Jessica Yu

Jessica_YuBy: Stephanie Brown

Jessica Yu is the Academy Award-winning director of “Last Call at the Oasis,” a documentary on importance of water and the often-overlooked yet seriously damaging effects of the global water crisis. The film, which was inspired by Alex Prud’homme’s book “The Ripple Effect: The Fate of Fresh Water in the 21st Century,” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival before moving to theaters.

Yu’s other work includes “Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brien,” which won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short in 1997; feature docs “Protagonist” and “In the Realms of the Unreal” about extremism and American artist Henry Darger, respectively; and a variety of award-winning documentary and narrative shorts. Yu has also directed episodes of several poplar television shows, including “Scandal” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Yu was born in New York City and grew up in Los Altos Hills, California. After graduating Summa Cum Laude from Yale with a B.A. in English, Yu became interested in film production. She credits the beginning of her film career to a desire for flexible work that would give her time to compete in fencing competitions as well. Her first film, the 1992 short “Sour Death Balls,” grew out of watching her friends’ children pass around sour candy to laugh at the faces people made.

On a recent visit to the Center, Yu sat down with American University professor Larry Kirkman to discuss her involvement in “Last Call,” the development and impact of the film, and her upcoming documentary “Misconception” on the implications of population growth. Watch her interview below (view transcript here) and read about “Last Call” on the Participant website to learn more.

Inside "Last Call At the Oasis"

Jessica Yu talks about the concept and filmmaking process for her 2011 documentary “Last Call at the Oasis”

Social Action & Filmmaking

Jessica Yu discusses the unique relationship between social impact campaigns and films.

Latest Projects & Storytelling Techniques

Jessica Yu talks about her latest film on population, “Misconception,” and her different storytelling techniques for fiction and documentary projects: