Tag Archives: Film

Producer/Director Xueou Yu experiments with magical realism in award-winning film

Xueou Yu was just a teenager when her mother bought her a book titled Top 250 IMDb Ranking Films.  At the time, it seemed like a simple gift, but it quickly changed her life forever. She began watching some of the films in the book, and before she knew it, she had watched all 250. After immersing herself in the dynamic artform, Yu became in love with cinema. She could travel to far lands, go back in time, learn about different cultures, all while sitting on her couch.

Now, Yu is a celebrated film director and producer in China and abroad. She is known for her work on films like VincentKa Ka Ka Ka, and Donna, as well as commercials such as Sirui Pocket. She is known for her expertise in her craft, with over 60 thousand followers on social media, who look for her posts providing feedback on current movies and television shows.

“I think film is a tool to expand our lives. To me film can maximize our life experiences. I want to spend my life giving others this kind of experience,” said Yu.

One of Yu’s first tastes of international success came with her dynamic drama Asa Nisi Masa. At the time, she was very drawn to magical realism in film, the mix of surreal and reality greatly attracting her artistic mind. She wondered what she could create with this in mind, and began exploring ideas that would draw people in while also challenging them. That is when Asa Nisi Masa was born.

Asa Nisi Masa follows a man who has never believed in magic, when one day he walks into a bar and finds out the bartender has found his true love by the help of a genie. The genie lives in the men’s bathroom in the bar, and is there to grant wishes. Yu also wrote the script, on top of producing and directing the film. It is a simple and funny story, and she wanted to convey that one never knows what will happen, even if it is something you never thought possible.

When Yu first started working on the film, she had difficulties finding a cast and crew as many were unsure of what they deemed a “weird” story. However, Yu had an important outlook: when making films, if the crew doesn’t believe in what they are creating, they won’t create a work of art. Commitment, she finds, is one of the most important aspects of filmmaking, as it is such a collaborative effort. With that in mind, she worked tirelessly to find the right people who not only could execute her vision, but who believed in it as well, and her hard work paid off.

By Reina Du
Xueou Yu on the set of Asa Nisi Masa, photo by Reina Du

Asa Nisi Masa premiered at the 2017 Blow-Up International Arthouse Film Fest, where it was an Official Selection. From there, it saw great success, and went on to win awards at the International Independent Film Awards and the NYC Indie Film Awards 2017. Such success could never have happened without Yu, who was the driving force of the film.

“I created this project to experiment with the language of film. I think I successfully created a mysteriously odd world. I was able to spread many of my weird thoughts and I had a lot of freedom to really do what I wanted, because I was also producing it. Experimenting is always fun, and even though there are some technical aspects that some would question, I created exactly what I wanted, and it really resonated with audiences. It is a reminder for myself to never stop experimenting,” she said.

At the early stages of pre-production, the most pressing question was asked: how will they show a genie? Was it going to be animated, or an actor in costume? Yu decided on the latter. She thought that by making the genie seem like a regular person, it further portrayed the idea that although the idea was magical, it could happen in the real world, with genies walking among us. To blend the magical aspect, she had two characters sitting at the bar based on a painting by René Magritte, adding that artistic touch for viewers. She truly mixes the surreal and real together to create a unique feeling.

“They call it magic realism, but to me the realism part is always more important because that’s how we live in this world. In this film you still see the realism play a big part,” she said.

Needless to say, Yu is a determined and talented filmmaker. She is a leader and an artist, and knows how to captivate an audience through her work. Asa Nisi Masa is just one example of what she is capable of, and audiences around the world can continue to expect great things from this filmmaker.

She believes her passion is why she has seen the success that she has, and encourages all those looking to follow in her footsteps to truly be in love with filmmaking.

“Don’t go into filmmaking because you think it looks cool or can bring you fame and you make what would please a crowd. Do it because it is what is in your heart and find the subjects you really love and just keep going. Don’t pretend to be the person who you are not, and don’t be ashamed of what you can’t become. Focus more on doing the things that you really love. This is an art, it takes talent and a lot of commitment,” she advised. “If you have both those things, never give up.”

 

Photo by Daren You

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Romantic Comedy at its best: Producer Ricky Cruz captivates audiences with ‘Mixed Orders’

Love has been the inspiration of art since the dawn of time. From Shakespeare writing “I love thee with a love that shall not die, till the sun grows cold and the stars grow old” to the Beatles harmonizing “All You Need Is Love” to Jack giving Rose his share of the iconic door in Titanic, love has been one of the most captivating themes throughout art, literature, and film. Throughout his life, it has been the unsuccessful pursuit of love, intimacy and relationships that, for Ricky Cruz, have made such great stories. These stories were always something that he wanted to share with the world because they are so universally enjoyable and uncomfortable.

