Editor Minghao Shen talks impactful new film ‘Cartoon Book’

Only someone that truly loves what they do can enjoy it the way that Minghao Shen enjoys film editing. His understanding of his craft and his commitment to the artistic elements of it allow him to excel at what he does. Not many people are lucky enough to be so talented and so passionate about their work. Shen is one of those fortunate few, and on top of this, he is considered one of the best Chinese film editors right now.

While working on award-winning films such as Red String, Emily, Inside Linda Vista Hospital, and Stay, Shen’s editing skills were extremely evident for both audiences and critics.

“I am a creative minded person, so I love the re-creative part of editing a lot. There are many ways to make a film, and I feel editing is one of the best ways to engage in the filmmaking production,” said Shen.

Shen engaged in both the filmmaking production and with audiences with his work on the film Cartoon Book. Cartoon Book is about a little boy who tries to go against the school and teacher under severe rules. Afterwards, it seems that the teacher gradually controls the boy by using his vulnerability and letting the rebel boy become a tool to manage other students. The boy draws cartoons, but he feels it is hard to choose between his desire or his morals when the teacher bribes him to be her spy who needs to betray his friends.

“It is a kind of classic tone film, so rather than edit it ‘correctly’, director more like to keep the smooth and stressful feeling by editing. That is why I, as the editor, needed to understand the story indeed,” said Shen. “We had a lot of footage, so it was quite a lot of work at the beginning. But, all the effort and hard work was worth it.
The director had her own style for the entire pace of the film, and the film had really good results.”

The film went on the be an Official Selection at the prestigious Cannes Short Film Corner where it premiered last year, as well as the Berlin Student Film Festival, the Goa Shots International Short Film Festival, and the Accolade Global Film Festival Competition.

“I had a feeling that the film would see a lot of success in festivals, so when I found out the film got some awards I was not surprised, and I think it deserves even more and bigger awards,” said Shen. “The director is good at screenwriting. The first time I read the story I was so intrigued and really connected with the story. I was really looking forward to work with the director and making great film, which we did. It was not the first time we worked together. We know and understand each other very well. She is natural born storyteller and I always looking forward to work with her.”

The film was written and directed by Shuhe Wang, who had previously worked with Shen on her film The Regret, and was immediately impressed by his talents. Knowing they work well together, and that she needed the best to make her new film a success, she reached out to Wang to join her on Cartoon Book.

“I worked with Minghao on my award-winning short film Cartoon Book. I was the director and he was the editor. We worked together really well. He was so full of thoughts and understood the story deeply. When we were on set, Minghao watched the footage carefully on each shooting day. His did the rough cuts very quickly and helped me to get the overall storyline,” said Wang.

Shen was vital to the successful of the film. He says working on Cartoon Book was unlike any project he had worked on in the past. He read a lot of the director’s notes and talked about the story more than just the editing technique with the director. He would meet the cinematographer and communicate about the shot, knowing they all needed to be on the same page for the overall tone of the film. This understanding of not just his role, but the entire filmmaking process, is outstanding.

“The most exciting part of making this film was the journey of the main character. There were many twists and turns in it. It is a bit challenging for editing because the complex storyline, but on another hand, it offered a variety options for editing, and that is what makes my job fun,” Shen concluded.

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