Friday, May 04, 2012

Jessica Yu and Mark Salzman

photo courtesy of

In today's edition of the New York Times, director Jessica Yu's documentary, "Last Call at the Oasis" (above video is the film's trailer) debuts in New York and Los Angeles.  For me, I can't think of Jessica Yu without her husband, Mark Salzman.  And I bet many of you don't know who either of them are.

Jessica is a Palo Alto native / fifth-generation American of Chinese ancestry who has directed numerous documentaries and TV shows.  In 1996, Jessica earned an Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject) for Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O'Brien.  Some of the TV shows she has directed include: Grey's Anatomy and The West Wing.

Mark Salzman is a writer, actor, martial artist and cellist.  I first found out about Mark after reading his book, Iron & Silk.  The book chronicles his experiences teaching English after graduating from Yale University (where he and Jessica met) at Changsha Hunan Medical College for 2 years.  The above video is Mark's latest work (e-book form only), The Man in the Empty Boat, a personal account of his struggles with writer's block and his sister's death.

While it might seem their Ivy League education and occupations could leave an impression that they're hoity-toity, they're not.  From a 1997 Los Angeles Times article, "On Hollywood entertaining: Yu and Salzman hosted a bad-review party where guests were instructed to bring--and read--their worst review. Fortunately, therapy was also provided: After reading, guests took turns whacking a film-critic piñata. 'It was very telling how each person hit the piñata.' "

Cool.  I'd love to be a fly on the wall at your next party.

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