- LOS ANGELES
Bing Liu--who in January won the Sundance Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Filmmaking on the strength of his feature documentary Minding the Gap--has joined the directorial roster of L.A.-based Nonfiction Unlimited for commercials and branded content. Nonfiction is a mainstay company known for bringing notable documentarians into the ad arena for select projects.
In Minding the Gap, three young men--including Liu--bond with one another via skateboarding to escape volatile families in their Rust Belt hometown. As they face adult responsibilities, unexpected revelations threaten their decade-long friendship.
Liu developed the film over the past several years in collaboration with Chicago-based Kartemquin Films, and as a co-production of POV and ITVS. He not only directed and co-starred in Minding the Gap but was also its DP, co-producer (with Diane Moy Quon) and co-editor (along with Joshua Altman).
Additionally, Liu had a hand in another project at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, serving as a segment director and DP for America to Me, a 10-part limited series chronicling a year at one of Chicago’s most progressive and diverse public schools, located in suburban Oak Park. The series--under the aegis of director Steve James (Hoop Dreams and this year’s Best Documentary Feature Oscar-nominated Abacus: Small Enough to Jail)--is both intimate and epic in its storytelling, exploring America’s charged state of race, culture and education. America to Me made its world premiere as part of the Sundance Fest’s Indie Episodic lineup. A Kartemquin Films project produced in partnership with Participant Media, America to Me was picked up for distribution by Lionsgate’s Starz network ahead of the series’ Sundance debut.
James and Liu share a connection on different fronts beyond America to Me. For example, James was an exec producer on Minding the Gap and his spot/branded content representation is also at Nonfiction. James’ affiliation with Nonfiction goes all the way back to the company’s inception. He was the very first director signed by Nonfiction partner/exec producer Loretta Jeneski, aka LJ, back in 1995 when she established the company.
A 2017 Film Independent Fellow and Garrett Scott Development Grant recipient, Liu said he was attracted to Nonfiction Unlimited by Jeneski’s “enthusiasm for my creative voice and her willingness to work with me to develop it for the commercial realm. It was also comforting to know that she has an understanding of my scattered schedule as a filmmaker actively working on and developing new projects. She has worked with my trusted advisor Steve James since his Hoop Dreams days. With his introduction and recommendation, LJ and I are now off and running.”
Jeneski was drawn to and inspired by Liu’s work. “We take a lot of pride in the opportunities we are given to work alongside leading creatives and brand marketers to create breakthrough commercials, content and films,” said Jeneski. “After seeing Bing’s film at Sundance, I knew he belonged with us. He has a very fresh style; his blend of artful, character-driven verite storytelling with beautiful cinematography is really special and totally engaging, and I anticipate it being in high demand beginning very soon.”