“I began working on an anthology of quirky romantic comedy short films centered around unsuccessful endeavors into love and relationships. These were supposed to highlight the flip side of the coin when it came to conventional love stories. I always wanted to see the growth behind the guy who is left at the altar, because there’s something so familiar with that element of tragedy,” said Cruz.

With a celebrated career as a producer, Cruz had dedicated his life to telling stories that enchant audiences, and love is an underlying theme in most of his most decorated works, from the LGBTQ coming of age story Foible to drama Honor, telling the story of a woman forced into an arranged marriage by her parents. Another of his more recent projects, Mixed Orders, dives deep into such ideas. Cruz was keen to create the film because he believes seeing love stories through this specific lens is a great way to get a sense of the sort of films he is eager to bring to life in the future.

Mixed Ordersis the first film of the anthology and introduces audiences to the main character and repeat offender of the series, an offbeat lovable innocent who hopefully most will relate with because of his terrible instincts regarding intimacy. It explores the idea of knowing who you are and the importance of patience. Embracing a light-hearted tone and quirky voice, Mixed Orders gives a glimpse into Darren’s uncomfortable and premature marriage proposal to his girlfriend Clare, who is finally coming to terms with her own homosexuality.

Mixed Orders is a film that is pleasant and bitter sweet with a moment of incredible self-realization and personal growth and sometimes that’s what we need or want to see as an audience. I love the unconventional and going against the grain, and what I believe this film does is turn what would and should be a messy scene into a beautiful feel good exchange in a display of the unconventional being made easily palatable. The film has such an honest and charming tone that it’s hard not to just smile at the end of the whole thing. There are no bad people in this sort of situation, just two people who are trying to be honest with themselves and happen to generate some friction because they’re on different pages, which happens in life all the time,” said Cruz.

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Not only did Cruz produce Mixed Orders, but he also wrote the script and directed the film. He wrote the series of films a while ago and was eager to get the first one off paper. He wanted to articulate his quirky twist on a love story. He felt he owed the material an accurate rendition of the story he saw in his head because he wanted it to be familiar with some variables that he threw the audience, which is why he also took on the role of director. Leading the team, he knew he could create just the masterpiece he envisioned.

“I think selfishly, I considered myself the expert on these sorts of situations in real life which made me feel more than qualified to bring the story to life on screen and show the audience how absurd but true this character and story may be.

Cruz wanted the film to be a short and sweet story with unconventional and off beat elements. There was a lot of footage, with the actors often going off script and improvising certain takes, and Cruz managed to keep his vision throughout while incorporating such unique twists and turns. Often, some of the lines he never expected to be memorable when writing became his favorites once the scene had been shot and edited, creating a final cut he couldn’t be more proud of.

“I recommend Ricky Cruz for any and all projects, he will not only bring them to life but make them better than you could ever imagine,” said Reinaldo Garcia, who played Darren in the film.

Mixed Orders has won Best Actor and Supporting Actor in a Short Comedy at the Actors Awards, Best Romantic Comedy at TopShorts Film Festival and Best LGBT Short Film, First Audience Award, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Editing and an Honorable Mention for Direction at the South Film and Arts Academy Festival. Such success could never have been possible without Cruz, as the film was his brainchild.

Mixed Orders‘ successful reception makes me excited for the release of the remaining films comprising the anthology of unsuccessful love endeavors. It’s a huge relief to finally have a reference film to ensure the tone and approach remain consistent. While the styles of the upcoming films may differ, I feel more settled knowing that this comedy is understood and appreciated by audiences so I’m very excited at the prospect of being able to watch our repeat offender from the series in back to back short films and truly explore the uncomfortable and bittersweet romance I’m very familiar with on screen,” he said.

Be sure to keep an eye out for the remaining films in this delightful series.

 

Top photo by Arthur Marroquin

Producer Elena Bawiec brings Flamenco dancing to the big screen with new film

ElenaAs a film producer, Elena Bawiec works tirelessly each day to ensure a project comes together, and that is what she loves. Each time she steps onto a set, she is living her dream: sharing stories with a worldwide audience. She has always had a predisposition for this type of work, where it is a mixture of communication, organization, and managing people. Most importantly however, she knows that as a producer she has to understand the story, what works and doesn’t work dramatically, and what will resonate with audiences. It is this final piece of the puzzle that has allowed Bawiec to excel to the forefront of her field, as a natural born storyteller. She knows that no matter the project, film or stage or even a commercial, it comes down to people and the story that is being told.

“I enjoy watching a story begin as an idea on a blank page and then morph into a screenplay draft; then into a bustling film set with hundreds of people making one vision come to life; to visual effects, sound, and music taking over in post; and finally, when we see the first shot in a dark movie theater with an audience,” she said.

