Jennifer Crystal Chien Joins CAAM and Ninth Street Independent Film Center as a Filmmaker in Residence

Our new filmmaker in residence is working on several projects, including "The Highway," a short animated documentary recreating a highway protest against police violence.

A home for media arts for over a decade, the Ninth Street Independent Film Center makes work spaces and shared resources available to individual filmmakers through the Media Arts Incubator Program. The Incubator Program offers access to a dedicated work space, knowledge sharing, outreach opportunities, networking events, and meeting and exhibition space on an annual basis. Our goal is to provide spaces to Bay Area filmmakers to complete their projects.

Meet CAAM’s Filmmaker in Residence, Jennifer Crystal Chien:

Can you briefly introduce yourself — where you grew up, and where you are currently located?
I was born in Tennessee, near Nashville, but spent most of my childhood in Orange County, California during the 1970s, where I was often the only Asian American in my classes until high school. I currently live in Oakland in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.

What made you interested in the Ninth Street Independent Film Center residency?
I was drawn to the idea of being among a hub of filmmakers and festival staff. Independent documentary filmmaking can be a solitary pursuit, especially if you do the producing, shooting, and editing yourself. I’m also always curious to learn from others and enjoy meeting filmmakers.

What do you hope to get out of your residency here?
A sense of belonging to the large film community and inspiration from other filmmakers. Practically speaking, because I’m working on an animated short film, I’m able to shoot preliminary work in the incubator space at 9th Street, which has been great.

Are there particular things you are looking forward to?
The periodic lunches with other residents helps me to have perspective on other independent film projects and the amount of time it takes and what challenges commonly arise. I also look forward to securing additional funding for my film while in residency and making progress with the production.

What project or projects are you currently working on?
My main project as a resident has been The Highway, a short animated documentary recreating a highway protest against police violence with toys in miniature scale, along with several related historical and mythological time periods. The other scenes in this film relate modern-day highway protests to the Boston Tea Party, the Revolutions of 1848, lynchings, spiritualist abolitionists, and Western mythologies like The Odyssey. The film layers visuals with audio from live events, quotes, poems, and period music. I believe that by tapping into unconscious associations in American and Western history and
culture, we can bring light to connections that we may not have been aware of and intentionally shift them.

I am also co-producing two documentary films, Home Yet Far Away by Sabereh Kashi and VietnAmerican Peace by Ina Adele Ray. These films share in common personal journeys of exploration of family and cultural meaning and history in an effort to understand oneself and one’s place in multiple cultures.

Have you worked with CAAM before?
I’m new to CAAM before I joined the residency.

Is there anything else you want to add?
Since starting this residency, I’ve felt more confident to pursue the ideas and visions I have for independent film and media.