Meet the Oscar Nominee Who Is Keeping His $600-a-Month Apartment: "How Can I Give That Up?"

Bing Liu, the director of Hulu's 'Minding the Gap,' about skateboarders in Illinois, shares his Chicago home with three roommates but says he has no plans to move to L.A., even if he wins the Academy Award for best documentary feature.
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Bing Liu

Bing Liu may fly like a high roller — the 30-year-old feature documentary nominee was spotted in business class on a recent American Airlines flight from New York to L.A. and had a driver waiting for him at baggage claim — but when he's home in Chicago, it's economy all the way. "I pay $600 in rent," he tells THR. "How can I give that up?"

The director of Hulu's Minding the Gap, a heart-wrenching, years-in-the-making documentary about skateboarders in Illinois, shares his apartment with three roommates but says he has no plans to move to L.A., even if he wins the Oscar. "There are only 20 or 30 days of unbearably cold weather, so [Chicago is] doable," he says of the city he's called home for a decade.

Still, he hasn't been spending much time there lately. Instead, he's been treated to a much warmer reception on this season's awards circuit where he's collected trophies (including at the L.A. Film Critics Association Awards and the Critics' Choice Documentary Awards) and meeting people like Barry Jenkins. “2018 was unlike any other year that I’ve ever had. Barry Jenkins saw the film at the Mountain Film Festival and he loved it and the jury there gave it an award. I got to meet him and he was like, ‘Hey man, here’s my number, reach out. I love your film.’ Moonlight is top five favorite films of all time for me so it was really surreal. Also meeting Tony Hawk made me basically, like, pee my pants.”

As if he needed to further prove his humble ways, Liu revealed to THR that he rang in his 30s in January by hosting a roller skating party at a Glendale rink followed by a trip to a brewery in the area with friends like On Her Shoulders filmmaker Alexandria Baumbach. Money may be good for a mortgage, but quality time with close friends is much more valuable. "Because I grew up having a chosen family, I really value the friends in my life," he says.

A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.