Searching for Roots as an Artist with Movie Director Nora Jacobson
Written by Yewon Lee | Published. 2017.10.25 20:20 | Count : 591
Searching for one’s origin is, perhaps, the most instinctive way to develop self-identity and grow to be an artist but it can be also tremendously complex and challenging in today’s globalized world. Vermont filmmaker Nora Jacobson has narrated the stories of people who search for their roots and transform their lives through her many movies.
Her latest film The Hanji Box explores the cross-cultural nature of an American family as Hannah, the main character, visits Korea to understand and get closer to her adopted daughter. The film won the award for Best Feature Screenplay at the 2017 New York Eurasian Film Festival. I had an email interview with her.
1. Could you introduce yourself to Korean readers?
My name is Nora Jacobson and I am an independent filmmaker. I live in Vermont, but I spent 6 formative years of my life in Paris, France from the age of 8 to 16. I studied anthropology and French literature at Dartmouth College. I also took film classes there, which is when I developed a passion for filmmaking. I have an MFA in film from the Art Institute of Chicago, where I studied experimental film. Then I moved to the New York Metropolitan area for 15 years and worked and made films. In 1995, I moved back to Vermont with my husband to make films in Vermont.
[Nora Jacobson, filmmaker]
2. Is your work connected to New England? If so, what is the connection?
I am very interested in "place", and how location affects one's vision. So, wherever I live, I am interested in location as a story element. My first successful film was "Delivered Vacant", which was about Hoboken, NJ, a small city across from Manhattan where I lived. My two first fictional films were about people in Vermont, my home state. These are "My Mother's Early Lovers", and "Nothing Like Dreaming".
3. What motivated you to become an artist when you were in school?
I studied filmmaking with someone who believed in me. He encouraged me in my filmmaking, when I was at Dartmouth, and showed me films that I fell in love with. He made me see creativity as a way of life. I have never forgotten that, and I still live my life with creativity as my main goal. I love every aspect of filmmaking.
4. Can you tell us about one of your recent or current pieces of work?
The Hanji Box is a film I recently completed about an adopted Korean girl and her Caucasian American white mother. I became interested in the issue of international adoption through a friend who had written a memoir based on her own story of falling in love with a Korean painter. We tried to make the film in Korea, and I visited Korea twice! I loved the country and learned all about the history, and met many wonderful people, but we were not able to raise the necessary funding. So, we scaled the project back and shot it in Vermont and New York's K-town on 32nd street and Flushing, Queens. The lead actress, Natalie Kim, and I are now planning a sequel to shoot in Korea. This time we will do it!
[The Hanji Box, directed by Nora Jacobson]
5. What’s your message to the Korean youth who aspire to become artists?
Sometimes parents who worry about their children’s livelihood and their own prestige, some parents want their kids to be doctors or lawyers or engineers. But if you are passionate about an art form, you should pursue it until you don't need to any more. Of course, it is difficult to be an artist: you need talent, of course, but also luck and perseverance. Not everyone has the combination of talent and luck and perseverance. But some people will not be happy if they don't pursue their art form. If you are that kind of person, if art making is what makes you want to get up in the morning, then you must do it. You can always get a day job.

Yewon Lee
Grade 10
Wilbraham & Monson Academy

Yewon Lee  student_reporter@dherald.com

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