Jon M. Chu discusses In the Heights

Director Jon M. Chu discusses In the Heights

June 19, 2021 DGA Membership Screening Q&As in NY & LA

The world of a vibrant New York neighborhood is brought to life in Director Jon M. Chu’s musical drama, In the Heights.

Adapted from Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes’ hit Broadway production, Chu’s film version tells the story of a likeable, magnetic bodega owner in the tight-knit community of Washington Heights, who saves every penny from his daily grind as he hopes, imagines and sings about a better life. But when he inherits a fortune, he discovers he has mixed feelings about closing his store and retiring.

On June 11, following the DGA membership screening in New York, Chu discussed the making of In the Heights in a Q&A moderated by Director Nisha Ganatra (The High Note). He also spoke about the film with Director Destin Daniel Cretton (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings) following the Los Angeles membership screening on June 19.

During the New York conversation, Chu spoke about the challenges of creating the opening sequence. “I think the opening I feel really proud of because it took us the whole shoot to get,” Chu recalled. “We're introducing every one of our characters and building the audience up to understand that this is a musical but we're going to keep it as real as possible. We still have manhole covers that can still spin like a like a turntable but we're not going that far yet. The ultimate thing for me was that it was showing a community that takes care of each other. I've always called it like this our ‘circle of life’ showing how it all works. At the end shot, usually in a musical you pull out to see the whole block. In this one we start to push in because we could pick anybody's story on this block, but we picked this one dude who owns the bodega on the corner. We're going to show you his hopes, his dreams and we're going to take you to fantastical places because that's what happens when you dream in your bedroom and think about what's beyond your windowsill.”

Chu’s other directorial credits include the feature films Crazy Rich Asians, Step Up 2: The Streets, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Jem and the Holograms and Now You See Me 2; the feature documentaries Justin Bieber: Never Say Never and We the Economy: 20 Short Films You Can’t Afford to Miss; and episodes of the television series The LXD: The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers. As a film student in 2002, Chu was recognized by the DGA’s Student Film Awards for his short film Gwai Lo: The Little Foreigner. He has been a DGA member since 2007.

You can listen to Chu's Q&A by clicking the podcast episode embedded below. You can find more DGA podcast episodes here.

Q&A photos by Marcie Revens/New York & Elisa Haber/Los Angeles
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