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Passion and Precision: Editor Bowei Yue’s Compelling Visual Style

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By Joseph West

Although the film editor works almost exclusively in a post-production capacity, he is as essential as the actors, director, even the writer. The editor exerts tremendous artistic influence over a film, controlling virtually every aspect from pacing, atmosphere and mood to how the plot line’s narrative unfolds. The editor’s visual style enhances and elevates audience experience to a profound degree, and as such, qualifies the editor as a critically important contributor to film and video. 

Film editor Bowei Yue exemplifies the demanding mixture of aesthetics and technical skill required of the successful editor. His comprehensive spectrum of skills and flair for arresting visuals have made him an internationally known force, one with multiple best editing award wins at film festivals around the world. 

It’s been Yue’s life-long passion, one he practically born into.  

“My hometown is Changchun in northeastern China, site of the earliest production company in China, Changchun Film Studio, where Chinese films were pioneered,” Yue said. “As a child, I developed an interest in films. All the kids thought films were cool, but I always thought that the people who made films were even cooler.”

After graduating high school, Yue entered the famed Beijing Film Academy. 

“I was majoring in sound, but I realized I would prefer more engaging work that is closer to storytelling itself,” he said. “Therefore, I applied to the American Film Institute for an MFA degree in editing after college.” 

The American Film Institute in Los Angeles is one of the most esteemed and discriminating conservatory’s in the film world–gaining admittance there is no small feat. 

He wasted no time, cutting a series of well received projects (the award-winning Dark Wolf Gang” earned him best editing trophies at juried competitions in the US and Spain) and his recent work on two short films, “Balloon” and “New Year’s Eve” are prime examples of Yue’s formidable talent and versatility.

The former is an engaging, visual effects heavy action/fantasy about a bullied teen who develops super powers while the latter is an intense, intimate coming-of-age familyd drama, providing Yue a showcase for two very different stylistic approaches.  

“I’d already worked with ‘Balloon’ director Jeremy Merrifield on a TV pilot, a short film and 5 commercials,” Yue said. “We have cultivated a good working relationship and talked about this project long before he was conceiving the script, which was very personal to him.”

Merrifield’s vision and eye-popping action demanded much of Yue: “In this short film, we have close to 100 visual effects shots, some of which are very complicated,” he said. “These are not difficult in a big Hollywood movie because there you have a team of people to complete the work, but ‘Balloon’ is a short film, and most of the work was done by myself. So, in addition to the art of editing, I also invested a lot of energy in the post-production supervising.”

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The result spoke eloquently for itself, making “Balloon” a sensation on the world-wide festival circuit, screening over 30 juried competitions (including AFI Fest, New Orleans Film Festival, Palm Spring International Short Fest, Hawaii International Film Festival) and winning the Oscar-qualifying Grand Prix for Best Film at the 15th annual Hollyshorts Festival as well as the audience award at the New Orleans Film Festival. But these pale in comparison to its popularity online.

“On the day of the stream launch on YouTube and as a Vimeo Staff Pick, our views quickly exceeded 100,000,” Yue said. “We were shocked–this is very rare for a short film. Now, we have more than 4 million views on the web, it’s insane! I’m really proud of the final product.”

“New Year’s Eve” took Yue in an entirely different direction. A deliberately paced ensemble cast drama directed by Hao Zheng, it relates the tension filled tale of  19-year-old Xiaoyu returning to celebrate Chinese New Year at his family home, where he must face the consequences of his unpopular decision to enroll in a kung fu school rather than university. 

“Hao is Chinese, but heavily influenced by European films,” Yue said. “His works are basically slow-paced and have an ‘endless savor.’ I personally like this type of film, but most of my works are more fast-paced and genre-leading, so he wanted my style to collide with his and see what happens with those different chemical reactions.”

The experiment was not without challenges for the editor. “The dinner table scene in the film was a very memorable sequence,” Yue said. “Anyone who knows a little about editing will tell you that dinner table scenes are the hardest to edit. There were seven actors and the dialogue content of the entire scene was very rich, with lines coming at the same time, and a lot of improv from the characters. During editing, my core work was to always pay attention to the relationship of Xiaoyu and his mother but at the same time ensure visual diversity, smoothness of cutting along with all the other elements.” 

 

Bowei Yue_3Yue flawlessly rectified any discrepancies between takes and dialog overlaps and “New Year’s Eve” was enthusiastically received at its recent premiere screening. The film will formally release at the end of this month on popular platform Short of the Week, and has already been officially selected by more than 20 film festivals in Europe. But Yue is always looking forward to his ambitious professional horizon and has several fascinating projects in the works.

