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

Hi Lauren, why did you pursue a creative career?

I love this question. Frequently, I see people getting so sucked into their craft or their work, they forget their reason for pursuing a passion in the first place (I can be super guilty of this). It’s important to know one’s “why,” even if it evolves! In retrospect, I can say that I pursued a creative career for several reasons:

1.) Collaboration – there are few experiences in life I find as fulfilling as creating something out of nothing with a group of dedicated people. I love teamwork. As an artistic person, I crave personal, spiritual, and intellectual growth, and I find that most tangible when collaborating with others. To me, any creative environment is like a “sandbox” where people can come to play.

2.) Storytelling – I love a good story. My dad is a film historian, my sister is a writer, and my mom is one of the funniest people I know. I grew up around stories, and I appreciate them so profoundly. I found my way into the arts initially through dance, then studied theatre and music in school, and now specialize in film. Storytelling is my way of processing and making sense of the world. I find it essential.

3.) Humanity – to put it simply, having a creative career (especially when collaborating with others to tell a good story) taps into my emotions, inspires me, and makes me feel more alive. Makes me feel more human.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?

My work is dedicated to championing independent film artists. By day, I am the “Manager of Creative Producing & Artist Support” at the Sundance Institute. It’s a mouthful, but basically I spend my days supporting emerging independent producers, screenwriters, and directors in fiction feature films. We do this through labs, grants, mentorship, networking, and other professional development activities. I read a lot of scripts and watch a lot of rough cuts and talk with a lot of filmmakers. I find the work impactful for filmmakers trying to launch their careers (examples of projects we’ve recently supported include THE 40-YEAR-OLD-VERSION, THE FAREWELL, SORRY TO BOTHER YOU, and BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON). It has to be said, working in this industry as an independent filmmaker is HARD. Honestly, it can feel impossible, and I am grateful for mission-driven non-profit organizations like Sundance, Film Independent, SFFilm, The Gotham, and many others. They recognize the voices of these artists, and work tirelessly around the clock to create space in an industry otherwise driven by streamers, studios, algorithms, and profit.

I am also a producer in my own right with my own slate of projects. My background is focused on fiction, but I’m currently producing my first documentary, and it’s been one of my favorite collaborative experiences thus far. The project is called BLACK GIRL IN THE WOODS and it’s about my dear friend Kisha Jarrett’s journey as a black, plus-sized woman with chronic illness (Lupus) hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail.

In terms of how I got here, I’d say it was a combination of taking risks and cultivating meaningful relationships. My biggest career moves stemmed from taking a leap of faith (no matter how uncomfortable) and putting myself out on the line while leaning on others for support and wisdom. I’ve done those red-eye plane rides or all-day drives for that dream interview, and I keep in touch with the same people, year after year, who are always ready and willing to advocate on my behalf. I am SUCH a proponent of community and believe we as professionals (and as humans!) would not survive without it.

Lastly… I’m also a painter! I started in college, but it’s really picked up within the last couple years. As time allows, I try to pick up a brush whenever I can.

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?

I love going outside, so I’d definitely suggest going hiking — Griffith Park, Point Dume, Topanga, Angeles National Forest, and Malibu are all wonderful places to explore. Speaking of Topanga, just drive through the canyon! It’s a state designated scenic highway that takes you through beautiful mountains, bohemian shops, and cafes that will make you feel nowhere near the city.

Of course, you need to follow up your outdoor excursion with good food. I’m particularly a fan of Koreatown. Might I recommend a special little place called “Dan Sung Sa,” a late-night, old-school dive-y Korean restaurant with small plates, soju drinks, and wooden walls to write and doodle on? I’m all about finding immersive and affordable experiences, and this is perfect for that.


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?
As mentioned above, collaboration is a key reason for why I do what I do. Therefore, this post is dedicated to the original members of the LA-based film collective, Rude Horse Productions (Chris Bauer, Julia Monahan, Jordan Williams, and Emi Ellis), my Sundance colleagues, former and current (Jena Jarvis, Cleo Chung, Jenny Stamenson, Andrea Mgebroff, Ritvik Dhavale, Zack Garcia, Ana Verde, Maria Santos, Daniel Larios, Yvonne Jimenez, Shira Rockowitz, Ilyse McKimmie, Michelle Satter, Kristin Feeley, Maria Clement… too many to name!), and my production teammates on the current documentary project I’m producing, BLACK GIRL IN THE WOODS (Kisha Jarrett, Melissa Daniels, Faith Briggs, Shawn Lee, Leslie Crandell Dawes, Kayla Hanson, and Mary Beth Leavens).

Website: blackgirlinthewoods.org

Instagram: @laurenlukow

Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/laurenlukow/

Facebook: facebook.com/laurenlukow

Image Credits
Image #1: Photo by Haye Yukio (IG @haye_yukio) Image #2: Photo by Jonathan Hickerson | © 2018 Sundance Institute Image #3: Photo by Jonathan Hickerson | © 2019 Sundance Institute Image #4: Photo by Lauren Lukow (IG @laurenlukow) Image #5: Photo by Lauren Lukow (IG @laurenlukow) Image #6: Original reference photo by Gary M. Hart (https://www.garyhartphotography.com/about-gary) / Photo by Lauren Lukow (IG @laurenlukow)

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