screenwriter to watch
Jean Lee is a writer/director who loves world cinema and has worked on films in eleven countries spanning five continents. Currently residing in Los Angeles, she now focuses on creating genre film/TV for a global audience. She and her work have been recognized by Women In Film, the Blacklist, AFI Directing Workshop for Women, Fox Filmmakers Lab, Film Independent, Sundance, Berlinale, Austin Film Festival, ScreenCraft, Ryan Murphy’s HALF, and NALIP.
How did you break in or get your start in screenwriting?
In college, I read a bunch of amazing scripts like ‘Casablanca’ and ‘Chinatown’ but never saw myself or the people closest to me represented on the page. So I decided to write my own.
Writer/Director ‘Original Sin’ (2018), Writer/Director ‘Strong’ (2019), Director ‘Killer Sex Doll’ (2020), Writer ‘Kimchi Princess’ (2020)
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned?
1) Don’t try to fit a feature into a short, don’t try to squeeze a series into a feature.
2) The best antidote to writer’s block: dumplings, Oreos, and pink lemonade. And seven minute workouts; and reading, and then dumplings again.
What’s the hardest scene or project you’ve ever had to write? How did you navigate the challenge?
My first feature, ‘Pecado Original’ (Original Sin) was challenging to write because it was in Spanish and parts of it were improvised. It also featured characters from three different Spanish speaking nations: Paraguay, Spain, and Mexico. But luckily I had a fantastic co-writer/lead actor, Maia Nikiphoroff, who’s from Paraguay and fluent in Spanish, so it was something we prepared for, translated, and envisioned from the beginning. Also, the other two leads, César Di Bello and Alejandro Torres Menchaca, are bilingual, which made it fun and easy to collaborate in rehearsals and on set.
What was a major turning point in your career?
Having our first feature at Austin Film Festival was pretty great!
What are you working on right now?
I’m developing a comedy/horror feature that I’ll be directing called ‘Killer Sex Doll,’ written by Teddy Cecil. I’m also writing an original comedy series called ‘Kimchi Princess.’In addition, I’m in post-production on a Science Fiction short I wrote/directed called ‘Strong’ which won the Google Grant and Sundance Institute Knight Foundation Grant. Finally, my first feature film, a comedy I wrote/directed called ‘Pecado Original’ is currently going through the festival circuit.
What are some of your favorite movies?
Wild Tales, Oasis (by Lee Chang Dong), Spirit of the Beehive, Tale of Two Sisters, Les Choristes, Fish Tank, The Piano, Godfather II, Inglorious Basterds, anything by Almodovar…and of course, The Lion King.
Who are some of your favorite screenwriters?
Some of my favorite screenwriters are Jane Campion, Frances Marion, Akira Kurosawa, Park Chan Wook, John McDonagh and the Coen Brothers because they make me want to write.
Share a memorable experience at Austin Film Festival.
As a micro-budget, independent feature, we all worked so hard for several years to make our film. So when I saw our movie poster at the main entrance of The Driskill Hotel (AFF’s headquarters) and overheard people saying nice things about our film…that was definitely an emotional and meaningful moment!