Tag Archives: Filmmaker

Editor Xiaodan Yang refines artistic story in upcoming film “Summer Orange”

Xiaodan “Christy” Yang was a teenager when she realized she was meant to be a filmmaker. At the time, she and her friends at their high school in China were just having fun with a video camera. They were so excited and curious about the tool and would pretend to interview students during lunch breaks. Quickly, this transformed to casting classmates in small productions, and Yang was the leader.

“The most classic one was a Titanic parody where I picked two leading characters to play Jack and Rose from the “audition”. Then we shot the “I’m flying” scene. Their acting was so hilarious and the whole process was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it and that’s the first time I started thinking that maybe I could be a real filmmaker someday. I wanted to bring larger audiences to tears of laughter and allow them to experience all sorts of emotions through my work,” said Yang.

Despite being in charge of her high school short films, Yang found her way to a more behind-the-scenes role in editing. Now, she is an award-winning editor and is recognized far beyond China for her talent. Through her work on dramatic films such as Kayla, Witness, Sixteen and It’s Not Just About a Film, Yang’s contributions as an editor shape these important stories into pieces of art, and all those who work with her know what an asset she is.

“I worked with Xiaodan on my film, Ashram, as well as a short film called The Review. I directed the films and she was my editor for both of them. To work with Xiaodan is to have a very smart, skilled and sensitive creative partner. She is very thoughtful about her editing decisions, and a very even-keeled and well-balanced guiding creative force for the project. She’s very competent and efficient, but also artistic and intuitive. She has strong communication and learning skills, which make us work efficiently,” said Matt Marlin, Writer and Director. “Xiaodan is a strong creative presence and also very flexible with working with different types of personalities. She often juggled multiple projects when working with me, and still made me feel like my project was at least an equal priority with the other things she was working on. She can roll with any notes I throw her way, and also push back when she believes in a creative decision strongly. She has a great intuition for how to best bring out the story from the footage provided.”

When working on the upcoming film Summer Orange, an artistic story, Yang knew it would be defined by the editing. When she first read the script, she was immediately captured by the characters and could feel the desolation they felt in every word. She instantly said yes to the project.

Summer Orange is about a filmmaker dealing with his real life and the film he’s shooting. As a filmmaker myself, I felt close to him. As I was editing the film, the film also affected me in many ways. I was thinking deeply while working on this one,” said Yang.

The film follows Da, a film student in Los Angeles. During the time shooting his thesis film, his old friend, Lu, comes to visit him. It has been a few years since the two have seen each other, and they both have changed. At the same time, the relationship between Da and Xintong, the leading actress of his film, becomes ambiguous. With so many things going on, Da feels confused about film and reality.

“This is a very personal story for the director. Some plots and details come from his actual life experience. If other films are considered novels, this one is more like a prose. The story is sincere, but also abstract. Although nothing dramatic happens, the tone of the story is attractive. Sometimes life is just overwhelming, and people can’t do anything about it. The best part of this story is the dynamic between the characters. That was also my emphasis during editing,” said Yang.

Summer Orange is directed by Chen Xu, who also wrote the film. He had previously worked with Yang on Witness and It’s Not Just About a Film and knew her extraordinary editing talents would help captivate audiences to his subtle story. As the editor, Yang understood the director’s intentions of this story precisely. When going through the footage, every decision Xu made while shooting made sense to her and she knew just how to approach the editing. She could transform and breakdown the script without disrupting the artistic conception. As it was a calm story, the director chose to shoot the film in an objective way, meaning most of the shots were long takes. When Yang was editing, she watched each shot over and over to make sure she was choosing to highlight the best performances from each actor. After doing this, she still made sure not to cut the long takes, therefore ensuring the dynamic between each character was as close as possible to how it was originally shot, refining every take. She also slowed down her pace while editing and instead of simply thinking about what would be useful, she cared more about what felt right for the atmosphere.

Undoubtedly, Summer Orange will be a tremendous film and showcase what a formidable editor Yang is. It will premiere this May at none other than the prestigious Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner and will expectedly make its way to several more festivals in the coming year.

“I feel so excited about the Cannes Film Festival, since it’s one of the best film festivals in the world. I believe this is just a good beginning, and more and more will come,” Yang concluded.