These include Director-writer Íce Mrozek’s feature “About Him and Her,” a high-concept love story with unconventional, almost experimental tone, Yuxi Li’s “Sword of Destiny” a big budget period kung fu/ action feature and Erica Eng’s “Americanized” a short focused on elements of disparate cultures, athletics and a fast moving urban visual.

With an impressive skill set, Yue’s potent combination of strong visual style, ingenuity, technical skill and keen emotional tone has established him as a talent of significant range and ability. But it’s his aesthetic loyalty–an unwavering commitment to collaboration and upholding the integrity of the filmmakers original vision–that has really qualified him as an in-demand asset in the film world.

“Many editors have said that the relationship between a director and an editor is almost like a marriage,” Yue said. “Understanding and trust are very important. Film is never a one-man-band type of thing, and an editor’s work gets done by maintaining a responsible attitude to the director. But at the same time, as an editor, you need to leave your own signature on the project. Finding that sweet balance is really important for me all the time.”

No Limits: Dance Artist Faustine Lavie’s Cross Cultural Excellence

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Photos courtesy SLP Official

By Joseph West

Dance artist Faustine Lavie not only excels in one of the most demanding disciplines in all the arts–classical ballet–she also has an extraordinary ability to take on, and easily master, a diverse number of disparate styles which span the entire dance spectrum. 

Whether it’s modern, jazz or esoteric contemporary hybrids like An Nuo Spiritual Dance & Art, the French-born Faustine’s limitless capacity to learn and grow as a dance artist has solidly established her as noted and in-demand force in the high pressure dance scene.  

A prime example of this versatility is her membership in the acclaimed KADA (Korean American Dance Association) troupe.  Founded in 2011 by Korean dancer-choreographer Mee Jung, it’s a contemporary dance company focusing on cultural exchange through the arts. Jung and co-director Ae-Soon Kim, the co-director aim to fuse dance–the primary element–with visual arts, music, singing, painting, and photography presented at stage shows and festivals. 

“I wanted to be a part of this company because I love their vision and the cultural mix they are trying to achieve,” Faustine said. “I like discovering new cultures, performing to music from different parts of the world and dancing different styles of movement.” 

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For the New York based Faustine, dance has always been her passion, one that manifested itself when she was just 3 years old–when she stunned her mother by asking to be enrolled in the local dance school in her native Toulon. 

“Since she wanted me to do sports or some kind of physical movement, she agreed,” Faustine said. “I honestly can’t remember how I became interested in dance because I was so young, but I loved it so much that I’ve never stopped.” 

Later, When the Lavies relocated to Paris, Faustine enrolled in the famed l’Ecole du Ballet National de l’Opéra de Paris, moved on to attend the esteemed Ecole Supérieure de Danse de Cannes Rosella Hightower as well as the notable contemporary Parisian dance school ACTS.. With a solid grounding in ballet, modern, jazz and the Graham technique, Faustine naturally pursued a spot in revered choreographer-dancer Alvin Ailey’s world famous Ailey Certificate Program in Manhattan as the ultimate component of her training.

Blessed, after three years of rigorous study, with Ailey’s formal professional imprimatur and bringing her own boundless store of creative and athletic dance skills, Faustine quickly established herself as a reliable asset not only in i KADA, but in nearly half a dozen other high profile companies (The DynamitExperience, Arim Dance, Nathaniel’s Dance Collective, Bloodline Dance Theatre and An Nuo Spiritual Dance & Art).

The i KADA company’s almost kaleidoscopic pan-cultural style has a special place in her heart: “With i KADA, the dance stays contemporary, but with a different influence in every choreography we do,” Faustine said. “Of course, some have influences from Korea and Asia in general, but not exclusively. Last season, for example, Kim choreographed a piece with an Hispanic influence–that’s very interesting for a dancer, to go from one register to another one like that.” 

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Faustine thrives on the challenges this exotic blend offers. “Some of the pieces include movements taken from the traditional Korean dance vocabulary,” she said. “We had to work hard, especially on hand details, because we were not familiar at all with this style. It was very interesting for me to learn something new like this, that we don’t have the opportunity to try or even see in Western countries.”

 The highlight for any i KADA dancer is the annual KoDaFe (Korean Dance Festival), a four day event featuring performances, workshops and competitions held at the Ailey Studio and the famed Ailey Citigroup Theater, a unique state-of-the-art performance space located in New York’s historic Hell’s Kitchen district.

“KoDaFe was created by i KADA’s Artistic Director Mee Jung to provide a cultural exchange to artists from all over the world,” Faustine said. “For KoDaFe 2019, the company performed four different pieces and I was in two of them. The first, ‘Muse,’ was about the inspiration we have as artists and each dancer represented a different musical instrument, with its unique sound, like each dancer has their own unique way to move. The second piece ‘ChunHyang,’ was inspired by a 13th century Korean story about a noble and commoner who fall in love.” Both were choreographed by Jung and actually evolved during the rehearsal process, like a living organism all its own. 

