Lulu Men, MS Media Management '20, had the incredible opportunity to work on the award-winning documentary American Factory as a field producer and camera operator just before enrolling as a student at the School of Media Studies.
The documentary, co-directed by filmmakers Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert, takes place in post-industrial Ohio, where a Chinese billionaire opened a factory in an abandoned General Motors plant and hired two thousand blue-collar American workers, many of whom had previously worked for GM. Early days of hope and optimism in the Ohio community quickly gave way to setbacks as Chinese business and labor expectations clashed with American factory work culture. The film was distributed by Netflix and produced by Barack and Michelle Obama through their production company Higher Ground Productions. The film premiered while Lulu Men was a Media Management student at The New School, and went on to win the 2020 Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary.
When asked what she learned during the filmmaking process, Men says, “I learned that making a good film takes time and patience. What was inspiring to me was the passion and dedication Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar had in nonfiction storytelling. Their hard work, ethics, and responsibility as filmmakers inspired me to continue pursuing storytelling.” Reflecting on how the experience of working with Reichart and Bognar has influenced her own work as a filmmaker, Men says, “They have given me feedback on my own projects, and Jeff Reichart, the producer for American Factory, became a co-producer for my first film, Radical Generosity, which is in post-production.”
Lulu Men worked on American Factory in 2016 and 2017 and then came to The New School to earn her MS in Media Management in order to balance her production experience with knowledge of the business side of media. She is now working as a full-time producer and editor at an agency while pursuing her own film projects.
When asked what advice she would give to School of Media Studies students who want to work on large-scale film productions, Men says: “Always pick projects you believe in and do it for the love of the craft of storytelling. Work with good people and have good connections. Just be nice and work hard.”