Alumna Spotlight: Jennifer Hung

In October 2007 Jennifer Hung (Graphic Design 2001) started her new job at T: The New York Times Style Magazine with a massive, looming deadline before she’d even sat down at her desk: just six weeks to populate the magazine’s new website with more than a dozen brand-new films.

Not only did the site launch go off without a hitch, but four of those first films were nominated for Webby awards (two won) and two others were nominated for Emmys.

The pace hasn’t let up since. The job requires extensive, in-depth knowledge not only of film and motion graphics, but also of directing, producing, curating, and publishing, not to mention the wide worlds of arts and entertainment. Here she talks a little about what her days are like, how her CCA experience led to her exciting new position, and the culture of glamour.

On her unique job title . . .
I’m the visual editor, which means that instead of assigning stories to writers, I assign films to directors. The New York Times Style Magazine needed somebody to lead their multimedia department, specifically producing and commissioning films for the website, and they didn’t already have someone who could play that role. So they created this job I’m in now.

The application process was pretty arduous! For my first interview I had to pitch three film ideas to the magazine’s senior photo editor, with only one week to prepare. I ended up pitching five ideas in the form of a multimedia presentation that covered travel, fashion, style, and food. During that first interview the senior editor introduced me to the creative director and the editor and asked me to present my ideas again, which was both exciting and intimidating.

On making 15 movies in six weeks . . .
The website is intended to complement the concept and philosophy of the magazine but have a life of its own, with films and videos that are influenced by the magazine’s established taste, but brand new and very exclusive to the website. When I got the job I immediately had to produce 15 movies in six weeks! So I reached out to all these artists and directors and designers that I knew, and also some that I didn’t know personally but knew their work, and helped them develop pitches.

On pushing the multimedia envelope . . .
The single most exciting thing for me about this job is when we come up with a really original, interesting concept for a movie and it gets people animated and talking.

This past year, during the Sundance Film Festival, I commissioned the indie director Brody Baker to do a series of 12 film shorts called T Takes. It stars some up-and-coming actors, and some others who are better known, like Josh Hartnett, Michael Pitt, and Lukas Haas. It’s very experimental. Instead of sitting down for standard interviews, the actors act out an improvised scene—not related to a movie, and not an excerpt from anything. We filmed all the segments in this cool roadside motel in Utah, and it was snowing. We tried to create interesting, weird, subtle interactions between the characters. Now we’re getting ready for the next T Takes in January, which we’re planning to shoot in New York.

On working at the New York Times . . .
Another of our film series is Screen Test, interviews with celebrity actors. We’ve done more than 20 of them now, with Tom Cruise, George Clooney, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, and others. I definitely wouldn’t say I’m fascinated by celebrity or star culture per se, but it’s certainly interesting and exciting! I worked in television for five years before this, at VH1 and Showtime, and my experiences there were more centered on art directing and brand management.

On her CCA experience . . .
I loved CCA. I visited and interviewed at schools on both coasts, and I chose CCA because of the faculty and the curriculum. They have some of the best graphic designers in San Francisco teaching there, and the web was taking off in a big way then, so I got to tailor my own program to include graphic design, motion graphics, film, and video. Everything I learned at school, and all my work experience since, has perfectly translated into the production and editorial work I’m doing now.

At CCA the studio program is really well balanced with humanities, and I got such a great, wide exposure to academia that I never would have had at another art school. Barry Katz’s humanities courses introduced me to so many influential theorists and writers and philosophers.

Jim Kenney was a major and important influence. He brought so much experience to the classroom and helped me tremendously in forming my path—identifying and pursuing my passion. The projects he assigned were amazing and fun and interesting. I remember one where I made a film, a combination of digital footage and Super-8 footage shot on an old movie camera, with the premise that it was site-specific. I spent a good part of that semester filming at a horse racetrack. I got to know the staff there, who allowed me behind the scenes. That class, and my senior design courses in motion graphics and film, cemented my whole career direction.

From Glance 2009

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Born in Hawaii

CCA degree:BFA 2001, Graphic Design

Residence:New York

Current occupation:visual editor, T: The New York Times Style Magazine

Influences at CCA:Jim Kenney, Barry Katz, Barney Haynes, Mark Bartlett

Website:www.nytimes.com/tmagazine