NAME: Lee Milby
LOCATION: New York, NY
ORIGIN: Honolulu, Hawaii
ART: Film/Video, Storyboarding
MAIN GENRE: Varied
TRAINING: Studied oil painting and performance art at Pratt MWP and The Cooper Union School of Art
ARTS AFFILIATIONS: NYC Women Filmmakers, The Artists Forum
BIO: Lee Milby is a New York based Director and Artist known for creating rich, artistic visuals with compelling storytelling. As an Asian transracial adoptee who grew up in an Irish-American family, Lee creates art from a unique perspective. After studying oil painting and performance art at both Pratt MWP and The Cooper Union, Lee entered the world of filmmaking with an unusual skill set, taking a Fine Art approach to every project.
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Several of my projects have been featured and I’ve won awards in various domestic and international film festivals, including Best Music Video Award at The Artists Forum Festival of the Moving Image: 2020 for the song “Crazy” by hip-hop artist J-Key.
LATEST WORKS: 1-1 (2022) – A dance film with original choreography performed by Mengchen Liu and the song “Footprints” by Adam Maalouf, featuring Hannah Sumner. Traces (2021) – A music video for psychedelic-pop, R&B singer/songwriter Cate Hamilton.
WORK SAMPLES: Two music videos: Traces, and Crazy. One short film: 1-1. Director’s Reel: Lee Milby Director Reel. Images: 13 Storyboard artwork images by Lee Milby. Video Still: VFX green screen effects by Lee Milby for the music video Traces.
Please describe your artistic themes
I’m a transracial domestic adoptee from foster care, East Asian raised in an Irish American family. My personal work surrounds themes of identification, classification, and categorization.
Please describe your creative process
With music videos, I listen to the track on repeat until images begin to emerge. Then I stitch the images together in my mind to form a story or an edit. I’ll often write out my ideas in a script, sometimes storyboard. I’ve always been inspired by music, especially cinematic tracks. I will sometimes use lyrics to help inspire imagery, but this technique works well with songs in languages I’m not familiar with. Following the music has never let me down.
What are your artistic goals? What do you need to achieve them?
I aim to inspire people and make them think. I aim to explore topics in an authentic, open-minded way.
Also, at the time I directed my first project, I had never once seen or heard of an Asian woman director making it big in Hollywood before. I was the first Asian woman director I’d ever met, and the first that many people I’ve hired and collaborated with have also met. So I hope that by putting myself out there as a director who doesn’t fit the traditional Hollywood archetypes, it’ll help inspire confidence in others to try directing and creating as well, and help others to accept and support diversity in the film industry.
What are your views on the industry?
I had a rough start in my career due to prejudices against women (and sexualization of Asian women). I was often hit on or disregarded, bullied, put down, and told I’d never make it. Even people I considered close friends told me not to bother trying to direct because I’d just fail. Eventually, I directed my first project in order to prove everyone wrong, and realized that directing wasn’t as hard as everyone made it out to be. It was actually fun, and felt natural! I’ve been directing ever since.
What advice would you give to emerging artists?
Don’t wait for permission to create, just do it!
VIDEO: #theartistsforumfilmfest 2021 Call-For-Entries (feat. Lee Milby)