Advertisements

Filmmaker Shaan Memon celebrates the holidays in commercials for Dickens Fair

Article04-dickensfair01
Shaan Memon

As far back as Shaan Memon can remember, his family had a VCR player at their home in Ahmedabad, a city in Gujarat state in India. Every Sunday, he would watch all of his favorite cartoon shows, and his father used to help him record the shows on video cassettes. When his father would travel to Bombay for work, he would return with movies for Shaan and his elder sister. It was then, in his living room in his childhood home, that his love of film was born.

Now, Shaan is an in-demand Screenwriter, Director, and Editor. He first impressed international critics with his work on the horror The Unreal and continued to do so with his films Fitting In and Bullied, as well as the documentary Purpose Driven Study for Dharoi Canal Command Area. He is extremely knowledgeable in every aspect of filmmaking, from pre-production to post-production, and using this knowledge to expand his skillset. At the end of last year, his work on a commercial for the Dickens Christmas Fair showed that in addition to Director and Editor, this versatile filmmaker can even take on the role of Videographer and achieve tremendous results.

“I found Shaan to be reliable, assiduous, hard-working, and intuitively creative – as well as being extremely patient in performing multiple re-cuts of the material. Shaan impressed me so much that I recommended him for other work and hope to engage his services next year on a separate video for the Dickens Fair,” said David Hakim, Producer/Director who worked alongside Shaan on the commercial.

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair is a one-of-a-kind holiday adventure into Victorian London and is an elaborate party with around 800 of costumed players performing and interacting with patrons in over 120,000 square feet of theatrically-lit music halls, pubs, dance floors, and Christmas shops. It’s a twilight evening in Charles Dickens’ London Town – a city of winding lanes filled with colorful characters from both literature and history. Enticing aromas of roasted chestnuts and hearty foods fill the air. Cries of street vendors hawking their wares ring out above the bustling crowd. Dozens of lamplight shops are filled to overflowing with Christmas gifts. The Dickens Christmas Fair is a treasured Bay Area tradition since 1970 and a splendid way to celebrate the holidays. Thousands of people attend this event every year.

“I had never visited the fair before, so the first time when I visited it, I was spellbound. They have created a different world in itself. One can never imagine what would it be inside until they visit it, and that is exactly I wanted to capture. I therefore insisted on not visiting the fair before shooting, as I wanted to feel like a traveler who is experiencing it for the first time and I captured those moments,” said Shaan.

Shaan is a multi-talented filmmaker with an outstanding about of expertise in writing, directing, editing, videography and sound design. Because he has so much experience in such a variety of roles, he is a one-man army who can execute a project as clearly and as nearly to how it was conceived during the consultation. Having thorough knowledge of different fields makes him a force to be reckoned with and proved vital while shooting this commercial.

“Every filmmaker works hard with his/her sweat and blood to make a project the best it can possibly be and make their name in the industry. I had huge responsibility as Diane Baker put trust in me and suggested me to work on this project. I’m happy that I could reach her and David’s expectations,” said Shaan.

When Diane Baker and David Hakim were trying to find someone who could make a captivating commercial for Dicken’s Christmas Fair, they immediately thought of Shaan and approached him to take the lead on the project. Initially, Hakim had planned on creating a competition to decide who would create the commercial, but after seeing Shaan’s work, he knew he no longer needed to find someone to take over.

Working closely together for the entire shoot, Shaan consulted Hakim regarding what kind of shots, pace and feel would be required. After brainstorming, they decided on getting more front faced shots of the visitors, showing how happy they were and enjoying their time. Getting the best shots of artists performing, vendors selling beautiful products, the decorations, the grandness of the fair and much more. Shaan then attended the fair with his assistant to get as many shots as possible. During the editing process, he consulted with Kevin Patterson, Executive Director of Dicken’s Fair. He edited the best possible 30-second commercial. He is now working on the 90-second advertisement after the success of its predecessor.

“This is what I love about filmmaking. I never get bored of being a filmmaker. I enjoy working every time I have to go through this process of starting a new project, working on it and at the end looking at its result. Every project takes me on a whole new journey. In this one I met around hundreds of artists working together at same place. Watching Dickens’s characters alive and performing in front of you was a treat! This project was great to work on and entertaining also. David was very supportive throughout and I’m happy that he trusted my creativity and I could deliver up to his expectations,” Shaan concluded.

Check out Shaan’s work on the commercial on the Dicken’s Fair website.

