Women in Film Dallas sat down with ATG president, Tammy Nguyen Lee, about her childhood, inspirations, and current project “Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam”. See the interview on the WIF.D website.
|IN THE SPOTLIGHT: TAMMY NGUYEN LEE|
|The Crow Collection of Asian Art introduces filmAsiafest this weekend and one of the highlights is the Dallas premiere of local filmmaker, and longtime WIF.D member, Tammy Nguyen Lee’s documentary “Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam”.
The film tells the untold story of a U.S. government project called “Operation Babylift,” a $2 million dollar initiative that airlifted over 2,500 Vietnamese orphans out of a war-torn country to protect them from the impending threat of the Communist Regime.
Lee will attend the premiere along with a few of those who were saved by this project that is described as one of the most humanitarian efforts in history.
Date: Friday, September 25, 2009
Time: 7:00 PM – 9:30 PM
Where: Horchow Auditorium, Dallas Museum of Art
Reservations required. $7 for Friends of the Crow Collection and students. $10 for non-members. Call 214-979-6438 or visit www.crowcollection.org to register.
How did you get started in this Industry?
I started out as a theatre kid, performing in plays at school and never shook the acting bug. It was during college that I made a clear shift into wanting to do more behind the camera work, including directing and producing. While finishing out my film degree at SMU, I found a wonderful agent, Suzanne Horne, and became a professional actor. However, I still wanted to become more involved in the creative and business process. After graduating from the UCLA’s Producers Program, I worked in the LA scene for a while at a literary agency, a major studio and a music video production company.
How did you get involved with Women In Film.Dallas?
I received the WIF.D College Scholarship when I started at UCLA. (Thank you, Joan Murphy-Rosenzweig!) When I returned home to Dallas several years later, I wanted to become more active in an organization that had supported my first steps. I became a member, then Meredith Stephens convinced me to join the Board of Directors. I started first as Membership Co-Chair, then Programs Co-Chair, and it was a great learning experience. Some of my greatest gal pals were made during my time as a Board Member.
Who is your role model? Mentor?
My mom, who is a first generation immigrant, taught me the importance of working hard, staying focused and never giving up. When you lose your country and have to start completely over with little more than the shirt on your back, life and the idea of freedom gets put in a different perspective. Nothing is hard, nothing is unattainable, every day is a new chance. She also taught me to be ambitious but still focus on the strength of family and community. I’ve always found women who can balance career and family incredibly inspiring, especially those who find the time to give back. I’ve also been lucky to have a number of mentors along the way, including generous and patient teachers, professors, bosses and other industry professionals to whom I’m very grateful.
What is your favorite part about working in this Industry?
Getting to be a part of a creative process and telling peoples’ stories that can inspire and move others is really a great challenge, but is very rewarding. It’s a total adventure.
What area in the Industry would you still like to learn about? Or intrigues you?
I’ve been fortunate enough to get to put on many hats and try many things, but I would like to do more screenwriting and directing in the future.
How do you feel about your role as a female in this Industry?
As a woman, there’s an opportunity to represent a unique voice and perspective. I’ve never felt like being a woman is a hindrance, but the game is sometimes played with different rules and maybe you have to juggle a thing or two or three just a bit more. Women are hardwired with amazing talents to multi-task, build relationships and see all the fine details. As a producer, those are great skills to have in your bag of tricks.
What project are you currently working on?
I recently finished a passion project that took nearly four years, Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam, which is currently being released exclusively through film festivals nationwide and premieres in Dallas on September 25th. At AMS Pictures, I also am in development and production on a number of reality projects for major cable networks (“I can’t talk about it yet”), including our latest series for WE tv, Girl Meets Gown, which will start airing sometime in 2010. It’s great to be busy, no complaints!
Who would you like to work with in the future?
Hugh Jackman…does that need an explanation?
As a child, what occupation did you imagine yourself in before you became involved in this business?
When I was young, I dreamt of being an astronaut. I was obsessed with space and the stars. Then I figured out how much calculus you have to know and said “forget it.” In the end, my passion for storytelling won out, and I’ve been doing that every since. My job still puts me a bit in outer space, and I get to catch a star or two on occasion.
Sometimes, I feel like every day is a bit of a battle. You strap on your armor and defend the idea you’re passionate about, pushing the boundary of what other people can believe or understand a little bit further. Operation Babylift was a passion project and a war story, and in many ways became a personally healing journey. In four years of dogged persistence, we faced constant juggled travel with no budget, building relationships and earning the trust of interviewees all over the world and convincing them to tell their story, and doing all this in whatever spare time I could find. Luckily, we had a crew with a heart of gold and people who supported our cause along the way. In the end, we survived and produced a film that is touching the lives of people everywhere. Plus, out of Babylift was borne our 501(c)(3) non profit, ATG Against The Grain Productions, which continues the message of helping orphans in Vietnam.
Do you have a favorite Book? Musical? Play? Film?
Book: Illusions, The Joy Luck Club, The DaVinci Code
Musical: Miss Saigon, Wicked, Phantom of the Opera
Films: I love all kinds and genres, but my guilty pleasures include Edward Scissorhands, Love Actually, Nottinghill, Grease I and II and anything with Hugh Jackman.
What is your favorite color?
Used to be pink, now it’s blue, but I still love pink.
What is in your CD player? Ipod?
U2, Coldplay, George Michael, John Legend, Lady Gaga, Gwen Stefani, Frank Sinatra
What would you like to leave as a legacy? My passion for film, food and family. Here’s how to nominate and “spotlight” one of your fellow WIF.D members. This is where we lightheartedly spotlight one of our own with questions that are easy and fun so get your answers ready because you never know whom we’ll ask next.