“These were new pieces in the process of creation, so the rehearsals and preparation were very demanding,” Faustine said. “Being a part of the creation of the piece connects you more deeply to it. We dancers had to be extremely focused to capture every detail right away, as we were learning new movements. It was hard work but done with cheerfulness, always with a smile.”

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“My favorite part of the festival was the amazing people and talented dancers I shared the stage with,” Faustine said. “We became not just friends, but family. The festival is not just about art, but also humanity and love.”

Faustine’s precision, dedication, unflagging pursuit of perfection and fierce tenacity have earned a prominent position as a dance artist of remarkable creativity and interpretive prowess in New York’s very competitive dance community. She wouldn’t have it any other way. 

“What I really like about dance is how you can be a different person every time you take the stage,” Faustine said. “I love exploring diverse styles and growing as an artist, because we never stop learning. Even with a great career and a lot of experience, we always have something to learn.”

Costume Designer-Wardrobe Stylist Paola Erazun’s Winning Style

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Paola Erazun with actor Martin Starr

By Dean Evans

With a deep background in both the demading world of high end haute couture and on-set experience in film and video, Costume designer/Wardrobe stylist Paola Erazun is a powerhouse force. Her combination of audacious originality, comprehensive understanding of an assignment’s full spectrum needs and ability to troubleshoot unexpected challenges with the lyric grace of a master  jazz musician’s improvisation have established Erazun as an in-demand top hand.

The Madrid-based, Argentine-born Costume designer’s affinity for fashion has been a lifelong romance. “Even when I was a child, I always loved wardrobe and I’m very creative,” Erazun said. “I am always looking at people’s outfits and I love to make people look good!”

\With degrees from Italy’s famed Istituto Europeo di Design and Madrid’s venerable Universidad Complutense, she quickly built up a resume studded with such stellar clients as Dior Cosmetics, Guerlain Paris, Audi, Givenchy, Cartier, Burger King and Chase Bank, Erazun’s flexible capacity and intuitive style allows her to take on a broad variety of platforms, from music videos to television commercials to virtually any type of branded content.

Her transition from fashion to film and video was a natural extension of Erazun’s far- reaching talents. As lead costume designer for the Spanish edition of  ‘X Factor,’ Erazun’s team created costumes for contestants, styled the judges and dressed the X Factor girls, invaluable experience that led her to a career path as costume designer.

“Working in fashion was a dream come true,” Erazun said. “I love the fashion world and everything that surrounds it but after 15 years there was a moment where I felt that something was missing. At this point, I started doing more costume design and wardrobe styling in commercials and music videos. I realized that I like storytelling more than fashion world.”

After her X Factor stint, Erazun suited word to action. “I did creative production and styling in London,” Erazun said. “I was working with many high end brands there for five years and then moved to Los Angeles.”

Relocating to Hollywood to work full time as a Costume designer/Wardrobe stylist was an ideal professional evolution, as her recent work with the acclaimed British electro-pop septet Hot Chip on their “Hungry Child” music video makes clear.

“This was a fantastic opportunity because I love this band,” Erazun said. “Such great songs, they get stuck in my head and I can dance to them all day. I’d met [director] Saman Kesh the late last year and we did some jobs together. Then he called me and said ‘I have a music video with Hot Chip and I know you will be great for this!’”

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It was practically a family affair: “When Saman told me that [actor] Martin Starr would star in the video I was very excited,” she said. Not only because I’m a big fan, but after this video I styled him for events several times and he’s such a great, professional and funny guy. Now, definitely, this video was a dream come true!”

“As Costume designer, music videos are always challenging because of budgets and timing is always tight but we made it work,” Erazun said. “I was concentrating on the wardrobe styling end, and the video’s focus was on the story line, so we wanted something very real, normal, wardrobe that, really, is not even noticed.”

“Martin and Milana played a couple and their colors were mostly in browns, green and beige,  but the other characters added a lot–the Uber driver was in a Hawaiian shirt that was great for that scene. popping some colors and a cool pattern inside the car. The therapist wore an African print shirt, we wanted her to be a kind of a guru someone a bit weird, so that shirt was the one–it couldn’t be more perfect for the story!”

Erazun’s meticulous attention to 8detail and unflaggingly creative approach were significant factors in the finished product.

“I really enjoyed it,” she said. “Working with Martin Starr and Milana Vayntrub a great experience, although it was stressful because it was such a long day shoot but the actors made my life easy, the entire team was fantastic. We all are very proud of this project.”

