With an impressive array of celebrity clients and established brands, Justin Wu is making his mark in the world of film, photography, and creative directing. Just take a scroll through his Instagram, and you'll see a variety of familiar faces from Bella Hadid to Heidi Klum, among others. Continue reading to learn what inspired Justin to jump into the industry, balancing high-profile jobs with expressing himself through art, and more!
Hi Justin! Briefly, tell us about yourself and your background.
I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. After forgoing a conventional career in the sciences and business, I was scouted and signed as a fashion and portrait photographer. Working in Europe for almost a decade, I eventually transitioned into directing television commercials, where I found my passion for narrative filmmaking. Over the past few years, I directed a couple of short films which garnered awards in the film festival circuit, and it caught the attention of a film agency. Just last year, I graduated from the Ryan Murphy Half Program, and I'm now focusing on directing television and feature films.
What inspired you to make the jump into photography and film?
I started in photojournalism and art photography, which relied heavily on storytelling. As I began to write, I wanted to express myself with a larger medium. When I was young, I was always inspired by films, and I felt it was a natural direction for me to take.
Your work spans multiple categories from cinema to photography to commercial projects. Can you share some of your favorite projects with us? Which aspects do you enjoy the most?
Despite the high profile work I sometimes do, I find my favourite projects have been the intimate personal projects. One that comes to mind was when I had the opportunity to work with, shoot, and direct a spot with Victoria Beckham for a charity. I felt I was able to use my skill set for good and collaborate with one of my childhood idols. Besides that, I also had the opportunity to direct an icon of theatre and film, Jeremy Irons. Every time you work with this caliber of talent, you always learn something new, and that is what I find the most rewarding.
Working with big brands (such as L'Oreal Paris, Dior, Gucci, etc.) is incredible! How do you maintain a balance between working these high-profile jobs and still being able to express yourself through your art?
Thanks! I always make the time to do my own personal projects. Like any artist or tradesman, I feel we need to constantly refine our skills and challenge ourselves to be better. So I make it a point to do a personal shoot or project at least once a week.
What is one surprising takeaway or lesson from being in this industry that you didn't expect coming into it in the beginning?
I think it's that there are always things to learn. Unlike science, there are no strict rules or techniques you must follow, so I find that I discover something new on every project. This could be a new way to direct, to listen, to light, to shoot, and to tell a story.
What is your proudest moment so far?
It'd have to be my parents attending my award ceremony at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). It validated my years of hard work to get into film, and my parents belief in me. It was the day I knew I was on the right path.
We love your Instagram feed...it portrays your work in such a beautiful way. What are your top 3 tips when it comes to filmmakers & photographers sharing and showcasing their work on Instagram and other social media platforms?
Thanks for the compliment! My best advice is to:
1) Think before you post. I use my feed as my online portfolio, so it better be the best it can possibly be.
2) Experiment. As an artist, we always need to evolve, and the beauty of a social platform is the feedback you receive. So listen, acknowledge, reflect, and challenge yourself.
3) Stay true to you. Post what you feel is right and do what you love. You'll be rewarded for your consistency and evolution.
What advice would you give to your younger self when you booked your first gig with a client?
Be confident. I was thinking too much about playing it safe.
When a client books you, it's for your vision. So take some risks and be respectful.
What's next for you?
I am currently writing my feature film and taking television meetings, so I hope to start directing serial television shortly! I'm also planning on making my feed and stories much more film focused, including round-table discussions, inspiration, film reviews, and thoughts on the industry! Stay tuned!