We had the good fortune of connecting with Jimmy Xie and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jimmy, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Risk-taking is not a choice — it is a necessary survival instinct for those who want to make the most of their lives. Everybody lives in fear of some kind. The deeper the fear, the less freedom we have to experience all aspects of this world. So, for me, risk-taking is one of the most effective ways to address and conquer my fear.
I was afraid of water and of heights as a kid, so going swimming and zip lining with my peers felt like impossible tasks. One summer, as I stood at the edge of the community pool after a whole month of swimming lessons and being praised by all the coaches for having the perfect form, I was reminded of what my mother always said: “Fear is a bully, and it only compounds as time goes by. Age makes it even harder for people to accept change and take risks. There is only a thin line between doing and not doing, and that split-second decision of powering through fear is what stopped many talented people in their tracks. So, Jimmy, you decide what kind of person you want to be.” As I leaped mid-air and my face scrunched up, bracing for the impact on the water, I knew that my life would be changed forever and that I was one step closer to becoming a well-rounded person.
For all the years that followed, I have always been hyper-aware of that “line.” When I close my eyes, I think of the line that separates international departure gates from the rest of the airport; I think of the line that marks the University campus from the city streets; I think of the line that that says “sign here” on my application to the Art department. Then there was my first time buying a suit, the first time learning to appreciate wine, and the first time getting my own apartment. Each and every line I cross pushes me further and further away from my younger self, sailing intermittently across time towards the fascinating unknown. Challenging myself to cross that “line” is risk-taking, as that “line” represents something none other than fear, and the reasoning behind my leaps is as clear cut as it can be: “Do I want to be free as a bird or do I want to be the frog in the well?”
This very spirit of risk-taking had a huge influence on how I approach my art practice, as I use my work as a platform to examine and voice my innermost vulnerable thoughts. What are the next challenges I want to take on? I would love to be okay with running shirtless or getting a breakfast burrito in my pajamas and with bed hair — sounds like an exciting video art piece to me!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a video artist & filmmaker based in Orange County, or as I prefer to call myself, an “uncommon storyteller.” I have a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, double minored in Leadership Studies and Studio Art, as well as a Master’s degree in Leadership Development.
For my commercial work, I make mini-documentary films for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Rather than putting together a compilation of slow-motion clips, close-up pans, and trendy music, which is how most commercials are nowadays, I am more interested in telling genuine stories about what makes these establishments and individuals unique from a social science research perspective.
From the initial consultation to the recorded interview to the actual video production, every step leading up to the final edit is designed to draw out the “real meat” of the story that would make a lasting impression on the viewers’ minds. A lot of the time, even business owners themselves do not understand where they truly shine and which area(s) they should focus their marketing on. This is when I come in with a well-thought-out list of questions, the analytical research skill set, and a fresh Sociological perspective on their businesses’ identities.
After all, the mini-documentaries I make are not only commercials, but also guidelines for all of my clients’ future advertising efforts.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I am an avid biker, or as some people prefer to call us “cyclists.” I would definitely take my friend on a bike ride along the boardwalk of the Pacific Coast Highway from Newport Beach to Seal Beach. Of course, nothing beats a double-shot espresso after reaching our destination and then looking for a deli to have a chicken pesto sandwich. Assuming nobody steals our bikes, I would put our bikes against a tree and walk on the beach for a little while until we both feel like taking a nap on the sand.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Out of all the people who have offered me a tremendous amount of help during my career as an artist, the most influential person, aside from my mother, has to be my former art professor, Micol Hebron. She is an interdisciplinary artist who is well-known for her work in Feminism and community engagement around hot button topics.
I have never come across anybody who fights for their beliefs as relentlessly as she has, and this statement stays true to this day. If there is a grant somewhere for art projects, you bet she has already applied for it before you even started to brew your morning coffee. If there is injustice anywhere on campus or in the art world, you bet she will fire back with an article, an email, and a series of social media posts directed towards those responsible for the incident and those who can make policy changes. An intriguing event to check out? She probably has already taken off with her dog on a cross-country road trip or on the next flight headed towards the actions.
Nobody messes with her, and she is always at it. Every time I talk to her, I feel a surge of energy — a rush that roars and demands the answers to these questions: “What is the problem, and what can we do about it right now?” Needless to say, I respect her and admire her. In a world full of procrastinators, I am eternally grateful for her exemplifying the “zoom-zoom” attitude that guided me towards reaching my ambition.
Garret Hill, Mario Duldulao