Filmmaker Interview by Chris Olson
Lovely to chat with you. Whereabouts in the world are you right now and how has life been treating you during the pandemic?
Hello, I’m glad to have this wonderful chance to chat with UK Film Review as well. I currently live in Los Angeles, California. Because of the epidemic, almost all the film production was closed last year, so it was a good opportunity for me to write scripts at home.
You have a new film, A Matter of Time. It's a short drama. What is the film about?
During the large-scale demolition and construction going on in a small town in China, an independent and empty-nest grandma YING (70s) who is in the early stage of Alzheimer’s confronts the pressure of moving into a local public nursing home persuaded by her daughter XIAO YU(30s) who works as a construction worker in a big city.
The film applies a realistic style with stationary camera movements and an objective audio environment to portray citizens at the bottom of society in China. The project focuses on observing and reflecting ordinary people’s struggles and conflicts in daily life. In addition, A Matter of Time intends to connect the rapid developments of cities in China and the changes of Ying’s inner state to establish a sense of helplessness and loneliness.
You wrote and directed this. Why did you want to tell this story?
As an artist, I have a strong responsibility to reveal the unexposed side of Chinese society. This project discusses the conflict and friction between two generations due to their different values and beliefs. Despite China's rapid economic development, I wanted to focus on the lives of the lower class, who make up about 60% of the population in China.
However, the public doesn't know their real situation because the lower class people don't have much power or channels to express their real situation. All they can do is work and make a living, from paycheck to paycheck, repeatedly to survive in this competitive country.
Although this story takes place in China, I think the topic of retirement is always universal. People in every country may experience the ambivalence that comes from not having time to care for their parents. So I think the core value of this story is something that audiences around the world can relate to.
What were the challenges getting this film made?
Because it is a low-budget independent short film, of course, we put a lot of effort into controlling the cost. It wasn't easy to shoot this short film and to save money. My producer and I tried to find low-cost location fees upfront. Most of my key crew members worked for free because they are my good friends and know my difficulties, so they were very kind to help me. They also gave me a lot of good ideas and suggestions during the production of the film. Appreciate their efforts and passions!
What's the plan for the film? Where can audiences see it?
My short film is aimed at some major international film festivals. And it got some excellent results in 2021, and I would like to share the news with you. It won the Grand Remi Award a the 54th WorldFest Houston International Film Festival; was selected at LA Shorts International Film Festival (BAFTA, Academy Award Qualifying), Drama International Short Film Festival, Short Film Corner at Cannes Film Festival, HollyShorts Film Festival, etc. And A Matter of Time will have its Canadian Premiere at Victoria Film Festival in Feb 2022.
When you are directing a film, what are the elements you feel are the hardest to control and why?
I think it's the part of directing the actors. Because each actor has his or her style of acting, and it takes time and effort to study and discuss how to communicate effectively with the actors so that the acting style is unified within the director's thoughts.
Actors are very fragile inside because they need to trust the director and crew very much when they are performing to show their heart in front of the camera. Therefore, when choosing to communicate with actors, it is also important to use the right method, otherwise, it can also hurt their motivations.
I believe that a film is not the work of the director alone, but the result of many professionals, so as a director, in addition to constantly learning and having high aesthetic artistic standards, you also need to know how to lead the team and work together with others.
What's next for you?
I am now developing my short film into a full-length feature film. I am researching information and writing a script. Hopefully, you will be able to watch my feature on the big screen shortly.
Why do you make movies?
I believe that everything that happens in our daily lives is a representation that has a deeper meaning. I like to observe, think, reflect and communicate my thoughts to the audience through visual and auditory language because I believe that film, as the most effective art form, can always provide a positive impact on the public and justify uncovered inequalities. My approach to my work is humble, but it is pure, determined, and respectful. I am not an articulate person, so let my films be my voice.