We had the good fortune of connecting with Ino Yang Popper and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ino Yang, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
Work-life balance has always been a tricky task for all of us. Many of us either have not been paying attention, or we convince ourselves that we did the best we could. The truth is, we didn’t. So who are we fooling here? During the first year I spent at the American Film Institute in the cinematography program, my work-life balance was terrible, I had no life at all, and I was miserable. I re-adjusted myself during the second year and felt so much more alive and productive. My biggest excuse was that I believed I was supposed to be like that because everyone told me to forget about family and friends, or any life at all once you are in the program. So I thought the more miserable I became, the more I must have been working hard and headed in the right direction. Looking back, I would laugh at myself quite a bit. Working hard doesn’t mean sacrificing all your life. On the contrary, it was counterproductive. I can’t imagine how much more efficient and productive I could have been if only I could have always reminded myself to check in with family and friends, most importantly myself. Life is brief, although we all like to think we are immortal, there’s nothing sadder than watching life pass by without the awareness of it. As an artist, our inspiration doesn’t just pop out of nowhere, it’s always from what type of life experience we expose ourselves to and how engaged or involved we consciously allow ourselves to be. We often think that it’s okay since we already have some experience, we could forever draw inspiration from that, we don’t need to create new life experience at the moment since we are busy, let it pass by, so be it. As a result, we end up making ten films that are mostly the same film, not much growth or transformation sort of thing in later work. We stopped growing since we stopped living life. Making a work-life balance is not easy, but neither is anything ultimately good for us. If we want to find a balance, a lot of disciplines must be enforced by ourselves. We find it difficult because we are not making conscious choices, we settled for “It is what it is.” This method seems to work temporarily, but it’s not sustainable. Realizing that if we do everything consciously, we can create our future. “It is what it is” is more about not letting yourself entangled with things you can not control. Unfortunately, a lot of us discovered the convenience of this and started applying it everywhere, getting used to reacting rather than acting.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Transitioned from 12 years of editing experience to cinematography, I benefit from being able to visually put the puzzles together in my head as filming goes. It’s been a strength that sets me apart from others knowing how things could potentially cut together, what works and what doesn’t, are we missing shots, will the eye-line match. Additionally, what also makes my perspective fresh is my cross-cultural background. Combining both eastern and western cultures, I am somewhat sensitive to the universal truth of the story and character, regardless of the various worlds they live. I believe the authenticity and universal human truth is the key to resonate with any audience through imagery no matter what language they speak, or to what culture they expose themselves. Things wouldn’t be challenges if they were easy. But it depends on how you look at it. There’s no fun in it if there weren’t challenges because the fun is in the rewarding fulfillment upon the process of overcoming challenges. If we see challenges as the pain we must go through to gain; then we would always feel blessed in front of challenges. This has been the mindset that’s helped me overcome any challenges. I have learned plenty of lessons. I’m still learning and will never stop learning. Some essential lessons I learned are not about the craft itself, but about how to be. I do the best of what I can, let go of the things beyond my control. Easy said than done, but if you keep practicing, you will soon discover an apparent shift in yourself and life. You would feel less stressed, anxious, angry, frustrated. Instead, more calm, peaceful, and clarity, which is how you could perform the best to your ability without having your judgment clouded by emotions or ego. Another valuable lesson would be the art of balance. Everything needs to be balanced to function to its full potential. I find this very accurate not only in the overall life experience but also in visual storytelling. There’s a fine line between too much and too subtle, between arbitrary and authentic. I want the world to know me and my work in whichever way they do upon the story I’m telling. Neither I nor my work is essential. It’s the story that’s all that matters.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Be with nature! Especially during the pandemic, going on a nature walk, hike or picnic has been my favorite activity. Feeling grounded to the earth in nature is soul cleansing. This would clear all of the noise and negativity out of your way to help you better tune in and connect with yourself.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I want to give a shoutout to the American Film Institute, as well as my professor, instructor, and mentors: Stephen Lighthill, ASC, Bill Dill, ASC, Sandra Valde-Hansen, Jacek Laskus, ASC, PSC, Michael Pessah, ASC, Sara Ross-Samko. They have not only taught me the craft of cinematography and continue to inspire me, but most importantly, they showed me how to be, as an artist.
Other: Cinematography Reel: https://vimeo.com/338395685
Leeni Linna, Erica Arroyo, Leslie Lausch, Ariel Skovera, Keiry Vera