We had the good fortune of connecting with Jo Jo Lam and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Jo Jo, what’s the most difficult decision you’ve ever had to make?
The most difficult decision I’ve had the privilege to make was probably leaving my home, my comfort zone, and the only thing I’ve really ever known, Hong Kong, at the age of 16. It was something that I always contemplated but never thought possible. I first learned English through watching Friends the TV show at about 13 years old and this coupled with being a little bit of a cinephile at that age – I really just wanted to challenge myself. It was probably regular teenage rebellion, now with the gift of hindsight however I can tell that it was something instinctual I knew on a gut level. The world is big with so many different cultures, languages, and people to learn from and I needed to put myself out there and experience it. Little did I know that was one of the most influential and challenging decisions I’ve ever made in my life. I made most of my “discoveries” there in Australia. My identity was personally and culturally extremely challenged and it introduced me to a lot of concepts I was naively not familiar with before – like how prevalent racism and homophobia were. However, it was also there I found my passion for film-making, photography, music, coffee, and beers! This rewarding experience just led to an unstoppable hunger of unconsciously debilitating myself and my surroundings ( from Australia to the UK, France, and now the US._ From there onwards I was pretty persistent. I took a part-time foundation course in film production for a year at one of the best film schools in Australia -VCA( now University of Melbourne) at night while I attended high school during the day. Even though I was busy as hell, I remember having this feeling that everything suddenly just felt right and possible – and my world exploded in all senses of the word.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a cinematographer born and raised in Hong Kong who has since lived and worked in Melbourne, London, and Paris. I am currently based in Los Angeles and speaks English, Chinese, and French fluently. The projects I shoot often explores notions of identity and the diaspora ranging from fiction to documentaries and have had numerous successes in festivals worldwide. It remains somewhat unusual for someone from my cultural background to pursue filmmaking but I persisted after first discovering the desire in Australia. Following that passion, all the way to London, being forced out of my BA there for financial reasons was difficult for me. Undeterred, I became a professional camera assistant, working for 5 years in this role so I could continue to observe and learn. I began to DP smaller projects and lensed documentaries, shorts that traveled to festivals, (NewFest LGBT Film Festival, Kustendorf Film Festival), as well as commercials and music videos both in London and Paris, over the course of 3 years. Then, about a little over four years ago, I was informed of news of a family tragedy in the parallel universe of time differences. My father’s sudden passing wrenched me back to Hong Kong after being abroad for 10 years. I discovered over that difficult time that my immense appetite for image-driven communication persisted even in the darkest of times. I couldn’t help but observe how space, light, and colors uniquely phrased the moods and feelings of that time. Further grasping their power as a language, this emotional experience confirmed my desire to be a cinematographer. My increasing passion for narrative storytelling propelled me to LA after being accepted into the AFI where I’m now about to graduate with an MFA in Cinematography at the end have this year and have been recognized by the Kodak Vision Award for Excellence in Cinematography for one of the short films I lensed at AFI -‘ Ceremony’. Our graduate thesis film, ‘The Hideaway’ (directed by Jane Stephens Rosenthal) was also accepted to the prestigious Oscar-qualifying film festival called Hollyshorts Film Festival. I’ve also recently been invited to participate in the BAFTA LA Newcomers Talent Program and can’t wait to get my feet wet properly working in LA!

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’d probably start by bringing them for a good hike first at Griffith park to get their feet wet with the hiking culture there. Then hit Echo Park, Silverlake, Downtown, and Koreatown so our two feet would actually touch the ground and discover that awesome food culture. Then I’d probably bring them to the beach a couple of times but further out in Malibu or San Pedro- and maybe spend a few days in Joshua Tree as it is pretty unique out there especially for a first-time visitor! And if they love Asian food as much as I do then well I’ve got an address book of places for them out in East LA and beyond. LA definitely takes time to get to know but I’d say you’re always discovering new places which is what makes it unique.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
If there’s only one person that I should thank, it would definitely be my mother. For whom without, I just wouldn’t even be here and be able to pursue this artistic yet very unstable career! It was through her that I learned it was okay and in fact important to follow your passion and hold on to it. She made all of these opportunities I’ve had possible and permitted me to dream bigger than probably appropriate from day 1 and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Website: https://jojo-lam.com
Instagram: https://instagram.com/jojolamdop
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jo-jo-lam-947a2a7/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jo.lam127
Other: BAFTA LA Newcomers Talent Profile: https://www.bafta.org/los-angeles/events-initiatives/supporting-talent/newcomers-cinematographers-2020#jo-jo-lam Panavision Interview: https://www.instagram.com/p/CD4_my4pbtY/

Image Credits
– Dasha Suvorova – Yokaro Okada – Matthew Baraskus – Jo Jo Lam

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutLA is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.