Throughout her esteemed career, Bawiec has worked on countless acclaimed films, showing the world just what she is capable of as a producer. These include award-winning hits such as The SuitcaseBlood Brothers, Megan, Only Light, and much more. She has a lot to look forward to this year as well, with many projects in the works. Her highly anticipated film, Incendium, will soon be making its way to the festival circuit.

Incendium is about the essence of creation and the correlation between life and death, visually expressed through movement. This story takes audiences on a breathtaking journey that emphasizes the equilibrium that everything with a beginning inevitable must have an ending; this is the beauty of the inescapable cycle of life. The concept behind this cinematic essay is that contrary forces cannot coexist without one another.

In conjunction with cinematic beauty, this filmic essay focuses on dance – in particular a bold reinterpretation of Flamenco.  The language of dance is universally relatable, as dance is communicated via showing, not telling. Creation is further displayed through the interplay between the heroine and the four mighty forces of nature: water, fire, earth and wind. The film explores an unpredictable force of kinetic grace, centering on the personification of the cycle of life.

“When do we get to work on something so purely visual, so raw, so fascinating? Incendium is a rare visual feast. It is one of those projects that seldom comes along, and you just have to grab it. Incendium completely captivates you with its beauty and power,” said Bawiec.

The director, Greg Strasz (VFX: Independence Day: Resurgence, Stonewall It Follows) has tremendous experience in Visual Effects and Bawiec knew that he is an exceptionally visual person who could create magic with a project like this.

“There was no question as to whether I wanted to be part of this project. The dancer, Mariam Vardanyan, is so talented, passionate, driven. The sheer hours and effort she put into training for this shoot were awe-inspiring. Now I, as the producer, needed to create the support system to have this project come to life,” said Bawiec.

As producer, Bawiec handled budgeting, scheduling, hiring and managing the crew, pre-production, location scouting, logistics of the production, and post production. Elena had agreed upon keeping the footprint small. This was a very intimate experience for Mariam, and for her performance it was beneficial to have as few people as possible, and Bawiec and her team accomplished great things with a much smaller crew than they are used to.

“We went all out with this film. We shot underwater stunt sequences, we shot with fire, we shot on a dry lake bed, and in Death Valley, at night, during the day, in the heat and in the rain. This was quite an adventure. Sometimes we literally fought the wind,” said Bawiec.

The result of the crew’s efforts is a visual spectacle that is a can’t miss. Be sure to check out Incendium and to be carried away by the artistry of the dance and the film as a whole. It is exactly films like Incendium that drive Bawiec, and she plans to spend the rest of her life dedicated to bringing powerful and visually stunning stories to the big and small screens.

“My goal is to tell stories that matter, stories that come from the heart and take the audience on a journey. Entertainment will always be a business; there will always be the bottom line and the investors to get paid, but I do not think you can really be financially successful in the long term if you do not make films that mean something to people, that spark a reaction. I think finding this balance between the creative aspect of our work and the money aspect is very important. Projects that I have currently lined up, are these kinds of stories, which show complex characters trying to make sense of the world around them. Some are based on true stories, some are thrillers or action, and others may be sci-fi, but it’s always the human condition we talk about no matter the genre. Films help us make sense of this world and to understand ourselves better,” she concluded.

Producer Guoqing Fu brings China and America together with award-winning film ‘Underset’

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Guoqing Fu

Filmmaking allows China’s Guoqing Fu to explore the unknown psychological world and explore his endless creativity. He feels a thrill whenever he embarks on a new project, with the purpose of reflecting and exaggerating social phenomena, to arouse resonance in people’s hearts.

“As the eighth art form of humankind, film is the crystallization of the first seven art forms, which perfectly interprets the inner artistic passion of filmmakers. The artistic and creative pleasure that cannot be obtained in the real world can be infinitely expanded in the film world,” he said.

Throughout his career, Fu has shown why he is an in-demand producer in his home country and abroad. This is exemplified with his films Gum Gum, La Pieta, and Over, to name a few. He has a sincere desire to educate and entertain the masses through his work, with no plans on slowing down.

“My goal is to better disseminate Chinese and American culture, making more collaborative projects and bringing more culture and art into the film world,” said Fu. “I feel that the film and television cooperation between China and the United States has great potential. I am willing to be a pioneer and keep working hard.”

The producer became one step closer to that goal with his film Underset. Taking place in the Republic Era of China, after the main character, Qianyue Zhang, was married, he went to his hometown to find his friend, Mingtang Wang, but he accidentally finds a dead body in his hotel room. The police take the owner of the hotel, his wife, and all the hotel customers into custody. Qianyue’s wife and her father arrive to learn about the incident, but it is all too much for him to accept, eventually leading to his death.

