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Meet Georgia Fu

Today we’d like to introduce you to Georgia Fu.

Georgia, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Hi, My name is Georgia Fu, and I am a freelance writer, director and editor. Growing up, I didn’t know that I wanted to be a filmmaker (there weren’t a lot of mainstream examples of female directors that looked like me), but I always knew that I loved films. I was born in Taiwan and immigrated to California with my parents at a young age. My mom had a business manufacturing home decor, which my father worked for, so they felt enveloped in their world of business. Like many Asian immigrants, they worked all the time, even on weekends. Being an only child, I was often left to play alone, and the preferred toy was usually Barbies. But I think all that extended time alone, helped foster a love of storytelling and imaginative play.

I also spent countless hours growing up at the movie theater, movie hopping from theater to theater all day with my friends. I also used to love roaming the rows at Blockbuster video, mesmerized by the various covers and the promise of what they contained within. But nothing beat sitting in a dark theater voyeuristically spying on a new and far away world. The feeling of seeing certain films in the theater for the first time (Aladdin, Jurassic Park, Clueless) and their enormous emotional effect will be forever ingrained into my nervous system.

A big turning point for me was in high school when we got cable television for the first time, and I started watching TCM / Turner Classic Movies, and AMC/American Movies Classic rabidly. (AMC used to play a lot more classic movies) Particularly in 1996, when AMC came out with a documentary on Vertigo called “Obsessed with Vertigo”. I don’t know why, but the documentary and the subsequent film Vertigo hit me in a strange and mysterious way. Even as I write about it, the memory is so distinct, so deep and fundamental that it feels almost indescribable.

At twelve years old, Vertigo opened up my mind to the depths of what film can do, and I think film essentially became my first love. Me and my best friend also did a summer high school program at Columbia University before our senior year of high school. She did a program related to law, and I did one related to the arts, which included a history of cinema class. For the first time, I watched groundbreaking films like Taxi Driver, Claire Denis’ Chocolat, and Godard’s Breathless. My fifteen-year-old mind was blown.

I was accepted into my dream school, New York University, for college. My absolute fantasy growing up in California was to be on the streets of New York. I didn’t know how cold the winters would be, how sweltering the summer month were, and how often I would be flashed, but I loved my time in New York. My major was Cinema Studies, and my minor was East Asian Studies, and the classes were a dream. They were four-hour classes, where two hours were usually spent watching a film and then two hours for lecture and discussion.

In college, my discovery of world cinema really flourished, particularly Asian Cinema. I have the fondest memories of being introduced to Yi Yi, Memories of Murder, and Jacques Audiard’s The Beat that my Heart Skipped for the first time in undergrad. Yi Yi moved me to the point of sobbing tears, Memories of Murder made me understand what genius looked like, and The Beat that my Heart Skipped probably explains why I’m dating a Frenchman today. In 2005, I saw every film in the Hou Hsiao Hsien retrospective at Anthology Film Archives, and I think it was instrumental in helping me understand who I am.

After finishing NYU, I spent over a year in Taipei at the National Taiwan University in an intensive Chinese Language Program. Then I moved to Paris and Hong Kong to work at the photo desk of the International Herald Tribune. I had started to think about grad school at the end of undergrad, but one of my favorite teachers Rebecca Karl, who taught me in a class called China and Taiwan, told me to go out in the world and live and stop being in school all the time. I think that was some of the greatest advice I ever had.

Eventually, I did end up in grad school, back at NYU but at their Singapore campus called Tisch Asia for film production. I had taken the basic production course “Sight and Sound” at NYU in undergrad, and over the years my interests started to naturally pivot from film criticism and theory to film production. My time in Tisch Asia was great because we were doing something that we all passionately loved in a complete bubble, without any influence from an outside “industry”. I forged some of my most important lasting relationships there, met my boyfriend, and I shot two shorts in Taipei. My first Taipei short, Gigantic played Slamdance and Chicago International Film Fest. And my thesis, Miss World, went on to win some awards at New Orleans, Hollyshorts, and Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Fest.

When I moved to Los Angeles after finishing my thesis in Taipei, I was accepted into AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women. There I completed another short called, You Win USA Vacation Resort, which is currently on its festival run. I was also accepted into Universal’s Director Initiative, and TIFF’s Filmmaker Lab where I went on to win the HFPA + Film Independent Filmmaker’s Residency in 2019. Currently, I’m developing my first feature titled, Approximate Joy.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I would say that my life has never been a smooth road, but then again, I think everyone would say that about their own lives. I think life is always a series of balancing acts, and I think some of my biggest challenges have been balancing my personal life with my professional life.

