Filmmaker Interview by Chris Olson
Hi Xiwen, many thanks for chatting with us. How has the pandemic been for you?
First of all, thank you very much for the interview. The pandemic has definitely been a tricky time for everyone. Being Chinese, my community was and is still going through a tough time because of Covid. As a filmmaker, I felt obligated to use my skills and speak out. Using the time I had, I wrote a script dedicated to the people who had suffered from the pandemic and addressed the incidents that happened to the Asian community. Luckily, this film, Cha, was made with the help and support of many lovely and talented people.
Your filmmaker career spans multiple mediums (commercials, music videos, narrative
cinema). Which is your favourite and why?
I enjoy all of them because you have different experiences every time.
The beauty of directing is getting to know new, talented, interesting people and, of course, the creative process.
The workflow for commercials and music videos is much quicker than for a
narrative piece, which trained me to think on my feet, always engage with others and stay
What can you tell us about your film, Cha?
Cha is a very personal film. My films always address personal or social issues, and I believe Cha perfectly represents that. Seeing all the attacks and assaults towards Asians and Asian Americans on TV just profoundly hurt me. I have lived in the U.S. for a decade now and had never seen so much hatred towards the community.
Out of that, I wrote the script; with the help of my producer, we launched a crowdfunding campaign and received tremendous support from so many people. We reached out to some of the donors, and found so many who saw the value and message of Cha and didn't hesitate to help us make it happen. When we needed a traditional-looking American farm, I reached out to one of my friends, who owns the perfect place for the story we wanted to tell. He was happy to let us shoot there for free. Our crew was fantastic as usual. The location was pretty far from Chicago (where we were based at the time), but everyone involved was more than happy to make that trip to help us bring these issues to life. I truly appreciated everyone's effort.
Now, Cha has reached distribution, and it will hopefully reach more people around the globe.
How did you get into filmmaking?
I have always loved films, but I didn't get into filmmaking until college. When I was a kid, the ritual in my family was to eat pizza and go to the movie theatre every Friday night. This ritual ended about the time I went to middle school. When I went to college, I took a film class, and the feelings and memories all came rushing back. After graduating undergrad, I decided to pursue my filmmaking dream. I have been doing it since then, and I love it!
Who are your filmmaker heroes and why?
As a director myself, a couple of people I look up to are David Fincher and Terrence Malick. You might say they have very different styles, from the stories they tell to how they approach them aesthetically. For me, that's the beauty of filmmaking, how unique people are, and how creatively fulfilling every project is.
What's next for you?
I have different projects going on, both in the music video/commercial sphere, and a couple of narrative pieces. I have a feature script about a young Chinese gay man who lives in New York City who struggles to come out to his mother, due to their cultural roots. Meanwhile, I am collaborating with other creatives on a short film about organ trafficking. And, of course, I am making music videos and commercials for artists and brands across the States.
Read our Cha film review here.