With the release of her latest music video project, "Right Now", on Stan Lee's popular World of Heroes YouTube channel, director-writer-producer Jennie Kong makes yet another mark on the face of new media as we know it. The video combines a classic Romeo and Juliet-style storyline with the fantastic stylings of Stan Lee's super-powered creations, backed by the pop-punk tunes of the hit Arizona-based band, Never Let This Go.
Hard-working and driven by a limitless imagination seeped in geek culture, Kong is no stranger to the weird world of fantasy and action. Kong's nerdy roots (she currently works with popular game studio thatgamecompany, and has worked on hit supernatural projects like Geek & Sundry's Spooked) show through in "Right Now" as she tells a short story of love, betrayal and loss through a superhuman point of view.
We sat down with the creative powerhouse that is Jennie Kong to get her take on Hollywood in the age of digital media, and where geek culture is leading it.
You’ve done so much work in the geek space. Can you tell us about how your experience led you to creating this video?
I’ve been working in video games for the longest time, and since moving over from England to US I have been working more with a variety of folks in the film, digital and comic book industries. I’ve had the pleasure working on a lot of geek properties from amazing creators, including Stan Lee and Felicia Day. I have also been writing and directing various short films and music videos, usually shot with a magical realistic style and sensibility. When I was thinking about shooting a superhuman music video, the team at Stan Lee’s World of Heroes asked if they could premiere it on their network during their “Original Superheroes and Heroines” program.
How did the idea of this video come to you?
I’m a big fan of mythologies and liked the idea of telling a love story within a superhuman world, and the complications which grows from that. The music video follows the story of a guy (played by Banks Boutte) that falls in love with a troubled girl (Alison Hailsip) who is consumed by her newfound pyro kinesis power. Unfortunately for their relationship, they are just pawns in the bigger picture, and there are players who are keen to exploit or protect their superhuman gifts for their own endgame. I kept their superpowers lean and subtle so to focus on the feelings and lyrics of the song.
What is your favorite memory from being on-set?
Final day when all of the toys came out, and we got to play fire with our lead actor, Alison. It was actually a Stunt/VFX/SFX/Make Up heavy day but by that point the cast and crew were all gelling and working well together. Despite working with VFX on most of my projects, my philosophy is to leverage it as an extension of a character’s emotion or to emphasize a story point. Hopefully we achieved that. We shot at my friends’ house that day too so all and all it was a chilled time. At the end of it, I was like… can we do it again?
How did you score that awesome cameo actor at the end?
When we were storyboarding in pre-production, I thought it would be cool to see Ryan and his mutant acquisition team move onto another case at the end of the video. At the time I didn’t think much about it until the casting - when I had an idea about doing an easter egg tied to Stan Lee and the MCU. I chatted to my producer about some options and we agreed Michael Rooker was the perfect match. We chatted to Michael and he said yes in a heartbeat, he was too cool.
As someone who’s played both sides of New Media and traditional Hollywood, what is the atmosphere of new media like versus a standard Hollywood production?
There’s different merits to writing and directing projects in the standard Hollywood system, vs. independent filmmaking, vs. digital platforms. From a production standpoint, digital entertainment is still growing and finding its audience which means there’s less money, less bureaucracy and less support in this field. But the atmosphere is pretty electric from a creative standpoint and having no money does force you to think on your feet more. As a creator, you can take more risks with your content, reach more people and have a dialogue with fans instantly. Hopefully the industry and investors can step up to provide more budgets and resources in this space soon.
The scarcity of women in Hollywood has been a hot topic as of recent. What must the big-wigs change when it comes to fixing that number?
Money talks, and Hollywood needs to see that it stands to gain a lot from the market by including women. I liken it a little to the technology industry somewhat and what they’ve been trying to do there. It really needs to come from the top -where more opportunities, jobs and training are given to women. You want more girls and women to beef up ratings and the box office? Don’t just rely on the status quo, have women working on more TV and Film projects and telling more richer and sophisticated female-led stories. Where are all the women? Online? Maybe because there’s such a high stat of female voices and creators there?
What would your advice be to young women looking to do what you do?
I have lots of ideas so I’ll just keep it simple. 1) Surround yourself with people who are already doing what you want to do, and better. If you can ask/find mentors who write or direct, or whatever role you want to support you – do it. Film school can help. 2) Have a super clear idea of the stories you want to tell and know your audience. Look at filmmakers who you admire and get a sense of what they did to get there. Have a plan. 3) Work hard, have fun and be kind, every day.
If you had a mutant power, what would it be?
It changes everyday. Today, I would like to have healing powers and be able to bring things back to life. Especially machines or inanimate objects. That would be wild.