Producer Sherry Yang brings out the laughs in film ‘Cash Back’

Filmmaking, for Sherry Yang, was always where she knew her future would lie. The ability to transport audiences to different places and time was always her passion. However, she did not always know she wanted to be a producer. Early in her career, she experimented with directing, writing, and editing. In taking on many roles, she came to realize that what makes all of these jobs possible is what a producer does. Producing is fundamental to filmmaking, and allows other departments to work flawlessly and concentrate on their tasks. It was this realization that put Yang on the path to greatness. She knew at that moment that she wanted to be a producer, and work on making each and every project she took on the best it can be in every aspect. That is exactly what she does; this award-winning producer is quickly becoming a leader in her industry, and despite an established resume, she is just getting started.

Yang is known for making films that not only impress audiences, but critics as well. Her historical film The Letter won awards at eight international film festivals. A similar pattern occurred with her work on the comedy Jiaozi, the romantic drama Te Echo de Menos, and the thriller Under the Pieces. All those she works with are immensely satisfied with her work, and attribute much of their success to her capabilities as a producer.

“I worked with Sherry on two films; I believe this speaks volumes. I truly enjoyed working with her and the professionalism she brings to the table. Sherry is a producer who considers herself as part of the crew, and she is proud of that fact. She does not sit in the high chair and stay away from the set. She is always working hard along with everyone else and still making sure everyone is happy. She is always with us, working hard to make the best film possible, and when there are hiccups, she is there to fix it quickly before anyone even notices. When there is trouble, she is always there backing you up and is the glue that keeps everyone together and working on the same page. It is no mystery as to why so many are happy to work with her over and over again. When working with her, she brings out everyone’s passion, thus making the filmmaking process an enjoyable journey, and reminds us why we all chose this path,” said Director Evan Xiao.

Cash Back cast & crew
Cash Back cast and crew

Amongst the films that Yang collaborated with Xiao on is the film Cash Back. It is a dramatic, dark comedy about love and trust. After two years in the making, the film premiered at the Asians on Film Festival in March of 2016, and continued to be selected for several more festivals. Yang is proud of what the film accomplished, none of which could have happened without her. And yet, she remains modest.

“I am very happy for Evan that he was able to give homage to his professor, who the film was dedicated to, and that it went so well. When I first saw the cut of the film, I thought it was quite clever and funny. I am happy that many audiences agree with me and enjoyed the film for the clever storytelling and directing,” said Yang.

When Yang was approached by Xiao to help tell his story, she was immediately captivated. The film was a tribute to one of the director’s teachers, and she was happy to be a part of something that was so close to home for her colleague. At the time, Yang had never worked on a dark comedy, but she was eager for the chance to try something new.

“Although it’s a dark comedy, the story deals with the morality of the human being. That thin grey area. After working with him on this project, I came to realise that Evan truly likes to play with that grey area of morality, as well as the comedic aspect of the naïveté of someone who acts morally all the time. I felt that this story did it right playing with the right amount of comedic aspects and the right amount of darkness to point out the naïveté and bending of morality,” Yang described.

As the producer, Yang helped find the perfect cast and crew for the film. She set financial matters and coordinated communications between creative and production crew members. Another responsibility included location scouting. She wanted to find something vibrant, affordable within budget, and convenient for the working schedule. The story originally took place in a comic book store, but this proved to be very difficult. After spending countless hours looking at comic book stores, Yang knew they needed to come up with an alternative. When meeting with the director, they decided to alter the story slightly, and changed the setting to a candy store. This was actually a great change, says Yang, because it allowed for a few more jokes to be added to the script.

It was crucial for Yang to remain organized and communicative with all cast and crew, as well as the business owner of the candy shop when it came to scheduling. She had to carefully plan everything in order for everyone to be on the same page and have the film shoot go smoothly. Needless to say, she achieved her goal, and the film is witty and artistic.

Yang is undoubtedly a producer to keep an eye on. She is already one of the best to recently come out of China, and as the years pass, we will continue to see her name attached to some extraordinary films.

 

Top photo by Yuki Yoshimatsu

 

Alice Esposito reminds us it’s never too late to change your mark on the world

CronacheDiFotografia
Poster for Alice Esposito’s work with Vincenzo Castella

In today’s day in age, it is nearly impossible to envision a world without photography. Picture yourself walking down the street toward the supermarket, only imagine a lack of billboards, advertisements in store windows, and posters on the walls. What would magazines look like? Or film and CD covers? How would we capture perfect moments in time? Photography is a universal language, spoken and understood by people from all different walks of life. It speaks to our eyes, but more deeply, to our souls. It is an undying profession and as technology advances, we are increasingly able to see the world through millions of different lenses. It is an exciting time to be a photographer and for artists like Alice Esposito, it only heightens a passion that has been embedded within her from the time she was a child. For Esposito, photography is both a skill and a hobby, but above all else, it is a job that she has enjoyed building into a career.

