The digital phenomenon of viral videos has completely altered how we interact, share, and voice our opinion on social media. Grandma used to email funny pictures to all her grandkids. Now her favorite past time is sharing videos that mock this year’s presidential candidates – all for your friends and family to see. In the mass of World Star videos, Tasty food recipes, and Go-Pro vacation cuts, human interest stories that uplift and bring awareness to causes are some of the most widely shared and talked about videos on the internet. Why is this? When we can “all relate” or empathize with a story, when it causes us to look inward and start a discussion – this is what a powerful film is all about. Jason Y. Lee is the founder and executive director of the Jubilee Project. Along with his brother Eddie and best friend Eric, they set out to combine their passion for philanthropy to tell stories that, as Jason put it, were “close to our hearts.” Although Eddie and Eric are no longer active on the Jubilee Project, Jason and his crew continue to make videos that inspire and humor people of all ages.
VAVA: Jason thanks for speaking with us today! Of course the work you’re doing today with the Jubilee Project is simply amazing. What impact, if any, did your upbringing as a Korean-American in Kansas have in shaping your films and organization as a whole?
Jason: As a Korean-American or even as an Asian-American, there wasn’t a lot of diversity in Kansas. There was however a small church community and I grew up in a nice, safe suburban neighborhood. Honestly I can’t complain. My faith and my parents taught me from a very young age that we should always be giving back to the community. When my brother and I were kids we’d volunteer at the library or give out cookies during Thanksgiving – this was all super normal to us. I think because I’ve spent a lot of time and energy into loving others, that my life was always steering me into creating something like the Jubilee Project.
V: How did you start the Jubilee Project with the other founders and have your stories always been human interest related?
J: I started the Jubilee Project with my brother and one of my best friends Eric. It really started as a hobby, we were making videos for fun on the side (Jason comes from a business background) – we just wanted to do it because frankly it was something we enjoyed. The more we did it, the bigger it got and it’s become something much larger than any of us had expected.
Our projects are usually a mix of stories but we choose what’s close to our hearts. Usually our stories are human justice projects, education based, or involve global health. To be honest there wasn’t really a rhyme or reason for these projects except for the fact that we were interested.
#IAmComfortableBecause campaign collaboration with iNature Skincare
NBC Asian America collaboration on #BlackLivesMatter
V: What has been your most notable project to work on?
J: Love Language was one of our first viral films and then we did a couple films with Jeremy Lin which was a lot of fun. Now we’re doing a lot more non-fiction docu-series style films versus narrative fiction.
V: Speaking of Mr. Linsanity , how did the Jubilee Project and Jeremy Lin link up for a collaboration?
J: Actually, Eddie and Eric went to undergrad with Jeremy Lin so we met him before he was the “NBA” Jeremy Lin. He’s got a great personality so it has been awesome working with him.
V: Did anything funny or interesting ever happen on set?
J: Well when we did The Last Pick with Jeremy Lin, there’s an opening scene where he’s running through his Palo Alto neighborhood. We were a small crew but somehow word got out that we were filming something with Jeremy and all these neighbors and kids stood outside their houses to watch. We could only do one take so it was kinda funny to shoot.
V: What role does music and sound play in your projects?
J: Music is essential for telling a great story. Even if you have the perfect story, the perfect cast, and the perfect acting – you need music to enhance the experience and your feelings. So, we tend to use music a lot based on how we feel and what we want to say in the film. Music is an awesome tool we have to tell a better story.
The Jubilee Project is an awesome organization, but what’s Jason doing on his off time?
V: What are some of your favorite types of movies?
J: The movies that are most moving to me are one’s where you see genuine human experiences and drama play out.
V: When you’re not producing or writing for the Jubilee Project, what are you doing in your free time?
J: I like to surf, especially because I live in L.A now. I read a lot of books. I read a ton of fiction because it’s good way for me to unplug from work-mode and I read a lot of non-fiction books. I also do a lot of yoga
V: The team would love to know how you’re enjoying the VAVA 🙂
J: We’re using it around the house already and my roommates and I are already fighting about who gets to connect to it!
V: Can you tell us about anything your’e working on currently?
J: We have a couple projects in the works and another docu-series about life (haha the most generic answer but the best way to describe it).