I think my biggest challenge was honestly what went on in the last ten years with my parents. When I was at NYU Tisch Asia in Singapore, I got a phone call during my first year at grad school that my parents had been arrested. They had been accused of bank fraud by the federal government. The charge was that they had overinflated their inventory to borrow more loan money from banks. It was a federal case because they said that the money that they had defrauded the banks out of was TARP money, bailout money. I had never dealt with anything like this before, and so there was an enormous shame, and it was essentially a secret that I had kept for months until I couldn’t keep it a secret anymore.

Eventually, my parents decided to plead guilty to avoid a costly and lengthy trial, and my mom was sentenced to three years in federal prison, and my dad, two years. Because they were under house arrest for months, my mom mainly served two years, while my dad served one year. My mother was put in Aliceville, Alabama, and my father was put in El Paso, Texas. Obviously, it was a surreal, strange and difficult time for our family.

The sentencing happened my third year of grad school, and they essentially went into prison about a month after I graduated. My NYU thesis, Miss World, is about a daughter saying goodbye to her father before he has to start serving time in prison. Eventually, my father was released first from prison, but tragically he passed away of a heart attack in the halfway house a couple of weeks before he could come home. I was about two weeks away from shooting my thesis film in Taipei, and the film was about us, so the heartbreaking irony was not lost on me. My mother was eventually released from prison half a year later, and it’s been a long journey to rebuild our family.

About two years ago, my mother had a stroke, which changed our relationship greatly. Overnight my mother who I held a lot of deeply buried resentment for, became my last living parent that was in danger of not being here anymore. Her sickness changed our relationship greatly because it put an importance on our time together. I’ve also witnessed how hard she fights every day to try and recover, and I’m continually in awe at her transformation, her resilience and her determination to keep on living.

It’s funny because at the start of 2020, you saw a lot of people looking back on the last ten years of their life. I am internally extremely hard on myself about my professional successes. I always wish I could’ve done more, produced more work, written more scripts. But when I take into account the personal tragedies that have impacted my life in the last ten years, I realize that sometimes you have to give yourself a break and say that it was also important that you gave a great amount of time to your personal life. I think I can sometimes forget to realize the importance of my personal life and the relationships that fill it because society puts so much outward focus on the professional life. But I know that at the end of my life, all I’ll really care about is my loved ones, so I always try to be patient and put things in perspective.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
I am a freelance filmmaker, specifically a writer, director, and editor. I’ve made three short films, which have played at countless film festivals in addition to winning several awards. I’ve also made some short documentaries and a music video. I am currently in the writing and development phase of my first feature. Feel free to check out my website at www.georgiafu.com

Additionally, because of my experience with my parent’s incarceration, I partnered with a writer and producer who started a podcast called “Life on the Outside”. She documents ex-lifers, people who were sentenced to life in prison and eventually paroled, and their adjustment to life on the outside. I help her with photo portraits. You can find our website here: www.lifeontheoutsidepodcast.com and you can subscribe to the podcast through iTunes.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
I think my proudest moment is when I finally manage to finish my thesis film Miss World. Before my father went to prison, I spent a month at home alone with him since my mom had already started serving her time in prison. And to medicate the pain I was feeling, I was smoking a lot of weed. One day my dad found my weed, and I thought his reaction was going to be one of straight reprimanding me.

But instead, he lovingly and quietly asked me if I was okay, and asked what he could do to help. As he was about to go to prison, he was still more worried about me than his own situation. That was my father in a nutshell: selfless, quietly loving, and responsible to the end. This emotion was the heart of my thesis film, so when my father passed away two weeks before we were initially supposed to start production, it was incredibly devastating.

A couple of months after his death, we reassembled all the pieces and eventually shot the film as planned. Production is always a crazy period, so the relation to my father’s death wasn’t really weighing on me. I was more worried about the production, the cast and crew, and getting everything in the can (We shot on film). The hard part was the editing of the film. In the darkness of the editing room, I was left with the heartbreak of this love letter to my father, written for a time when he was alive, and him never being able to see it.

Everything changed though when I found a co-editor, Imran Khan, which speaks to the power of collaboration in film. I also give credit to the emotional support that my boyfriend provided. But in the end, I’m quite proud that I even had the notion and the courage to write a love letter to my Taiwanese father. I realized that writing about my parents was something that I had to develop, something that I had to evolve into. I began my career writing about things like heartbreak, and I realized that it wasn’t until I matured that I was able to write about my family. And in the end, I feel incredibly grateful to have this small piece of film to remind myself of my tremendous love for my father.

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