“For the kind of photography that I do, it is essential for me to travel, to meet new people, and to learn new cultures. It is something that I truly love to do and the way photography connects me with people all over the world is something rare and beautiful. The potential to tell stories in countless different ways is magical,” tells Esposito.

Esposito has differentiated herself from her competition by more than just sheer talent. She has developed a way to combine her photography skillset with her interest in filmmaking in such a way that gives her a unique edge and understanding of her industry. Her filmmaking skills have earned her several prestigious jobs across the world. For instance, Esposito worked as a photographer and videographer from 2009 to 2011 in Italy and was tasked with filming for multiple different events, conferences and Exhibit Shows. Later on in 2011, she landed herself a job as Vincenzo Castella’s photographer and personal assistant, where she experimented with different cameras and set ups to bring Castella’s photography to a different level. Whenever she was tasked with one of his projects, Esposito would heavily research the concepts, study any and all appropriate mediums, and determine how best to showcase his visions. She is a trusted talent and has an unprecedented ability to capture the ideas of her clients or employers flawlessly.

In 2011, following a conversation with a colleague, Esposito was inspired to tell her own, original, compelling story to the world via stop motion animation. She was excited about the opportunity to explore stop motion animation, as it was the first time she had worked with it. The video short that she created, called Thend, tells the story of a man who occupies a city but consequently becomes occupied by it. The story presents the idea that human beings often forget that when they invade the earth like a virus, they eventually find that the earth, or in this case, the city, ends up infecting and assailing man. Essentially, the story is a reminder for people everywhere to be mindful of the consequences of destroying the earth out of personal interest. Esposito and her team aimed to remind people to think about the repercussions of their actions and to be careful where they step, what they do, and ultimately, of the legacy they will leave behind.

For Esposito, the joy of creating Thend, in collaboration with Carlotta Roda, was based on the ability to both explore her storytelling abilities, as well as to dive deeper into the art form that she lives and breathes for. She took a lead role on the production, leaving herself in charge of the visual style that was to be achieved, the choice of equipment, the set locations, and more. Her natural affinity for photography and videography allowed her to see the project from a unique angle and to bring it the level of quality that the premise and script demanded. In the end, Esposito could have never anticipated the wide-range success that the short would receive. Upon releasing Thend, it was selected for a special screening event called Cronachedi Fotogradia in Verona. It was subsequently screened on the show VideoSoup at Artist’s Television Access in San Francisco in 2011 and was later shown at SiFest 2014 Urban Space Garden.

“The success of the film came as a surprise at first. It started out as something that was supposed to be a fun way to collaborate with other colleagues. When it became a success, I was honored. I loved seeing the way it was received and knowing that I took a risk in showing something new and different but that it paid off big time. It made people think and I enjoyed answering questions about the process of creating it. It was humbling to hear their thoughts and interpretations as well,” says Esposito.

For Esposito, creating Thend presented a series of unforeseen challenges that she is fortunate to have encountered. Every set back and obstacle allowed her to build and refine her skill set and provided her with a series of opportunities to learn new things about her artistry. The reality of working with stop motion is that it is precise and any minor mistake can create a large impact on the final result. The project required a very diligent, detail oriented artist like Esposito and the final result of Thend was a reminder that all of the hard work, time, and dedication that she put into its final production was more than worth it.

Me_StellaTinucci_ClamChowderSet
Alice Esposito and Stella Tinucci on set, photo by Nilangana Banerjee

Today, Esposito continues to use her exceptional skills to show the world how powerful photography and videography truly are. She is currently working on creating her own, independent production company and with that, she has some short films moving their way through the editing process. In addition, alongside Director and Producer, Stella Tinucci, Esposito is collaborating on a television pilot called Surreal Estates. The show has been successfully crowdfunded and Tinucci attributes a large part of this success to Esposito’s prowess as a filmmaker.

“Alice’s efficiency, combined with her warmth, add to her talents and knowledge of her craft. She has a very keen eye and she cares about details. This attention to detail, coupled with her professionalism, make her a pleasure to work with. She is also a strong communicator, which is key in this industry. She will do great things,” concludes Tinucci.

Watch Esposito’s astounding work in Thend here.

Top photo by Claudia Caldara