A master of swift, witty visual storytelling and sharp, seamless transitions, director Kim Nguyen has made a name for herself with her star-studded promo pieces for the 2013 and 2015 MTV Movie Awards, as well as the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards, quickly establishing herself as a rising star in the production industry. Nguyen formerly worked as a writer for The Onion, a director/producer in MTV’s promo department, and a copywriter for some of the biggest agencies in the world, a list that includes Ogilvy, McCann, Strawberry Frog, Taxi, and McKinney. A graduate of the Creative Circus, Nguyen’s work has been recognized by Cannes, One Show and The Art Directors Club, among others.
Nguyen recently joined Venice, California-based production company Backyard, a company that has placed a premium on hiring talented individuals with their fingers planted firmly on the millenial pulse. With her impeccable comedic timing and her ability to craft fresh, energetic promotional spots, Nguyen’s profile in the entertainment industry is growing by the day.
Nugyen lives in Santa Monica with her husband and creative partner Eric Stevens. To learn more about her and her work, visit www.backyard.com.
What was your upbringing like, and how did it shape who you are today?
I had an interesting background in that my family immigrated here from Vietnam and I grew up with essentially two cultures speaking two languages. As an immigrant kid, I think part of me became very observational and aware of the different and funny ways culture shapes us. It makes sense to me that you would have egg rolls and fried rice along with turkey and cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving. It made me open to the world, and I owe that to my mom.
What are your fondest memories of your time at The Creative Circus?
Making some lifelong friends and being in an environment that was really fun and creative. Also, having to do random jobs to pay for tuition. I was a greeter at the Gap, the receptionist at SWANK hair salon and the drive-through order taker-er at Caribou Coffee. There are an unfortunate number of headpieces in my job history.
How did the opportunity to work at The Onion initially come about, and what was that experience like?
I contacted them when I was in college because I loved them. They had a branch at my college and I worked with them for a bit. Super smart and funny crew of people. It was the first publication that really spoke to me and is still one of my favorite reads.
What did you learn from your time as an agency copywriter?
That I wanted to be a director.
For MTV, you’ve worked with entertainment industry icons including Channing Tatum, Amy Schumer, Adam Levine, Taylor Swift and many more. Are there any celebrities that you’d particularly love the opportunity to one day work with?
Yeah, I’ve worked with a lot of celebs. They’ve all been cool and fun to work with. I’d very much like to work with Angelina Jolie because I admire how she’s used her platform to bring awareness to causes that are important to her. Also Anthony Bourdain because of his unapologetic presentation. Lastly, Kid President for all the reasons listed above.
How have you grown as a director over the years?
I got better with experience. I no longer wonder “How am I going to do this?” but rather “How do I make this the most compelling, or funniest or best storytelling” possible. Confidence comes with time. I’m also happy I’ve never lost my excitement of stepping on set. I refuse to be jaded.
When it comes to working at Backyard, what does a typical day for you look like?
Pretty fun. I’m either working on treatments or prepping jobs or shooting. If it’s a travel job, I’m doing it remotely and checking in with my EP and team.
What’s the best movie you’ve seen recently?
Love this question. I love movies. Too difficult to limit to one. Here are three that are still on my mind – The Roger Ebert documentary, Life Itself. Watching the physical decline of one of the most outspoken commentators on film was fascinating. He clung so hard to his voice. In the end it became his lifeline. I finally saw Wet, Hot, American Summer for the first time (the original, not the new Netflix series). Hilarious! Still laughing about it. Also the Netflix series Chef’s Table. These are culinary artists. Thrilling to see their imaginations manifest itself onto the blank canvas of a plate.
What are you working on next?
Prepping some upcoming shoots. Also writing and developing a comedic web series about a Mommy and Me group that meets weekly and exposes the underbelly and fragile hierarchies of that world.