Standing ovations do not occur frequently at HBS club events, but it happened this past Tuesday after the screening of the award-winning independent film, “Red Doors.”
The event was organized by the Asian American Business Association (AABA), an HBS student club that promotes understanding and cross-cultural exchange of Asian American business, social, cultural, and community-related initiatives. The screening was followed by a Q&A session with fellow-classmate Georgia Lee (NB), who wrote and directed the film.
“Red Doors” depicts a comically dysfunctional Chinese-American family living in the New York City suburbs. According to Lee, the film is loosely autobiographical. The father, who is coping with his purpose in life after retirement, runs away to a Buddhist monastery, something Lee’s own father has joked about doing. The prank war between the youngest of the three sisters (played by Lee’s actual sister) and her love-interest is based on actual events. The eldest sister’s life mirrors that of Lee’s.
Lee, like her character, seems to have struggled with reconciling her family’s wishes to pursue business with her own aspirations. Despite her passion for film, Lee joined McKinsey & Company upon graduating from Harvard College. As a management consultant, Lee saved up her vacation days to attend film classes at New York University. In her free time, she directed several short films. Her efforts paid off as Martin Scorsese, after seeing Lee’s “The Big Dish: Tiananmen ’89,” selected her as his apprentice on the “Gangs of New York.”
Despite her time in the film industry, Lee returned to McKinsey and eventually decided to pursue her MBA. Lee left HBS after completing her first RC semester in 2003 to write and direct “Red Doors.” She returned to resume her RC year this past January.
During the Q&A session, the audience of AABA members, Lee’s sectionmates and movie enthusiasts from HBS and other Harvard graduate schools asked questions about her background and experiences in the film industry. The discussion also covered Asian American issues such as media portrayal (or lack thereof) in the U.S.
When asked about her future plans, Lee replied that she will complete her MBA and decide between a pure creative career as a director and one that will allow her to become a studio executive.