I was born in Saigon, Vietnam just two years before it was renamed Ho Chi Minh City. I could barely walk when my family (mother, father and six kids) fled the country to find refuge in a commune called Boulogne-Billancourt in the western suburbs of Paris, France. You can image the visual and emotional contrast. We arrived empty handed, from the hot south to the cold north. Our neighborhood was pleasant enough for me to eventually start walking home alone from preschool. Routinely, I would take the elevator up to our two-bedroom apartment, but one day the drive mechanism failed and I was stuck in the elevator alone at the age of five. Being trapped for a few minutes felt like a lifetime of solitude, but eventually the security guard’s voice crackled through the tiny speaker. Barely speaking French and through my teary voice, I chirped out, “AIDEZ-MOI!” I’m sure you can figure out the two-word English translation. After being freed I sat waiting for my mom to get home from her second job. When the front door crept open I ran into her arms crying. For the rest of our time there, I never rode the elevator again. To this day, my Mom still gets teary-eyed when she retells the story.
My uncle eventually sponsored our way to America - San Gabriel Valley, California to be exact. I quickly acclimated to American culture. I learned English and made many friends from diverse heritages living in the quiet suburb just east of Los Angeles. This cultural contrast is the foundation of my life. I absorbed a mixed bag of pop culture: films, music, cartoons, urban fashion, street-art, ethnic foods, playground sports, video games and even street-lingo. The 80s and 90s were an amazing explosion of creativity, quenching my impressionable senses. My friends describe me as a banana; yellow on the outside and white on the inside. I’d add the adjective “over-ripened.”
Six years after graduating high school, I was accepted into the film program at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. It was time of technological transition for film, so most of the education focused on analog filmmaking with a hint of digital editing. I was able to experience responsibilities ranging from PA to director. While at Art Center, I was approached to develop and teach a kids filmmaking class titled, "Behind The Scenes." It’s a two-hour, five-week course where 10-13 year old students conceptualize, shoot, direct, act, edit and present their video projects. The teaching experience was the best gift Art Center presented to me. It gave me a chance to inspire future filmmakers. Eventually graduating with a set of decent spec commercials on my reel, I started working as a commercial director for various production companies. Over the years my style gradually transformed from a commercial storyteller to a commercial documentarian. There is a balance between these two contrasting techniques that I try to weave into my work.
In the latter part of 2016, I found some free time to write and direct my first narrative piece since graduating college. It’s a project that captures characteristics from my diverse suburban childhood - part fiction and part autobiography titled, “Monday.” I’m currently a partner in a small production company called Art and State, located in downtown Los Angeles. Our company focuses on creating advertisements and branded content for various ad agencies from concept to post production.