Premiering last June in Beijing, Underset was a great success in both China and America. Not only was it an Official Selection at many prestigious festivals around the world, it took home several awards. These include Best Feature Film and the Diamond Award at the Hollywood Film Competition, Best Feature Film at the Hollywood Film Competition, Best Original Music and Best Production at Macau International Movie Festival, Best Feature Film and the Platinum Award at the NYC Indie Film Awards, and Best Feature Film at The European Independent Film Awards.

“I am very honored as one of the most vital members of the team. It’s my first time being a producer on a truly Chinese feature film. When I heard about the awards from my friends and crew members, I was excited,” he said.

Fu was a co-producer on Underset, taking on key responsibilities like script selection, hiring team members and setting up the team. He coordinated every single department, solved any and all problems on set, ensuring everything went smoothly without any delays. He always did what needed to be done to stay on top of things, making a strong team and a great film.

Most important for Fu, Underset is a Chinese domestic film. The production environment is very different from the United States, but this producer is determined to be a bridge between Chinese and American film cooperation, a large and challenging task he is more than willing to take on.

“It was hard, but I think it was worth it. It was my first time managing a whole production in China. In the beginning, I needed to care about all the parts, because it makes me learn more about the Chinese film industry. It has some advantages, but it also has disadvantages. I love those experiences, some of them are challenging, but challenges make me stronger and a pro for next time,” he said.

Keep an eye out for Fu’s future works.

Sound Mixer SiYao Jiang terrifies audiences with ‘Slicker’

As a sound mixer, SiYao Jiang spends his day on film sets and television productions, always experiencing something new. He comes to work each day prepared to not only excel technically, but creatively as well. He knows the importance of sound when watching your favorite movie, being able to take audiences to a different place and time through what they hear.

“I am not that kind of person who can sit in an office all day, I need to move around, and production sound mixer is the perfect job for me where I do audio and recording in different locations every time. Secondly, I get to meet different people during different sets,” said Jiang.

Jiang has spent his career impressing worldwide audiences with his talent. He has worked on national commercials with leading brands, like the Japanese air conditioning company Daikin, and on award-winning film productions, such as Apple, as well as Bag of Worms and Starf*cker. He is incredibly versatile, knowing just how to bring on the laughs or terrify audiences, just as he did in the horror Slicker.

Slicker is a suspenseful horror film about Eddie, a cocky businessman who is lost in the middle of nowhere with an empty tank of gas, and no idea what direction to take next. He finds himself seeking help from a pair of locals who are hiding a deep disdain for outsiders, and a dark secret. The help he finds is not what it seems to be, leaving Eddie fearing for his life. He is faced with a decision, and his choice leads to grave consequences.

It was the first horror Jiang mixed, so it was an interesting experience for the sound editor. He found the story fun, but also slightly disturbing, and he wanted to help scare the audience. He also found that the film was more than just a scare tactic, as it teaches something at the very end.

Slicker has gone on to see tremendous success at many film festivals around the world. It even went on to win several awards, including second place at the International Horror Hotel, and was selected into the End of Days Festival this past summer.

“I feel great that Slicker did so well. After all the challenges that the sound team faced and working so hard to overcome them, it is great that other people recognized our efforts,” said Jiang.

The setting for this film was in a forest, and Jiang found shooting in such an environment challenging but fun in terms of sound. The environment was pretty difficult, with lots of people being bitten by fire-ants, including him, and the weather was very humid, so it really restricted the range of the wireless. The first day of shooting, the system wouldn’t turn on and the mic wasn’t functioning as it was getting wet. Luckily, he had a backup and it was smooth sailing from there. He made sure to come prepared with alternative options every day afterwards.

“I like challenges, and this project is really challenging. Lots of wide shots, limited space, and super humid environment which makes the sound team very difficult to work with. Luckily the production gives us enough time to sort the problem out,” he said.

Watch Slicker and prepare yourself to be terrified.

Producer and Director Ace Yue tells heartwarming LGBTQ love story with new film

As a filmmaker, Ace Yue takes an idea and brings it to life. Originally from Shenyang, a north east city of China, Yue has always had a passion for the art form and has dedicated her life to bringing captivating stories to the big and small screen. As a producer, she finds just the script and team to make a vision a reality, and as a director, she follows her instincts and provides a sound voice of leadership for her entire team.

“I like to give every character in my stories an entire life, no matter how old they are. I am building up an entire world for my cast, allowing them to feel the character, making friends with them, then, becoming them. I want the audience to be taken away by the story, creating a cathartic experience for every viewer,” said Yue.

This in-demand producer and director made headlines last year with her award-winning film Gum Gum, which she wrote based off her own life experiences, but Yue is no stranger to success. She also has highlights on her resume such as By Way of Guitar, La Pieta, K.a.i., and many more.

