Alice Gu: Director of the Donut King

December 08, 2020
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Tell us about your business/company or hustle. What do you do, what do you specialize in, what are you known for, etc. What are you most proud of as a company? What sets you apart from others?

I am a film director and am known for authentic storytelling and cinematic visuals. I’m proud for my feature directorial debut to represent Asian Americans and the immigrant experience in America. What sets me apart from others in Hollywood is that I’m a female director, an Asian American director, and I’m also a director of photography.

Can you briefly walk us through your story – how you got started and how you got to where you are today. You can include as little or as much detail as you’d like.

I started at the bottom, answering phones right out of college. It was pretty clear early on that I was meant to be behind the camera, with my love of photography. After a few years working from the bottom to becoming a director of photography, I got to work with some of the best of the best Rory Kennedy, Stacy Peralta, Werner Herzog, Frieda Lee Mock. When it came time to helm my first feature film, I was able to pull knowledge from all aspects of my work  commercial work, documentary work, narrative work  and utilize them all as tools to help tell the story of Ted Ngoy, the Donut King.

What specific obstacles or challenges have you faced while on your journey? What were they and how have you overcome them?

I wouldn’t have liked to admit it when I was starting my career, because I thought the sky was the limit, but looking back now, I have had to work harder, work smarter, work better, be on top of my game, to stay busy and continually working as a minority female in the film business.

When I was just starting out, a male Asian director looked straight in my eyes and told me he would never hire a woman to shoot a car commercial. I was too naive and scared to say anything at the time. As years progressed, I just became more confident in myself and my skills and that kind of comment just wouldn’t fly anymore.

What quality or characteristic of yours do you feel is most important to you as an entrepreneur? Why?

I would say that hustle and grit are incredibly important in the film business, and actually, all aspects of life. It may be a particularly Asian trait to always push yourself to do your best and excel in your craft. However, l’ve found that hard work is only part of the puzzle. There is an element of timing and luck that factor into growth and success. So, there can be years of hard work and seeing small to moderate success, and it can be daunting and frustrating at times. It’s easy to give up. And, there is no judgement on people who do give up… people give up for different reasons. Sometimes, they’ll just have an epiphany that what they’ve been working for isn’t something they actually want. But, if you really do want it, don’t give up. Now that I think about it, as important as hustle and grit are optimism and confidence. I grew up with a dad who consistently told me that I could achieve whatever I wanted. And I believed him. This is quite “wuwu”, as they say, but focus and setting your intentions work like magic.

How has AHN contributed to your journey? Who have you met along the way? What problems has AHN helped solve for you?

I’ve found AHN to be a network that is incredibly supportive. I’m a true believer in “all ships rise”. The support from the community has been both humbling and exciting to witness. Two of the donut shop owners I feature in the film are members of AHN, and it’s how I got connected. I’m grateful to be part of this community who can offer advice, connections, and support amongst ourselves. It’s also been insightful to hear other members’ stories of personal growth and discovery. It makes this group particularly meaningful.

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