New York Filmmaker J.Y. Chun On Her New Film COVER about Identity, Perception, and Wigs

Writer, Director, Producer, Actor J.Y. Chun of COVER – Now on Kickstarter

Film Courage: Where did you grow up?

J.Y. Chun:  I was born in Seoul and raised in Brooklyn. 

Film Courage:  When you moved to New York, what was life like for you?  

J.Y. Chun:  I was four and happy.

Film Courage:  What film has caused your biggest movie obsession?

J.Y. Chun:  The Matrix. When I think “obsession” I think repetition, for some reason, and I definitely watched that film over and over again. My sister, cousin, and I even did a home video of our favorite scenes! Yup, I’m a huge Keanu fan. Still love the Matrix.

Film Courage:  When you attended Columbia University’s Film Studies, what was the most crucial class?

J.Y. Chun:  Richard Peña’s “International Cinema 1960-90s” first exposed me to a wider spectrum of cinemas and in Annette Insdorf’s Senior Seminar we learned how to really dissect a film over the course of an entire semester. Hard to choose…

Film Courage:   What is your new short film COVER about?

J.Y. Chun:  COVER is about persona and perception. It’s about what we mean when we “see” others. It’s also about personal expression, music, and that vague feeling of déja vu experienced when you run into someone familiar, but some seemingly minor difference makes you doubt whether or not you really “know” them, or what that even means.

Film Courage:  What prompted you to write COVER? 

J.Y. Chun:  A conversation with my mom about hair loss sparked the idea of a character who wears different wigs. After a few months of reading and researching on the unfamiliar topic of hair, I wrote and tweaked the script over the course of five months. Screenwriting is not my forté.

Film Courage:  What do you hope to achieve with COVER?

J.Y. Chun:  If the film resonates with anyone I don’t know personally, that’d be great. We hope to hit the festival circuit after the Kickstarter campaign.

Film Courage:  You also act in this film (as Nana). Was this your initial decision when you began writing it?

J.Y. Chun:  No. I didn’t visualize any distinct face or person. What I did have in mind, though, was the multilingual aspect of the character. I decided to play the role only after my producer and friend, Marcel Simoneau, brought up the idea and encouraged me. Actor and friend, Tayo Cittadella, also supported the choice, but both mentioned the difficulty of acting and directing. I think it was a few weeks later that I made the decision, not knowing what it would entail!

Film Courage:  Who is your character Nana?  How similar or different are the two of you?

J.Y. Chun:  She is many things…ha. We both speak the same languages?! We’re similar in the way that we’re constantly changing, growing. We have very different morning rituals. Hers is far more interesting.

Film Courage:  Where did you find the wigs that Nana wears? What inspired each exact one?

J.Y. Chun:  My friend and hairstylist, Kevin Woon, handpicked and styled each one. He and I had discussed the personas, scenes, and costumes behind the four different looks. It always began with character.

Film Courage:  What size crew did you have on COVER?

J.Y. Chun:  Around twenty.

Film Courage:  How long was the shoot?

J.Y. Chun:  Five days, (too) tight schedule.

Film Courage:  How many languages are spoken in the film?

J.Y. Chun:  Three. Originally four but cut it down. 

Film Courage:  How long is it?

J.Y. Chun:  Just under twenty minutes.

Film Courage:  What is the best length for a short film?

J.Y. Chun:  I have no clue what’s best. Of course I’ve been told the shorter the better…I tried.

Film Courage:  Why are you raising funds on Kickstarter?

J.Y. Chun:  Because it’s a community where fellow creatives can explore, share, and take part in each other’s work, with the added kick of the all-or-nothing risk. I’ve discovered and learned about so many great projects and people on Kickstarter.

Film Courage:  What will the funds go toward?

J.Y. Chun:  The funds will go towards production costs and mainly post-production: editing, color correction, music composition, sound design, festival submission fees, etc.

Film Courage:  How did you mentally deal with acting and directing?

J.Y. Chun:  I’m not sure I did. Plus we were very tight on time. You just focus on the given task at hand and keep going. Moment to moment. Some were definitely more difficult than others. For acting you need to concentrate and for directing you’re juggling a lot, so I think sustaining that overall mental energy while letting go of certain things at will and under pressure is a huge challenge, especially when running on decreasing fuel. It wasn’t really like “switching hats”. I failed a lot. The whole experience was an immense learning process. Next time I’ll fail better!

Film Courage:  Of the locations you have secured, which are you most excited about?

J.Y. Chun:  That’s a hard one. I was very excited about all of them––each one took a lot of work––but maybe the pottery studio, Clayworks on Columbia. They were so generous and understanding. I took a handbuilding class there during preproduction.

