We had the good fortune of connecting with Jingqiu Guan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jingqiu, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
For a long time, I felt that having a child actually forced me to better achieve work-life balance. I enjoy my work very much and used to work long hours. However, after my son was born, I learned that it is not only necessary but also much more enjoyable to take evenings and weekends off. It took me some time to stop feeling guilty about not working constantly, and I had to re-evaluate what work means to me. Once I was able to adapt to the new rhythm, I felt that my life became a lot more balanced by being able to separate work and family time, and my work also became more efficient. However, recently, I had to quickly shift my ideal vision of maintaining a sense of work-life balance to pursuing work-life integration. Due to Covid-19, I suddenly had to juggle with working full-time while homeschooling and childcaring. It is definitely very challenging, and at times it feels not sustainable. But I have been forced to learn quickly how to piece together time slots in between childcare to move my work forward a little bit each time and to be ok with not knowing when exactly I can have a big chunk of time to focus on working without any distraction. I am still working towards better integrating work and life in the current pandemic. It requires a lot of discipline and focus.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am a dancer/choreographer turned into filmmaker. I love telling stories through movement. My background in dance provided me a keen sensibility to movement and rhythm. In the entire film production process, editing has always been my favorite as I treat editing as a choreographic process. In recent years, I have gradually developed an aesthetic of dance filmmaking that feels authentic to my own creative voice, which is to incorporate documentary elements in experimental dance films. This hybrid approach allows me to situate my works in specific social and cultural contexts and explore issues of cultural identities at a corporeal level. My most recent dance film, “Family Portrait” (2019), investigates my own search for identity by tracing my family lineage from my grandmother, my father, and my son while dancing with them. The film has been circulating in a number of film festivals and has recently won the Grand Jury Award from Chicago’s IN/MOTION International Dance Film Festival. “Family Portrait” is the most personal film that I have ever made thus far. I involved all of my closest family members in the production of the film. I learned that the filmmaking process could become a self-reflexive and healing process. It opened up a new channel for communication that led to deeper understanding and empathy between my family and I. Getting here has not been an easy journey as I struggled for many years to convince my family that being an artist is a viable career choice. The making of this film definitely led to a visible shift in how my family engages with my work. Filmmaking has taught me that I should not wait for inspiration. Inspiration often appears during the creative process. I also learned that the most meaningful works are the ones that authentically reflect my own voice. To discern this voice, I need to follow my instinct and the energy that excites me creatively. There is no right or wrong way of constructing visual and kinesthetic materials. Our own voices and lived experiences are what make our works unique.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Imagine this is post-Covid. For activities, I would definitely take my friend to watch an independent film at Laemmle Theater. We will go for dolphin watch at Newport Beach, visit LACMA, Getty Villa, and the Broad Art Museum. We will also see a dance performance at REDCAT in downtown LA. Food wise, I would take my friend to get ramen noodle at Ramenya on Gateway and Barrington, and enjoy a nice dinner at Lukshon in Culver City. We will definitely have some authentic Sichuan cuisine (from my home province) at Sichuan Impression in West LA. We will visit little Japantown on Sawtelle where we will shop at Daiso and get Beard Papa. On one of the days, we will also get pasta at Italy in Century City Mall and visit Grove’s Farmer’s Market.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would not have been who I am if I had not had an inspiring grandmother who greatly shaped my characters. My grandma never had the opportunity to attend school, but she self-taught herself and eventually became the most knowledgeable person in my family. In my childhood, I learned how to recite stories and poetries, write Chinese calligraphy, play tennis, and many more skills from her. Beyond these practical skills, she taught me the importance of having a growth mindset. She showed me with her own actions that it was with passion, hard work, and perseverance, one could realize his/her dream in spite of any life conditions. Her spirit inspired me to stay true to myself and not to give up on pursuing what is meaningful to me.