We had the good fortune of connecting with David Woo and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi David, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
My parents came from humble beginnings in Hong Kong and scraped what they could to immigrate to America and give their kids a chance at a decent life. The American dream was definitely something on our minds growing up, but reality hits hard and it was a tough journey for the family. I think this upbringing definitely shapes my lifestyle and decisions in both my personal life and in my work. I’ve been really drawn to intimate, humanistic stories throughout my career and have taken on projects that value social responsibility and meaning at the forefront.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I work as a cinematographer and filmmaker primarily in Japan and Los Angeles. I still get hired to take on other roles sometimes like 2nd AC, camera operator, or even to produce/direct the project from start to finish (planning, production, editing, etc), however these past 2 years, I’ve been striving to focus as the main cinematographer for feature narrative films and feature documentary work. I’ve been really conscious about the projects I take on, particularly after going freelance. I like to work on projects that are intimate, and have a meaningful message or theme. In the commercial world especially, it was important that the brands I work with want to inspire change and value corporate responsibility. It hasn’t been easy at all. As a freelancer before, I was simply a work-for-hire cinematographer on projects alongside other cast and crew. But after setting up my company, it became necessary to take on the business challenges so I had to teach myself the skills needed to stay afloat while continuing to sharpen my skills as a cinematographer. On top of that, I was building my career in a foreign country where I didn’t really speak the language. It was a painful growing process.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
This is gonna be a long answer. I have so many recommendations in Japan that it’ll take ages to get through them. Anyway, I’ll try to keep it brief.
Tuesday – (Tokyo) Time to move on to some of my favorite spots in Tokyo city. We can enjoy the chill Sunday vibes at Kichijoji and explore the coffee culture and parks there. Later in the day we’ll check out the local dive bar street, Harmonica Yokocho. So much character in this small city.
Wednesday – (Osaka) We’ll take a bullet train first thing in the morning down to the Kansai region of Japan where I’m living in currently. This is the kitchen of Japan and you it’s gonna be a foodie paradise. The vibe over here in Osaka is unreal and full of energy.
Thursday – (Kobe) We take a trip west to the charming port town, Kobe. We’ll explore the small city and check out the Europe inspired streets and how the two cultures blend together.
Friday – (Kyoto) We head north of Osaka to Kyoto, the city where the traditions of the old Japan are preserved. We’ll take a full day exploring the city and taking in the culture. At night we’ll check go to one of the many Michelin star kaiseki (multi-course) dinners,and perhaps if we’re lucky enough, we can spot a Geiko/Geisha or Maiko in the Gion district.
Saturday and Sunday – These are pretty much open days. I would personally love to take a trip up north to Hokkaido. Snowboarding, fresh air and fresh seafood are the highlights of that city to me and I think it’s worth the trip.
And voila. A week has gone by, but we’ve only scratched the surface of what Japan has to offer.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have so much gratitude towards my family and friends for their support throughout my journey in the industry. They have been with me through the highs and lows these years and are still with me even as I try to “make it”. In Los Angeles, I’d really like to give a shoutout to my colleague and friend, Andriy Semenyuk (https://andriysemenyuk.com/). He’s a fellow cinematographer who somehow manages to stay calm in even the most chaotic productions. Erika Fung (http://www.erikafung.com/) from Toronto is another artist (hairstylist) who has done some incredible work – her portfolio speaks for itself. In Japan, I’d like to give a shoutout to my friend, Neill R. Bell-Shaw (http://nbellshaw.com/). he’s an incredible writer and storyteller and I’d like to see more of his work expressed as films.