“I think this is a job that requires a sense of responsibility. It’s fun and full of creativity. In fact, creativity and on-the-spot ability are my most important skills of being a producer and director, because we can never predict what will happen on the set. So, having a very high ability to adapt is key,” said Yue.

Recently, Yue has seen great success with one of her newest films, the drama Hank. The film tells the story of Hank and his husband Tommy who are struggling to save their 15-year marriage and entertain the idea of an open relationship. While this might be working well for Tommy, Hank struggles to cope with the change as well as the challenges of being old.

Telling an LGBTQ story was important for Yue, who immediately said yes to the film after reading the script. She has worked on many genres and is incredibly versatile, but this was her first time telling a story about this community. She feels film can provide a voice for underrepresented groups and educate viewers on key issues, and taking such a heartfelt look into the loving marriage of two homosexual men touches on all the reasons she wanted to become a filmmaker to begin with.

“Learning to understand who we are, and respect everyone as they are, is of the utmost importance. It is the greatest aspect of this film. In real life, most people like to look at things with a preconceived perspective. In other words, people just want to see what they want to see. Rarely will we analyze and understand the problem from the perspective of others, and then everyone will have such a state of mind that they are freaks and not understood by others, and then generate inferiority and escape from life. What this film tells is that no matter how others treat themselves, they must first face themselves honestly, don’t treat themselves as aliens, bravely accept themselves, pursue what they want, each of us is equal. The gender orientation, the preference of the things themselves can be different. Don’t worry about the eyes of others. It’s right to be happy for being myself,” she said.

Hank premiered at the Burbank International Film Festival and was an Official Selection at the Hollywood International Film Festival. It was an Honorable Mention at the Los Angeles Music Awards 2019 and has a lot more expected for the year. This month, Yue and Hongyu Li, the director of Hank, are heading to HRIFF 2019, the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival Red Carpet Press Event on February 15th.It is also an Official Selection for the world-renowned Cannes Film Festival later this year.

“The success is sensational. We use our profession to tell meaningful stories in a visual way, working hard on every detail. Being recognized by audiences around the world is also a way to make us more motivated and more determined to go do what we want to do, to tell the story, to shoot the film,” she said.

As the co-producer on the film, Yue made sure that any unexpected situation that arose on set was instantly taken care of. She helped the director create a good working environment, allowing everyone to focus solely on creating a work of art.

Yue knew the importance of the film they were creating, making it her sole focus and drive every day she was on set. The feeling was infectious, with the entire cast and crew feeling the same.

“I have a lot of LGBTQ friends. We are just like them, everyone is human, there is no difference. What I want to say is that they are not special groups. The discrimination of many people is that their own starting point is wrong. True love does not mean that men and women together breed the next generation, but a soul meets another soul that can truly understand each other,” she concluded.

China’s Zanda Tang talks love of animation and the importance of research

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Zanda Tang

Hailing from Dalian, a coastal city in Northern China, Zanda Tang has made quite a name for himself both in his home country and around the world. With a unique style, he has become a leading Animation Concept Artist. He adopts a variety of painting techniques, always adapting to what each new project requires to best tell the story. He is constantly learning, staying up-to-date with the latest styles of painting, allowing him to jump out of his comfort zone and bring innovative ideas to whatever film he takes on.

“Animation is the least restrictive tool for spreading your ideas. It can be more exaggerated and imaginative than a movie. Compared with the words in books, it can more accurately convey your design and details. Now more and more movies use animation to help with shooting, which makes me more confident in this industry,” he said.

Tang has worked on a number of award-winning films alongside decorated colleagues. His film Lion Dance took home nine awards and was an Official Selection at over 30 international film festivals. He saw similar success with Diors Samurai and Baby and Granny, captivating audiences around the world. No matter the project, Tang makes sure to extensively research all aspects of the story, leaving no detail left behind.

“For example, if I were to design a kettle in an animation project, I would put in the work required to make it more than just a simple kettle. First of all, I would collect a lot of information about the kettle based on the story background and character information of the project. I would collect information from various fields, such as screenshots of illustrations on the ancient painting network, pictures of movies, pictures of goods online and even descriptions in books. When you have a lot of information elements, then the really interesting part starts. You can put all these different elements together and eventually you can design multiple designs based on the identity of the owner of the kettle and the environment. Each object becomes its own character, and that’s when the creativity of animation really shines,” he said.

This determination and talent is exemplified time and time again throughout Tang’s career. Last year, he had great success with many projects in China, from promotional campaigns to informational material. Early in 2018, he began working on Completion of the Compilation of the Chinese Dictionary for Baidu, the popular Chinese search engine. Tang’s work was similar to the Google Doodle, and was seen by millions.

