable themes that unite us more than separate us.

The Donut King (2020)

Do you feel your identity changes and fluctuates based on who you’re with? Where you are? Throughout time?

My identity is a constant, no matter who I'm with and where I am. I feel that I can say this now, that I feel more confident and established in myself. To be honest, I would likely have to credit Crazy, Rich Asians, which validated that being Asian is cool. Earlier in my career and life, I probably code-switched to a certain degree, to be accepted. It's wonderful that in 2022, I hope that we can all feel confident in ourselves, our heritage, and who we want to be.

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

What does heritage mean to you?

Heritage, to me, is knowing where you come from. It’s having a sense of bringing with you your past ancestors and family. It’s a makeup of who you are.

Race and how we choose to identify are important things, so is there a better way to ask you more about your heritage? 

I’m pretty easy if someone asks me about my heritage. Just don’t say something stupid!  Ha!

What steps can people take to ensure we're headed in a direction where more people feel welcome?

This sounds so very cliche, but representation matters. You don’t know what’s attainable unless you see someone who looks like you. It sounds silly, but until you see someone who looks like you doing it, you don’t know what’s possible. When I first started, as a production assistant, I saw a poster with an asian female DOP.  That meant everything to me and let me know that it was possible. I think there’s no going back to the days where we don’t have representation in all different positions on set, and that is a wonderful thing

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