Born in San Jose, Grace Liu set her sights on a film career from an early age. Her first break came as a production assistant on the Bay Area TV show Nash Bridges. The show’s producer, John Nicolella, then hired her as a PA for the feature Kull the Conqueror, which shot for five months in Eastern Europe. “I was absolutely bitten by the film bug,” she says. “I got a look at all the positions on set, and decided that AD work–making things happen, organizing and problem solving–was what I wanted to do.” After applying three years in a row, she was accepted into the DGA Training Program, and the rest, she laughs, “is history.”
Liu’s fluency in Chinese–her first language–has often come in handy. She’s landed work on commercials aimed at the Chinese community, as well as features involving cast and crew from China and Hong Kong, including Cradle 2 the Grave, Rush Hour and Red Corner.
Liu’s naturally engaging personality and easy-going style have helped forge her path. “The crew would always come up to me and say, ‘You’re so nice. You don’t act like an AD,’” she says. “I’m pretty laid-back for an AD, but I get the job done, and I see no reason to be barking out orders and being the whole gung-ho military type.”
It’s been a couple of years since Liu gave up her apartment in Los Angeles and re-settled in Berkeley, and she’s still adjusting to a city where production jobs are considerably more scarce.
The San Francisco film scene is slow right now, she reports, to the point that it’s not uncommon for DGA members in the Bay Area to take interim jobs between productions. Liu, an active member and Secretary-Treasurer of the DGA’s San Francisco Coordinating Committee, is hopeful that an incentive package aimed at stimulating film and TV production that was passed in April by San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors will bring more production to the region. “Although a lot of shows are supposedly ‘based in San Francisco,’ they don’t shoot here,” reports Liu. “Hopefully that will change with this new legislation.”
Now that she’s stopped spending half the year in Los Angeles, she’s pouring her extra time into other pursuits–including digital filmmaking for the Internet. “My boyfriend thinks I’m very driven, and that I always have too much on my plate,” she says. “But isn’t that what an AD does? There’s never enough time, and we’re always fighting the clock. I like that.”