The dictionary was compiled by more than 300 experts and scholars from Sichuan and Hubei provinces on March 9, 1968. The list includes about 56,000 words. It is the largest Chinese dictionary in the world with the largest collection of Chinese words and the most complete definitions. It is a large-scale Chinese special reference book for the purpose of explaining the shape, sound and meaning of Chinese characters. Tang took on the role of characters, props and environment designer. With the compilation of more and more materials, it gradually formed a huge Chinese dictionary, and the dictionary closed after it formed. Bai and Baidu were finally written in the data card.

In the Spring of 2018, Tang also had the honor of working with the China Academy of Space Technology on a 2D animation project. The video created shows the ancient beacon fire that was used to transmit information, and then the wild goose satellite appeared to complete the transformation of modern social satellite information transmission. This is followed by a demonstration of the practical application of the constellation of subsequent satellites in human society. Hundreds of them circle the earth and connect with each other, all of them reflecting the theme of “satellite application, light up life!”

Tang took on the visual design of the video. He used the planar design, because the proportion of the chopping screen is special. In order to make better use of the advantage of the ultra-wide screen, he used large scenes in the design to better show the world, the ocean and the universe.

Undoubtedly, Tang has had a formidable career in animation, and has no plans on slowing down. It was not always an easy road to get to where he is now, with times of self-doubt and the struggle to create. He is so glad he persisted and never gave up, and he encourages all those looking to follow in his footsteps to do the same.

“Having personality and style is a good skill. In this industry, having good painting skills and understanding more diverse painting styles is a foundation. Don’t be afraid to learn other people’s styles and don’t linger in your own safe zone. Challenge yourself so that you can bring yourself more surprises,” he advised.

Zekun Mao talks importance of editing and new film ‘And The Dream That Mattered’

Beginning her career working on documentaries, Zekun Mao knows the power of editing in terms of filmmaking. Simply changing the order of a couple of shots can create a huge difference. Editing, therefore, is very crucial, and the final step in the storytelling process. A good editor can lift the story, not only telling the story itself, but also creating this beautiful flow for the audience. A good editor can not only tell the most powerful story, but also bring the entire audience into the film, letting them experience the story by themselves. An editor, according to Mao, can not only guide audiences’ eyes, but also their hearts.

The Chinese native is now an internationally sought-after editor, having worked on several critically acclaimed films, including Our Way HomeJie Jie, and Janek/Bastard. She always aims to be storyteller first, editor second, and this commitment to her craft is evident in all of her work.

One of Mao’s more recent films, And The Dream That Mattered, once again impressed audiences and critics alike. It follows an ambitious Asian actor who’s well on his way to Hollywood success when he returns home to Korea and soon discovers that even while reconnecting with family and loved ones, his creative journey ahead is even more lonely and difficult than he could have ever imagined.

“The ideas shown in the film are very contemporary and universal. They speak to a lot of young artists today, and the struggles they face in the modern world. I hope that by watching this, such people can find answers through their own interpretations of the film. I also hope it can encourage a lot of young artists today to pursue their dreams no matter what comes in their way. The film shows that even after a struggle, hard work eventually pays off,” said Mao.

Mao feels that the story, although it is about an actor, can apply to all artists. As an editor, she related to the story and the struggles the character goes through. She hopes many young people can feel something and know they aren’t alone when they watch the film.

Working on And The Dream That Mattered was an incredible experience for Mao. The film was shot without a typical script, in the style of a documentary, a genre she is extremely adept in. Her first step was to categorize the footage according to the emotions portrayed in it. Thereafter, she started building the narrative based on the ebb and flow of emotions in the footage. In doing so, Mao realized the film could play out like reading a book, and she decided to give each story segment a chapter name, summing up the main theme in each story.

“This project gave me a lot of creative freedom. Coming from a documentary background, the shooting style and the structure was very familiar to me. I enjoyed having nearly complete freedom in shaping the story according to what emotions I sensed throughout the footage. Because of this, I myself started reflecting on a lot of the questions that were posed in the characters’ lives. It felt not only like an editing process, but a life journey,” she said.

Mao lent a unique perspective to the narrative. The director and the actor both had their own ideas of what emotions they would emphasize in the film. Mao was able to filter through a lot of ideas from many team members and eventually put together a version that combined the best of everyone’s ideas, including her own. While working on the editing process, she suggested that the lead actor write letters to various important people in his life. These letters ended up being used as voice-overs throughout the film, which tied the film together.

And The Dream That Mattered has yet to make its way to film festivals, but it already took home the Best Independent Film Award at the Korean Cultural Academy Awards. Mao could not be more thrilled by the success the film has seen thus far. It has a lot of experimental elements to it, and it’s heartening for the editor to see such experimentation being appreciated.

