The Jubilee Project was founded by three self-proclaimed ordinary guys doing the extraordinary coming from backgrounds including graduating from Ivy League schools, making six figures, working closely with President Obama and pursuing medical school.
Oh, and one more thing—Jason Lee, Eddie Lee, and Eric Lu left all of that—the jobs, money, medical school etc. to pursue being ambassadors of good in dedicating their full time to the Jubilee Project. What makes their work and labor of love extraordinary goes far behind their worldly accomplishments and right into their willing hearts to make a positive difference.
What is the Jubilee Project and who are these guys that took the giant leap of faith in going all in to solidly back the idea that “doing good is contagious?”
I had the pleasure to sit down with Eddie Lee, one of the co-founders to learn more about Jubilee Project in turning a hobby into a passionate full-time endeavor.
January 12, 2010 was both Jason’s birthday and the day of the Haiti earthquake. In addition, this date marked the inception of what would develop into a nonprofit that harnesses the power of film, story and media to reach audiences on important issues dominating the world. According to the website, “Jubilee Project has produced over 60 videos, supported 15 different causes and organizations, and raised over $30,000” maintaining the mission to inspire others into action.
What began out of Jason’s desire to raise $100 for the Haiti Earthquake relief and one YouTube video of an experience has grown into more films evoking responsive actions from followers or the jubileevers.
“We have found that by telling more stories that are effective, inspirational, filled with hope and joy that we can make a bigger impact not only for the needs of the world but for the kingdom and sharing God’ light to the world,” said Eddie.
Eddie grew to love filmmaking through his experience first interning while in college back in 2007 than putting his school on hold to work for the Obama campaign and the White House. He was able to capture the growth of what was then a small grassroots campaign and utilize the potential of social media to reach an audience.
“It was an amazing journey to follow Barack Obama around to see him in different situations and post YouTube videos for a year and a half. I got to know him and see him as a man, father and husband. I got to learn how to make videos by making a lot of documentaries, human interest and recap videos for the campaign. After he won I went back to Harvard to finish my degree and just stayed in touch with him and his staff. I was then asked to come on board and help them in the Department of Education and then the White House.”
However, in August 2012 Eddie and Jason left their jobs and Eric left medical school to move out to Irvine upon a conviction and calling to pursue Jubilee Project full time. Eddie recalls his departure meeting with the president. Instead of taking his parents who had already met the president and didn’t want to fly out he took Jason, Eric and Eric’s girlfriend as his family.
“I got to thank him for the opportunity to work for him and he gave us his blessing in terms of moving on. It was daunting because we were leaving our jobs to pursue something that was very unconventional with no salary, stability or infrastructure at the time. We thought we had an opportunity that we did not want to miss. There is no better time to take a big leap of faith than when you are young and are able to do it. It has been a scary process for us, but it is probably the most fulfilling experience.”
Jubilee Project’s presence has certainly grown and the three guys have their fingers in numerous projects including their very first fellowship program inviting 13 filmmakers to live with them in a rented Newport Beach house for ten days.
“Actors, directors, inspirational leaders and coaches are coming in to talk to them and investing into these filmmakers who we see as the future of YouTube and filmmaking. We are going to start pouring all the stuff we learned into them. The fellows are going to work on their own films focusing on Hepatitis B, family reconciliation and on LGBT awareness. It is an incredible blessing to us that we get to inspire the next generation of filmmakers. We have a couple of documentaries coming up, short films and more powerful films that we are writing. We are growing our team and hiring staff to become this institution. To see it go from this small idea to this huge thing is remarkable.”
Some of the documentaries and films he is referring to cover sex trafficking, ending AIDS in 2015, the story of the “Prodigal Son” coming out in August, epilepsy coming out in July and a narrative story on political activism focusing on the first Asian American presidential candidate.
How do you choose the topics of your projects?
“A lot of it happens very organically where stories have been inspired by our own past stories. Now, nonprofits are reaching out to us to make films. It is both us coming to a place where we feel very passionate about certain issues so we want to push the envelope on that and nonprofits coming to us. It is only three of us right now so there is a limited capacity but the more we grow the more we will be able to take on. We want to be able to touch almost every issue out there.”
What are your favorite type of stories to tell?
“You will find that all three of us has own stories we like to tell. Jason is interested in love stories. He wrote “Love Language,” “Fireflies, ”and “Picture Perfect.” Eric is really into real stories so he is behind the “50 people 1 Question” or “Master Chef” based on a true story. I am really into gritty or darker films such as the “Back to Innocence” or this prodigal son story showing the son’s evolution of experience going into homelessness, prostitution and all that. We all are different but balance each other out.”
What is your overall vision moving into the future?
“We want to become a production company that makes films that change the world and spark a revolution to change people’s lives. When you think about films like “Blood Diamond” and “Slumdog Millionaire” and what they did for conflict diamonds and the slums that is what we want to do. If you look at the trajectory in how we are growing you will start to see not only are we getting better at our skills but our dreams are getting bigger. We think that there is no any real limit on how much we can grow and there is no reason why we cannot aspire to have a Hollywood film or a documentary that will break through and have millions of people watching. We want to create content that will touch people at their deepest levels and inspire them to action.”
Eddie was able to share with me golden nuggets of wisdom when asked what he would like JP’s audience to know. I gleaned from his message that you cannot sacrifice the potential for a life filled with happiness for a comfortable compliance with the status quo and a world’s definition of success.
“It was only when we dropped everything and surrendered it all by coming out here and living on someone’s couch with no salary or health insurance despite thinking that it doesn’t feel secure that we have been the most happy. I know it sounds cliché, but we found that when you are finally willing to surrender pride including your grasp on what the future holds and what people tell you need to have—success, reputation, money, stability, status, relationships and instead be secure with who you are— what God made you to be—there is nothing more satisfying than being in that place. That is what we are striving to move towards. Obviously no one is there, but the closer that we get to that point we are no longer enslaved and are free to be what we were meant to be. We try to convey freedom in our stories. Don’t feel like your life has to be dictated because if you do you are fooling yourself. Freedom and joy can only be found in God alone.”
For more information on how to support and get connected with the Jubilee Project visit, subscribe and follow them on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and their blog. Ordinary people can do extraordinary things where doing good is contagious.