Jeanette Lam, '19

November 20, 2017
Student finds her passion in filmmaking

By: Colby Alvino, '19 
Photo Credit: Reporting Morocco

In the last year, Jeanette Lam, ’19, bought her first camera, was accepted into a film festival, got her first paid videography gig, and worked as a producer. Not bad for a year. And, Lam isn’t slowing down; she is currently studying with a Journalism and Film Study program in Morocco.

Lam describes herself as a writer, filmmaker, and storyteller. Out of the three mediums, she has the biggest passion for filmmaking because it encapsulates the other two.

“The very act of filmmaking is rooted in storytelling, and that's the main reason I love it,” Lam said. “However, without an engaging narrative and captivating frames, the story cannot thrive, so I would say images and words are just as important.”

When asked if she had a favorite piece of work, she said she couldn’t choose because she always wants her next piece to be better than her last. However, Returning to the Homeland: Taiwan, a documentary short that Lam produced last summer, was inspired by her mother’s native land and portrays her unconditional love of family, and it is a film that Lam holds dear to her heart.

“This project remains incredibly important to me for three reasons. First, at that time, I had little technical training aside from one Introduction to Film Production class and I used my father’s old camcorder. This goes to show how a passionate story outweighs high-end equipment and vast experience,” she said. “Second, it was the film which led me to being accepted into my first film festival, The Richmond International Film Festival. It opened many doors for me, giving me the chance to make connections with well-established filmmakers, as well as Hollywood and Emmy Award-winning directors. And third, my grandfather, who plays a key role in the film, passed away shortly after I returned to the United States. It was an incredibly heartwarming feeling to know that I had captured our last moments together through film and that despite language barriers and old age, he was able to see how much I cared and care.”

This past summer, Lam worked as a Media Specialist for City of Virginia Beach’s Parks and Recreation Department. She had the opportunity to film, edit, produce, and write documentary short films for the Summer Youth Employment Program, a program that teaches its participants technical work-place skills and provides them with temporary employment with hopes of opening doors for future opportunities. Lam observed a few of the participants for eights weeks as they worked in various sectors, such as The Police Department Crime Prevention Unit and the Animal Care and Adoption Center.

“Being that it was my first time working as a producer, I learned a lot about the challenges of being creative on a deadline,” she said. “I also certainly grew in my flexibility and adaptability as shooting times would often change or I would have to redo interview times. Overall, I feel like I grew in my technical skills, as well as my people skills."

“If there's anything I could say to someone who is apprehensive about studying something they are interested in, for the sake of not finding a job or making money, I would say you have to just go for it. If you commit, and give 100% to everything you do, there is no way you won't succeed. Of course it won't be easy, but the University of Richmond presents so many resources and amazing opportunities, you have to be assertive enough to take advantage of them. And once you have, you have to remind yourself that it is okay to do the things you love, for the simple fact that you love them.”

Lam used her resources at UR by visiting the Office of Alumni and Career Services. She visited with Beth Chancy, her career advisor, to discuss her study abroad options that would best fit her passions.

“I'm currently on a field-study program in Morocco, working on a documentary short film and being mentored by a New York Times editor and the founder of Round Earth Media. My visit to Career Services certainly helped me find my way and pick the right program,” Lam said.

Lam is not sure what specific career path she will follow once she graduates from UR, but she plans on using her technical skills in these three mediums to pursue documentary filmmaking or creating promotional productions for companies and clientele. More importantly, she hopes to always use her creative lens as a way of sharing stories — especially those that are often silenced.