Academy Award-winner Jessica Yu is a prolific filmmaker who is at home working in a wide variety of media and genres, from vérité documentaries to animated shorts to scripted features and episodic television, in addition to advertising content. Across all her work, one finds her remarkable ability to depict the serious and the light-hearted—in other words, the whole of the human experience—at the same time. Her documentary, Breathing Lessons, about the poet and journalist Mark O’Brien, who was confined to an iron lung, won an Oscar and an Emmy in addition to numerous international awards. Jessica presents an honest and intimate portrait of his life as he overcomes and fights against society’s conflicting perceptions of disabilities, and for his right to live an independent life. The film provokes the question: what makes a life worth living?
Her Sundance documentary features include: The Living Museum, about patients as artists at Creedmoor Psychiatric Center for HBO; In the Realms of the Unreal, exploring the life of outsider artist Henry Darger; Protagonist, examining the relationship between human life and Euripidean dramatic structure; and Last Call at the Oasis, a deep look at the world’s water crisis, with activist Erin Brockovich. Misconception, a feature documentary about overpopulation, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Jessica’s documentary shorts, also Sundance films, have included the playful The Kinda Sutra about adults’ youthful misconceptions about conception and, Meet Mr. Toilet, a humorous look at the serious subject of the need for toilets in third world countries. Her documentary ForEveryone.Net for the Ford Foundation features the creator of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee—his vision and his efforts to keep the web free and accessible for all.
A well-respected director of episodic television, Jessica’s recent work on the FX mini-series Fosse/Verdon has been honored with 2020 DGA Award and 2019 Primetime Emmy Outstanding Directing nominations. Her other programs include American Crime, American Dreams, Billions, Castle, Grey’s Anatomy, Parenthood, Scandal, Stumptown, and This is Us, among others. She has directed episodes for Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing and Michael Crichton’s ER. Jessica also directed the pilot episode of The Lyon’s Den featuring actor Rob Lowe. Most recently, she directed for the Netflix hit series 13 Reasons Why, Hollywood, and Ratched.
Along with her Oscar and Emmy awards, Jessica has won and been nominated for several others as a filmmaker: Gotham Awards, International Documentary Association Awards, Sundance Film Festival, SXSW Film Festival, Tokyo International Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, Vancouver International Film Festival, and Writers Guild of America.