Shelly Yo, 25, Film Maker (New York City US)


pw: soonie

The biggest obstacle you face as a filmmaker? And most importantly as a woman of colour in the film industry?

The biggest obstacle I face as a filmmaker is being able to craft and tell the right story that stems from a place of honesty. There are so many stories I want to tell but when it doesn’t come from a real grounded place, it fails to affect people the way you would like it to. As a growing filmmaker, I also find it difficult to gain the respect from the people around you, but what I’ve learned over the years is that you first need to believe in yourself and your works in order for others to believe in you.


As a Korean-American filmmaker, I would love to make more films regarding my identity as an Asian American woman in a white-male dominated industry. I hope that my stories can break through those barriers and provide a new perspective that will reveal more about the stories and struggles of my culture and my generation. I always find it interesting when I discover filmmakers who are Asian making ground in Hollywood such as Bong Joon Ho and Karyn Kusama. Unfortunately, there aren’t many who are doing so, but I believe that in the new generation to come, there will be many more.


If you could change anything about your chosen industry, what would it be?

I would change the idea of females being too ‘weak’ to be in the film industry. While working in film production I’ve faced many adversities and belittlement due to my size, race and gender. Yes, there are differences in physicality between men and women, but if we allow that to be the deciding factor of what makes someone a filmmaker, we are not advocating change and will remain with the same stale perspective on films without any evolution. I believe it’s important to create a greater spread of voices from different areas of the world to provide more diversity and to present different stories. I think that is the purpose of films—to allow people to experience different worlds and ideas through characters and to create empathy for one another.


What advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers and directors?

To aspiring filmmakers and directors I would tell them to create a team and to constantly collaborate. I love working alone, but there’s nothing quite as satisfying as finding a great writing partner or a director to shape your ideas to life. I found that having my friends as writers allow a realm of constant collaboration that feels natural. We could be walking on the way to class and pitching new ideas to each other or talking about a recent film we watched and inspiring each other without knowing we are doing so.


Where do you hope to see yourself in 5 years time?

In 5 years, I hope to see myself having made my first film and being a prominent name as an Asian American female filmmaker in Hollywood. I would also love to write a book, preferably in the surreal/fantasy genre. In 5 years, I hope I am able to support myself through my writing and also being able to travel, write and photograph much more.


Was film always your main interest or have you ever wanted to pursue anything else?

At the age of 7, I told myself I would be the first female Korean president of the United States. After a few years, however, I learned that only natural-born citizens could be president and that passion to be president subsided.

In my high school years, I grew more interest in the arts and since then film has always been my main interest. But I also have great love for fashion, photography and music. Seeing music video filmmakers that enter the film industry such as David Fincher or Melina Matsoukas who hold such a bold, strong and unique visual style, inspires me to implement that courage into my own works. In the next few years, I would love to collaborate with musicians to create music videos and to work with fashion brands to create video content.