Meet Julia Ngeow, Creator of Eudaemonia
[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]W[/dropcap]e all know about the Bechdel test, right? But did you know that there are still very, very few films that actually pass the test? With Eudaemonia, a short film by and about women, creator Julia Ngeow is working to change that narrative. This week, we chatted with Julia about life as a creative in NYC, what feminism means to her, and what’s next in her creative endeavours.[divider type="dashed" spacing="10"]
Introduce yourself! Tell us who you are and what you do.
I’m a filmmaker from Perth, Australia, but I was born in Sydney and then grew up in Singapore and have now been in New York for about three years. So transition and travel and different cultures have always been a part of my life. And my parents are mixed race – my dad is Chinese but grew up in Malaysia and then came over to Sydney. My mom is caucasian and Aussie. And so all this cultural clashing and travel has been very much part of my upbringing.
I originally studied a bachelor of biophysical science. I was very motivated by the X-Files, and I wanted to become someone who created brain-controlled prosthetics or become a forensic scientist. But I also had this passion for film – I went on and did a one-year course in filmmaking in 2007. And since then, I’ve been working on music videos and have done a number of short films, two of them funded by Screen West, the Western Australian film funding body.
This trip to start my new life here in New York kind of spurred the Eudaemonia script. New York is such a strange place – it’s like, there are people from here originally, but everyone’s here for a reason, everyone’s very busy, ambitious and motivated, and I was finding a strange thing happening in terms of friendships and relationships that we’re able to make here. Everyone’s very open to meeting new people, especially since everyone’s so transitional, but when it came to true friendships and calling on people in your time of need, people weren’t necessarily around. And so this story is about the power of the transitional moments of friendship with a stranger, and I’ve found a lot of that here in the city. A lot of these funny, serendipitous moments. You bump into someone on a train, or you chat to someone at a bodega, and sometimes that’s the only type of friendship people have in this city.
And I see this short film as a promo for a feature length that is to come in the future.[divider type="short" spacing="10"]
Why is it important to you to tell women’s stories?
This script stemmed from traveling here, but it was also kind of an experiment in that I wanted to create a story in which two lead female characters had a conversation that was not about men – the Bechdel test. I think that might be still a rare thing, so that was my experiment for myself. And I wanted it to be fun and not really a film with a message. It’s intended to be a quirky comedy, kind of in the vein of Charlie Kaufman, if I could be so self-flattering.
Amy, the lead, I saw her by going to a screening of her feature film called Felt, which deals with and explores rape culture. I reached out to her director to see if Amy might be interested in this short and in collaborating, and she said yes. So then we started a creative relationship from there. It’s funny how this project has come together with part luck, part dedication and commitment from generous people, but a lot of serendipity too.[divider type="short" spacing="10"]
How do you define feminism and how does that play a part in the work you do?
It’s an intrinsic part of me without ever having known it. I think that it represents freedom to me, the freedom to do as I choose or as we all choose. It’s funny that we had to create the word for it. It’s just a human right, as far as I’m concerned. And it’s definitely a positive thing and nothing to do with hateful feelings, but more to do with giving everyone an equal chance.
In terms of my work, I’m not sure it’s played a part in a conscious way up until now, but I am very aware of what I’m putting out into the world. I want to make sure it has a message that I would be happy with people adopting. I want my work to improve the general consciousness of society or whoever watches it. I love the Plato quote, “Those who tell the stories rule society.” Because it’s so true, and that’s kind of a great power and responsibility, so I am conscious of what I’m putting out into the world and making sure it represents what I think is good and healthy and fair.[divider type="short" spacing="10"]
What’s your best advice for other women in filmmaking?
We can’t control our environment, but we can control ourselves and our attitudes, so whatever happens, don’t let yourself become the limiting factor in your work. By that I mean, there might be obstacles and difficulties in our path, but our mindset, doubts and fears can be a greater limit than the reality of the situation. I think we often get in our own way.[divider type="short" spacing="10"]
What’s next for you? How can we continue to follow and support your work?
I also have a documentary that I’m finishing up, which is in post production. That one is called Unspoken, and I’m co-directing it with a 14-year-old autistic girl named Emma Zurcher-Long. Emma is an amazing human – she’s an advocate for human rights relating to autism. She has a blog called Emma’s Hope Book and she’s been traveling around America advocating for autistic women and girls to come together and to strive for better human rights and education for themselves. So that film’s coming out soon.
Next up for me is to travel the circuit with Unspoken and Eudaemonia when it’s ready, and promote the script that I’ll be writing for the feature.