Film Courage:  What camera did you shoot on?

J.Y. Chun:  Alexa mini.

Film Courage:  As you’ve entered into many arenas in your lifetime, film, music, poetry, academia, the working world and now have made your own movie.  What thoughts do you have on self-perception and how others see us in light of our own viewpoint?

J.Y. Chun:  Hm, I’m not sure how your own self-perception directly affects or shapes others’ perceptions, if not through behavior? The film somewhat deals with that in an exaggerated way. Sometimes others’ views of or projections onto you can differ drastically from your internal experience.

Film Courage:  You refer to writer/philosopher Ayn Rand in a deeply thoughtful article you wrote, ‘How To Be Worthy of Indiscriminate Love.’ Quoting Rand from another writing she says “The problem is not those who dream, but those who can only dream.”  What are your thoughts on this quote as it relates to the filmmaking process?

J.Y. Chun:  Funny because cinema is often related to dreams. Filmmaking strikes me as a process that poses very real-world, concrete problems, and those constraints press you to make hard decisions and compromises. I think the quote could highlight this practical aspect of decision-making and “doing”. And maybe the initial step in making those dreams a reality. Realizing visions, sharing them, making it happen.

Film Courage:   Can you explain your findings when it comes to determining your type and how you approach filmmaking after taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® test?  

J.Y. Chun:  I’m not a staunch “believer,” I guess, in the Myers-Briggs or other personality tests. They’re fun to take and, at times, revealing. But they don’t affect how I approach filmmaking or other things at all. Maybe in the way you can look at your flaws from another perspective––what you should work on and be mindful of. Or maybe my personality “type” was connected to the fact that I felt strongly about working with close friends.

Film Courage:   When did you take the test? Did you feel more of a connection to your artistic work after knowing your type’s traits?

J.Y. Chun:  A few years ago. Then again more recently when I was talking to my friend about her type. It doesn’t affect how I view work. Maybe in reflecting on my preferred modes of working? It is interesting to look at historical figures and artists and their patterns of working, though. Mason Curry’s Daily Rituals comes to mind. 

Film Courage:  As the (few but proud) INTJ’s can attest to, do you find it rewarding to work alone at times? 

J.Y. Chun:  I fluctuate between INFP and INTJ. I’m introverted in the way that I “recharge” in solitude. Socially, I’ve been more of an ambivert. Work-wise, I find collaborative projects more rewarding. Love teamwork. But then how could you compare the experience of playing in a chamber group with performing solo? 

Film Courage:  As your short film COVER focuses how we see others and ourselves, the 2016 movie COMPLETE UNKNOWN has main character (Alice Manning played by Rachel Weisz) change identities every six months “When everyone thinks they know who you are, then you are trapped.” How does your character come to know her true self in COVER?

J.Y. Chun:  Nice quote! I’ll have to watch that movie. Reminds me of a quote in Kieslowski’s THREE COLORS BLUE where Juliette Binoche’s character, Julie, says her possessions, memories, and friends are all traps. And of Nietzsche’s idea of living ahistorically. My character in COVER is open to interpretation 🙂 Can I say that?

Film Courage:  If you weren’t a filmmaker, what kind of work do you think you’d be doing?

J.Y. Chun:  I don’t know, I have a lot of interests. You have to examine your passions, I guess. (Sidenote: Flipboard is one of my favorite apps and on the home tab only ten feeds are featured, from over thirty-thousand possible “passion” topics, ha, so I should probably have a better answer). I like staying active. Off the top of my head, I recently wondered what it’d be like to design covers for DVDs. Must be cool.

Film Courage:  What’s next for you creatively?

J.Y. Chun:  My friend and I are working on more of an actors’ piece, very run and gun. In addition to acting, I’ve been writing and working on editing.



Jeong yun Chun (writer-director, producer, actor) was born in Seoul and raised in Brooklyn. While majoring in Film Studies at Columbia University, Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude, she interned at production companies and with Suzana Peric (music editor of THE LORD OF THE RINGS, THE PIANIST, MOONRISE KINGDOM, etc). For her B.A. thesis on the visual language and musical landscape of Herzog’s NOSFERATU J.Y. won the 2014 Andrew Sarris Memorial Award for Film Criticism. In 2012 and 2013 she received the German Consular Book Award. In 2009 she won the Phillips Exeter Concerto Competition for Rachmaninov’s 2nd, and in 2008 the Lamont Younger Poets’ Award. Her last performance was in Multistages’ The Future is Female Festival. 



Kickstarter campaign for COVER