Talk to the director of the film Joy Joy Nails, an official selection of the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, Joey Ally, for one minute, and you will be inspired. It's not just because her new film uncovers an under-told human rights story and champions a segment of under-represented actors to tell it. It is also because she has so precisely discovered a conduit through those concepts to reveal greater universal truths about being a human.
Ally's Joy Joy Nails was inspired by the New York Times exposé 2015, "Unvarnished," by Sarah Maslin Nir, which revealed the underbelly of the manicure business in the New York City area. Nir highlighted the way (mostly) women and minorities were reportedly taken advantage of in that industry — for example, working for very little pay, living on top of each other in tenements, and being subjected to fumes and chemicals. Joy Joy Nails is a story that takes those hardships and goes even further to uncover broader realities about human interaction. Hung on the hook of the age-old story of a jealous love triangle, Joy Joy Nails is a short film that twists that theme into how two women come to bond and support each other in spite of the layers of bullying and mistreatment in their work.
In the 10 years since Ally graduated from Amherst College, she has already had impressive achievements in the world of film, making her way into some major festivals. Her prior film, Partners (2016), screened at Sundance. Ally attributes much of that success to the successful women in the industry who've believed in her and supported her.
"I went to Sundance as a volunteer and I saw this film by [director of The Night Stalker and Lucky Them] Meghan Griffiths," Ally tells Bustle. "I saw her Q&A afterwards, and I just, for the first time ever was like, 'Oh, I think maybe I'd want to do something like that,' because the film resonated with me so much and because she resonated with me so much. I'd never seen a talkback by a female director."
That first encounter eventually led to a friendship and working relationship with Griffiths who took Ally on as a PA for a film shoot in Seattle, one of her first breaks into the business. Ally capitalized on the opportunity and began directing films of her own, including 2015's Minimum Wage. With her latest, though, Ally has the extra distinction of having Joy Joy Nails included as part of the American Film Institute Directing Workshop for Women — a 501(c)3 nonprofit that's "fighting to push the needle for women in cinema."
And make no mistake: Ally is making an point to pay that support forward by being incredibly encouraging of the actors she worked with on the film. In our interview, she repeatedly names her the actors in her film (who I then promised I would name): Kahyun Kim, Yi Liu, Tae Song, Sarah Chang, Shirley Kwon, Esther Moon, Chris Yejin, Catherine Haena Kim, and Jongman Kim. After our interview, Ally followed up with me to be doubly sure she didn't forget anyone.
And while Ally praises her cast, she is quite modest about herself. She calls her success so far "luck." Granted, in all competitive industries, it's arguable that there's a fair amount of luck for anyone who achieves success. However, it is pretty clear that Ally's achievements are more about her incredible talent and passion.