For our February Member of the Month, we interviewed superstar member Jessica Chen! Read on to learn more about her.
Tell us about yourself! It can be about anything – where you grew up, your professional background, your hobbies, etc.
Hi, I’m Jessica W. Chen, and I’m a producer, screenwriter, and actress based in Queens, NY. My work explores themes of identity, love, womanhood, and becoming an adult. I’m the founder of Lil Swimmers Productions, a Taiwan-based film production company, and Re-Casting the Movies (RCtM), a nonprofit that promotes diversity in casting and media representation. I grew up in Rockville, MD, a suburb of Washington, D.C. After living in Taiwan for six years after graduating from St. Mary’s College of Maryland with a dual degree in English and Asian Studies, I moved back to the U.S. in February 2020 and joined TAP-NY shortly after. Now, in New York, I’m pursuing a MFA in TV Writing and Production at LIU Brooklyn, where I also created Drama High. My hobbies are dancing, listening to music, meeting people, staying up-to-date on film industry news, and learning everything I can about film production and writing. Recently, I’ve been nervously exploring the world of podcasts, since RCtM is starting a podcast. Our first episode discusses Mulan (2020) and features one of the screenwriters from Mulan (1998) – I’m super excited about it! For more on what I’m about, check out my website.
Why did you join TAP? What are your favorite events?
I joined TAP because I had just moved back to the U.S. from Taiwan, and knew I would be moving to New York. I wanted to get started establishing a network, so I joined TAP-NY and started attending virtual events, even though I was still at home with my family in Maryland. I’m glad I did! Because I’ve only attended virtual events, my favorite ones have been the Side Project Sunday and Virtual Dinner Series events. However, the in-person events I’ve seen on the website look really fun, like dance classes, so I would be interested in participating in those in the future!
Tell us something cool that happened to you this past year.
This past year, I wrote, executive produced, and acted in the pilot for Drama High, a romantic comedy series about a working class girl who capitalizes on her knowledge of popular Asian dramas tropes to climb the social ladder at her new elite school. The show is essentially a love letter to Asian dramas re-imagined with Asian-American diaspora, and it’s the largest production I’ve undertaken. While it was incredibly stressful to put together a shoot during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was also super fun! In addition to starring Taiwanese-American actors, such as Jordan Mahr and I, our producer, Sandie Cheng, and director, Elizabeth Jaeleigh Davis (who flew in from L.A. to direct this project) are also Taiwanese-American. We also had another TAP-NY member, Emily Lin, on set as a grip! This month, I assembled the Drama High writers’ room to write the rest of the series. We plan to crowdfund later this year, so we can shoot the rest of the series. Please follow the Drama High Instagram, @dramahigh2020, or sign up for our email newsletter for updates! Want to see what we were working on? Take a look at these beautiful photos here with the main cast from the pilot shoot.
What’s your favorite Taiwanese food and why?
My favorite Taiwanese food is beef noodle soup. It’s a classic that’s great for the winter (and really any time of the year), and I get cravings for the rich broth and tender beef from time to time. I also like treating myself to bubble tea when I can, though I miss the flavors and combinations available in Taiwan!
What’s your advice for newer members who want to get more involved?
My advice for newer members who want to get more involved is to attend events without fear or awkwardness. I know that can sound scary, especially if you don’t know anyone or are an introvert, but in my experience, TAP-NY is filled with warm people who make you feel welcomed as soon as you step foot into an event. Also, the people in TAP-NY are as interested in connecting with you as much as you are looking to connect with them, so everyone’s really on equal footing! The more events you attend, the more people will start feeling familiar, and soon you’ll be making valuable connections who become your friends.