We had the good fortune of connecting with Yoo Lee and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Yoo, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I try to avoid having big regrets in life and don’t let fear dictate my decisions. Nothing worthwhile is without risk or sacrifice, especially in life/ career.
After having had my fashion brand for 20 years, I fell in love with stop motion animation while entertaining my daughter in my mid 40’s. I didn’t want it to be just an expensive and time-consuming hobby so I took a chance, applied to the USC MFA program majoring in animation, and somehow got my foot through the door and walked away from the fashion industry.
Taking that risk afforded me to learn something new, reinvigorate my static brain cells, and helped me find my true passion and I hadn’t looked back since. So yes, I am all about taking risks, regardless of where you are.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I use stop motion as a medium to tell the stories I write. I am interested in telling stories that are from my own experiences that are relatable and entertaining.
I have extensive design experience prior to becoming a writer/ director/ animator. So the visual world I create to support my stories are very colorful and textural. I am most proud that since joining the USC MFA program, I finished every animated short I worked on. I made 4 student shorts in two years. 2 were terrible, 1 had its moments and the last one was actually decent which got into a lot of festivals. Then I made 7LBS 8OZ outside the school and it elevated my skills quite a bit. I am currently working on Welcome to 8th Street, another stop motion animated short through HBO Access Animated Short Program and I can honestly say, it’s the best work I have done so far.
I go for opportunities that are out there by applying to festivals, grants, and mentorships. I am able to apply because I have been working extremely hard, see every project I tackle through completion, elevate my skills each time and have the portfolio to apply with. But this also means quite a bit of sacrifice for my family and friends. They have been seeing less of me since I started my passion for stop-motion animation.
It’s been an extremely rewarding, exhausting, and demanding experience, going back to school and learning again. I like to tell anyone who is contemplating switching careers and even those who think perhaps it’s too late, that ageism might come into play. I think there is no limit to what each one of us is capable of. I think the doubts are there to make us complacent and it’s up to us to break free and see what adventure lies ahead.
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 will start with my home at Silver Lake and home-cooked Korean meals. Then we would walk over to Sunset Blvd if it’s Sat./ Tues. and go to the farmer’s market to get the best Pupusas and fruits. Pine and Crane, Kismet, Playita Moriscos, and Be U are an all amazing food. Hike up the Observatory at Griffith Park and finish it off with a slice of apple pie and ice coffee at Trails Cafe. Then we will get some museum time and head over to the Academy Museum at Miracle Miles and gawk at all the stop-motion puppets and costumes. And if the weather isn’t too hot, we will spend a whole day at Huntington Library and walk around all the plants and trees and marvel at how beautiful everything is. Then finish off the trip back home at Silver Lake and we would talk about how fast the time has gone by and walk around the Silver Lake Reservoir before we have a BBQ back at home. Food, always everything is about food with me.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I wouldn’t be where I am without the mentors and organizations that rallied around me.
From my professors at USC who taught me fundamentals of animation such as Eric Goldberg, Mike Patterson, Candace Reckinger, Christine Panushka, Teresa Cheng, and so many wonderful educators at USC to Film Independent and Rise Up Animation organizations that support people of color.
I met Brad Schiff at LAIKA through a mentorship program at Rise Up Animation who became one of the most influential mentors in stop motion animation for me. LAIKA studio also generously awarded a film grant which allowed me to make 7LBS 8OZ last year which got Oscars Qualified for ‘23.
Then there are writer mentors such as Paul Foley, Cyrus Voris, and Ruth Atkinson who shaped me to become a storyteller. I hit the jackpot and become HBO Access Animated Short Program mentee for 2022 and I am currently working on my next short with a producer partner Xin in the most nurturing environment possible for a filmmaker. So yes, I have a lot to be thankful for.