“I’m happy that the writer, who is also the lead actor in the film, Jongman Kim, is getting the recognition he deserves. As the editor of this film, I’m thrilled that our hard work has the potential to bring about change to people’s lives,” she said.

Undoubtedly, Mao has had quite a career so far, and And The Dream That Matteredis just another example of what a force to be reckoned with she is. For those looking to follow their dreams and take on a career as a film editor, Mao says practice makes perfect.

“It is a hard job. It might seem very easy, just putting things together, but there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. It is an art form. You need to practice a lot. Editing is not just knowing how to use some software. It’s more about telling the stories. I would say be prepared. Be prepared to work very hard and be prepared to be criticized very hard too. Be patient, because it takes a very long time to figure out the best version of the story. Most importantly, be passionate, because it is a very exciting job,” she advised.

Britain’s Janine Gateland stars in award-winning new horror flick

As an actress, Janine Gateland’s primary responsibility is simple: to tell stories. She takes words off a page and transforms them into a living, breathing person. Whether it be through a camera lens, on stage, or just with her voice and a microphone, she brings a character to life, causing an emotional reaction from her audience. For Gateland, she loves the world of make believe and being able to portray different people in different situations, dealing with life’s obstacles and challenges is what she lives for.

“Acting is unpredictable. It’s never mundane, it’s always an adventure because you don’t always know what job is going to come next. One minute you could be filming in a studio lot or on stage and the next in the woods or up a mountain. From the moment you pick up the script you are at the start of a journey of that character and their story. I love the fact that you learn so much about yourself through storytelling,” she said.

Gateland’s passion translates directly into every project she takes on and is exactly why she is such a sought-after actress both in her home of the United Kingdom and internationally. This is exemplified with her films such as Modern American Nightmare, which will soon be available on Amazon Prime’s streaming service,and The Closing, as well as the highly-anticipated new television series Illville.

One of the highlights of Gateland’s esteemed career came when working on the 2017 film F***, Marry, Kill. The horror flick follows three sisters traveling through the Mojave Desert on their way to their brother’s wedding. A sinister turn of events leads them to a twisted, maddening town where a psychotic, cult-like community kidnaps women and forces them to marry, procreate or be sacrificed. These residents seem hell bent on making it their final destination.

“I like the story because it is so real. F***, Marry, Killis actually based on a game.  People tend to play it at office parties, and I had heard Howard Stern was playing it on the radio. In the film we are playing the game in the car journey for fun, little did we know that would end up being our fate. The main guy in the film who you think is sweet and harmless ends up kidnapping my sister. Like most siblings, we knew we had to go on this car journey and somehow get along. What I like about the film is, even though all 3 sisters come from different lifestyles and bicker, they become a girl powered strong team when things go badly wrong,” said Gateland.

The film is, in Gateland’s words, “very girl powered”. Her character, Tiffany, is the oldest of the siblings. She had a great job, husband, and she was happy. However, everything went wrong when her husband cheated on her. She turned to drowning her sorrows with alcohol and becoming a bit too much of a free spirit. She shows up on the road trip to her brother’s wedding with her new fling of the month, who also happens to be a drug dealer. As the eldest sibling, she knows she’s always being judged by her sisters, but after everything she has been through, she doesn’t care anymore.  When the journey takes a turn for the worst and their lives are in danger, Tiffany realizes she has to step up and becomes the strong, ballsy sister who has to protect her sisters. The role really pushed Gateland’s boundaries both physically and mentally as an actor.

fmk poster

F***, Marry, Kill premiered in 2017 at Sunscreen Film Festival. From there, it had an incredible film festival run. It has won several awards, including the Semi-Finalist Award at Los Angeles CineFest, Honorable Mention at Los Angeles Movie Awards, and was a winner at Hollywood Verge Film Awards and Direct Monthly Online Film Festival, to name a few. Such success could never have been possible without Gateland’s captivating performance as Tiffany.

“It is a wonderful feeling and I am so proud to be a part of it. A lot of hard work went into the film and I know I worked hard to make my role as memorable as possible. We were very lucky because we made time for rehearsals too, which doesn’t always happen in film. I am so pleased the film has got into so many festivals around the world and there is still more we are waiting on,” said Gateland.

Undoubtedly, Gateland is an exceptional actress, with an impressive career behind her and much more to look forward to. She has no plans on slowing down, as each time she steps onto a film set, she feels the same adrenaline rush that she did the first time. For those looking to follow their dreams into acting, she offers some wise words based off her years of experience.

“Make sure it’s something that you can’t imagine living life without. It has to be your passion and you have to be good. The amount of rejection you get can have an effect on your confidence. You have to be able to take risks and have a real drive to really want it, otherwise go home. You can’t be lazy, you have to put in the work 150 per cent and keep at it. To be successful can take years of training, experience and building relationships. It’s usually very rare to get that ‘big break’ when someone notices you, so you have to go out and find the work yourself.  Plus having a strong support system is tremendously important and having a motivated and well-connected representation that has your back,” she advised.

