Born and raised in Hangzhou, China, Shu Zhang brings her heritage into her work as a makeup designer. She has worked and volunteered around the world, lending her skills to completely different projects time and time again, showing both her clients and those that see her work just how innately talented she truly is.
While working on the short film Death in a Day, Shu had a pivotal role as lead makeup artist and hair stylist. She aimed to give the actors authentic, historically accurate makeup, as the film takes place in the early 90s. Shu’s background in art history and period makeup made her integral to the authenticity of the production.
“The hero is the early 90s American immigrant. The look is totally different with the America born Chinese nowadays. I wanted to focus on her 90s traditional Chinese style, but also to show her makeup under the influence of 90s American style. So, I put her major look into the decade which is more nature in tone, a sculpted look with a more idealized face shape,” said Shu.
Death in a Day tells the story of Evan, a young Chinese boy who, after visiting his comatose father in the hospital, witnesses his mother’s struggle and must come to grips with the impending death falling upon their family. Death in a Day, which premiered in June last year, was announced as the Best Narrative Short at San Diego Asian Film Festival in 2016, and was officially selected for a number of film festivals, it received a huge response from there.
“It’s fun to get involved in this original concept movie. I always came with idea of my own, so I know how this is important to a director to make a film,” said Shu.
It took three months of pre-production and many meetings to work out the perfect makeup design. Shu then had to test the makeup on a couple of actors to make final decision.
The mother’s makeup throughout the entire film is very key to its success, and there are many close-up on her face. Her makeup had to look beautiful but also desperate to highlight the soul of story, and Shu was more than up to the task.
“Shu is good at researching and widely knowing the cosmetic market. She always finds the most suitable products based on actors’ situations. She is always the one to meet my requirement accurately and without fault. Shu can really create with makeup. Everyone knows how to put on lots of makeup on, but looking simple is even harder, and she can do that,” said Yuin Zhang, an investor and advisor of the film.
Yuin Zhang was extremely happy Shu’s work on the film, and invited her to join the feature film she is investing in, Venus by Water. She works for the largest film studio in China, Hengdian World Studio, which is often called the Hollywood of China.
The writer and director of the film, Lin Wang, was also extremely impressed with Shu’s work. The two had previously worked together for a photoshoot for the NBA, where Shu was the first ever Chinese makeup artist to do the makeup for NBA players. The two formed a friendship and business relationship from there.
“Lin Wang is creative, young, and talented director. I knew Lin would make an award-winning film. The script was originally written by just herself. I feel we focused on every detail to perfection: makeup, wardrobe, props and the set needed to be completely historically accurate, which led us achieve a higher artistic level. All our efforts have paid off,” said Shu.
Wang will also be directing Venus by Water, which will begin production later this year. Shu is constantly looking for opportunities to keep doing what she loves, because she is a true artist, and all those that view her work know this to be true.
“Makeup is art to me. Faces are perfect canvases. My inspirations come from art history and from fresh makeup products that come out. I love looking at people’s faces from different worlds, and transforming them. It’s always been the biggest part of my life,” she concluded.