VOGUEFILM, Winter 2021 
Vogue China

Interview by Lottie Pang 

Chase Sui Wonders
Charles Melton
Emily May Jampel
Havana Rose Liu
Lukita Maxwell

Executive Producer: Margaret Zhang
Photographer: Jeannie Sui Wonders
Stylist: Beverly Nguyen
Fashion Director: Audrey Hu
Hair: Bobby Michael
Makeup: Laila Hayani


Can you give us 3 key words to describe this story WAKE?

The first three words that come to mind are loss, performativity and isolation.

How did you start working on this project?

It was very surreal. One day I got an email out of the blue from Vogue China’s Production Director saying that they were working on a short film with Chase and asked if I’d be interested in acting in it. I was already familiar with and a huge fan of Chase’s acting work on GENERA+TION and also this incredible short film BEAU that she starred in, and fully thought I must have gotten this email by mistake because it seemed too good to be true.

I had worked with Lukita before on a short film I directed and knew Havana a bit as well (we both went to NYU Gallatin and met on the set of a beauty shoot featuring mixed Asian-Americans that my friend produced), so when I saw that Chase, Havana and Lukita, a.k.a my three favorite actors (who like me, also happen to all be half Chinese) were going to be in this, and that we would be playing a group of old childhood friends, it very quickly started to feel like a dream project. So obviously I said yes, no questions asked.

You are both an actress and director, how do you coordinate and merge these 2 roles (if you do)?

I really love both. They feel like two roles that occupy completely different parts of my brain. To me, directing feels like getting to create your own little universe from deep inside of your brain that you invite others into, and acting is all about getting to step into someone else’s universe and lose yourself in it, both of which can be the most satisfying things in the world.

This was also the first time I had been directed by someone with acting experience and I loved it. So many of my favorite directors like Josephine Decker, Greta Gerwig, Janicza Bravo and Desiree Akhavan, are also actors (even if they primarily direct), and I do think there’s something about the empathy those kinds of directors have towards the actors they work with that helps foster a deeper sense of trust, safety and understanding of character and performance that makes them so great at what they do.

So far I’ve only acted and directed separately and haven’t done both at the same time. I’m really in awe of directors like Chase who are able to occupy both roles simultaneously because I know it’s incredibly challenging. But I’ve seen it done so beautifully, especially when it comes to films that are very personal or autobiographical, and would love to try it someday.

As a young female filmmaker, what’s the biggest challenge for you?

I’d honestly say the biggest challenge for me right now is figuring out the financial aspect of filmmaking. Film is such an expensive medium and cities with lots of filmmaking infrastructure like New York or L.A. are incredibly expensive places for artists to live in. A lot of independent filmmakers I know work part-time or even full-time jobs to support themselves, while others are able to have careers working on commercials or music videos, but it's always a tricky balance to find work that you are excited about creatively that you can make a living from, while still finding the time and energy to create your own personal work outside of that. On top of that, finding funding for short films and indie films in general is nearly impossible!

Right now I work a full-time day job as a development executive at an independent film production company and also work part-time as a freelance model and film curator, which helps me save up a bit of extra money to use towards financing my own creative projects. But it can sometimes be challenging to find the time and mental space to work on my personal projects and I’m constantly trying to maintain a healthy balance between my work, art, and personal life without spreading myself too thin. I know this is a fairly common challenge for a lot of younger artists who live in New York. My friends and I always joke about moving to somewhere like Berlin where the rent is cheaper, but it’s hard to imagine myself living anywhere outside of New York right now because I love it too much. I know one day I’ll be old and bored though, so right now I just feel grateful that I’m still able to get to do the things I love and don’t mind working hard for it.

What do you think of VOGUEfilm as a platform for female filmmakers?

I think it’s very exciting. There’s been a long history of beautiful symbiotic partnerships between the worlds of cinema and fashion, from designers like Yves Saint Laurent creating the wardrobe for Luis Buñuel’s BELLE DE JOUR to Chanel supporting Olivier Assayas’s CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA (one of my absolute favorite films). VOGUEfilm’s platform feels perfectly suited for this type of intersection that combines two artforms I love (film and fashion) and I can’t wait to see more films that come out of it.

For female filmmakers especially, short films are such an essential part of helping to build their career and body of work, yet there’s an overwhelming lack of support and funding available for them, especially in the U.S., and few platforms where most short films can really stand out and reach a mainstream audience outside of festivals. Vogue China is so iconic and I definitely think a platform like VOGUEfilm, with such a wide international reach, can really help make a difference in building the careers of female filmmakers and as well as inspire viewers who can watch these films directed by young women and hopefully be inspired to create something themselves.