Check out F***, Marry, Kill, and be sure to keep an eye out for Gateland’s future works.

 

Top photo by Joseph Sinclair

From 1st AC to DP: Carl Nenzén Lovén’s Journey to Leading the Camera Department

Cinematographer Carl Lovén
Cinematographer Carl Nenzén Lovén

Today we live in a visually driven society more than ever before, but when it comes to film and television, striking visuals have always been key to drawing audiences into the stories on screen. Yet with all of the visual content out there today, having spot-on visuals are even more paramount to the success of a production.  

As the cinematographer and head of the camera departments on recent projects such as the film “Saili- The Light,” an Official Selection of the San Francisco Dance Film Festival, the upcoming feature film “I Will Make You Mine” and the music video for the band Twiceyoung’s hit song “Keep,” Carl Nenzén Lovén knows all about creating powerful visuals.  

Managing an entire department on any film crew is an arduous task, but being the head of the camera department is arguably one of the most challenging. From overseeing the lighting, the shot sequences and angles, and so much more, being a project’s cinematographer requires vast technical knowledge, not mention immense creativity.

Before making his way to the head of the camera department, Lovén honed his skills as the 1st AC on a plethora of high-profile projects, such as multi-award winning director Emily Ting’s dramatic film “Go Back to China” starring award-winning actress Anna Akana (“Youth and Consequences”), and Shuaiyu Liu’s film “Underground” starring John Carney from the award-winning thriller “Jake’s Dead” and Barnaby Falls from the award-winning film “Ride.”

For those who aren’t familiar with the work of the 1st AC, they are the ones behind the scenes who help recommend the proper camera, lenses and support gear, and they’re often the one responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gear. From ordering the gear before production begins to setting up the equipment and ensuring the shots are blocked off so the cameras are ready to roll once the director calls “Action,” Lovén quickly proved himself as an adept figure within the camera department.

“I like to look at the job as 1st AC as the nerd of the camera crew. If the camera operator is the quarterback, the 1st is the one that knows all the plays, and is ready to feed them to the operator,” explains Lovén. “He or she is the expert of the camera team, and everything it entails, and also the MacGyver that is suppose to solve any issue when they happen on set. But also a person of fine motor skills, being able to read each situation and adjust focus for every camera move.”

Hailing from Sweden, Lovén actually began working as a photographer in his teens, but found the medium too limiting for the time of stories he wanted to tell. Still, his early experiences as a photographer, combined with his work as a 1st AC, have endowed him with a rare and masterful knowledge concerning the best cameras, lenses and other technical equipment needed to capture the shots required by the vast range of productions he leads as a cinematographer.

When asked about how working as a 1st AC has helped lead him to become a better cinematographer, Lovén said, “To me, this is like asking, ‘Have being a mechanic helped you become a better race car driver?’ Anyone can get inside the car and drive Daytona, but not everyone can get that car running if anything happens. Being a 1st AC have given me the opportunity to learn so much about the camera and how it works in tandem with the lenses.”

Considering the look and vibe of the visuals vary greatly from project to project, having a keen understanding of the precise equipment needed to deliver the director’s vision is key to Lovén’s work as a cinematographer. With the variety of projects Lovén’s shot to date ranging from feature films and music videos to commercials for the likes of CarGurus, a leading online auto sales website, he has used practically every tool of the trade.

Setting aside the cameras and lenses that are needed for specific projects, Lovén admits that his camera of choice is the Aaton LTR, which shoots on 16mm film.

“I have used it a few times. And it is the successor to the camera I own myself, the Eclair ACL… it just works. It’s a no-nonsense, no-bullshit camera. It is French, it is perfectly balanced, it shoots film, and it is quiet.”

But in the modern age where so much of what we see is digitally shot, Lovén also has his favored camera for shooting digital.

“If I had to pick a digital one, I would go with the Alexa Classic EV. I really try to stay away from digital, but the old Alexa is a workhorse really. You can throw anything at it, and it just works, any day of the week.”

Though choosing an effective camera body for the job is imperative, having the right lens is probably even more important. Considering that there is definitely no shortage of lenses on the current market, knowing which one to choose takes an experienced practitioner.

Lovén says, “The classical Zeiss Super Speeds Mark I or II are my favourite. They just look amazing in whatever camera you put them on. They take away that digital feel on modern cameras, but throw it on a Arricam LT and it will do the same job.”

Having spent years immersed in the camera departments on numerous projects, Carl Nenzén Lovén is well-versed in the world of cameras, lenses and all of the other technical equipment required to make a project a success; and all of this has added up to make him the sought after cinematographer he is today.