It was very well received, winning the prestigious 2019 Association of Independent Music’s best independent video award, and also garnering a best dance music video nomination from the UKMVA [Music Video Awards], significant events widely recognized as the premier celebrations of global music video and filmmaking.

For Erazun, it was another winning step along her colorful, steadily ascending career path.

“Right now I’m into more creative projects, colorful ones, projects with strong, engaging themes,” she said. “I really want to get into storytelling, create deeply emotional characters, based on what they feel, what the story’s situation is. And I love period pieces, recreating past eras, doing more of that is also a goal.”

With her exceptional roster of impressive credits, far-reaching versatility and profound dedication to her craft, Erazun lives and breathes the essence of the wardrobe stylist’s demanding skill set. For her, it’s the natural order of things.

“”My philosophy is always treat small and big projects exactly the same—and always put the absolute best of myself into the job.”

 

Actress Scherrikar Bell Brings ‘The Victorians’ to Life

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By Dean Evans

Prolific, versatile a nd boundlessly engaging, actress Scherrikar Bell is one of the most well established and recognizable forces in contemporary British television. From her earliest appearance small screen on venerable BBC series “EastEnders” Bell’s gift for creating authentic characterizations has made her a familiar and in-demand talent.

With an impressively spectrum-spanning skill set—uniformly adept at comedy, drama, action or horror—the London born-and-bred Bell is also equally at ease doing feature films, TV commercial spots and cutting edge hip-hop music videos (her mesmerizing performance as the lethal hit girl/assassin in rapper SL’s viral “FWA Boss” clip has been viewed almost 5 million times).

Along the way, Bell has become somewhat of a staple at the famed BBC network. Following her “EastEnders” debut, she graduated to roles on popular soap opera “Doctors” and currently co-stars on top sketch comedy series “Famalam” (the program earned both BAFTA and Royal Television Society UK Awards nominations in 2019).

Bell’s appreciable renown and popular cachet with viewers made her a natural choice for another significant BBC assignment, the leading role of narrator on “The Victorians.” Produced by the networks educational online Teach division and aimed at elementary school students. the collection of cross-curricular films explores contributions made by innovative 19th century Britons in the fields of science, geometry, history, arithmetic, art and music.

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While the concept may sound dry as dust, the series focuses on both the familiar (Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale, Queen Victoria) along with lesser known characters (Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Pablo Fanque) and Bell’s light-hearted delivery—deft, loaded with charm and easy going appeal—is anything but tedious.

The presentation may seem deceptively casual but Bell, throughout, is actively involved with the instructive aspect and its particular subject—she slyly interacts with each historic figure via quips and conversational asides—creating a captivating overall tone that affords each topic an ideal showcase.

Bell’s knack for impeccably timed witticisms, put over with irresistibly cunning ease, creates a perfect persona for her youthful audience, one that thoroughly engages and informs the viewer—and making over Industrial Revolution-era civil engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel into an intriguing character is no small feat.

Bell pulls it off with a low-key yet spirited joviality that not only holds the viewer’s interest, it enhances and elevates each episode to a level where education and entertainment coexist with delightful effect. “The Victorians” is both a significant addition to Bell’s already notable resume of credits and an impressive first entry to the world of children’s television. Marvelous stuff.

The Common Thread of Great Films: Edward Line

Film editor Edward Line made his name editing commercials and music videos, working with award winning directors including Traktor, Matt Lambert, Paul Hunter, Jonas Akerlund and Lucy Tcherniak. A natural collaborator and storyteller it’s not surprising that his talent led him to cutting short films where he has continued to fine tune his craft. It’s a well-rounded career course which Line explains, “From years of cutting commercials and music videos, I have become very disciplined in how to tell stories efficiently and within a set duration. While these skills are transferable, working on short films has relieved me from editing to time restraints and allowed me to approach performances in different ways.  With short films, I’m always thinking of how an edit decision will affect the audience emotionally in a later scene, as character develops and stories unfold. This is true for commercials as well, but of course there is much more breadth in a short film which typically runs for 10-20 minutes, rather than a 30 second commercial.”

Confirming his affinity for narrative editing, Edward’s short film work has been selected and recognized at international film festivals including Tribeca, Sundance, BAFTA and The Academy Awards. Here’s a look at some of his favorite work.

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Not strictly a short film, but a notable promo film that showcased Edward’s sensibility for dialogue cutting.  The film was a collaboration with director Johnny Hardstaff and featured actors Michael Fassbender (Prometheus, Hunger) and Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones) in a sexually charged scene that takes place in a lingerie store.  Edward subtly edited nuanced looks and dialogue to create a tension filled scene which left the audience asking questions, as intended by the filmmakers. This promo film was used by 20th Century Fox to market the release of Ridley Scott’s film The Counselor in 2013. He communicates, I really enjoyed editing this film. Apart from enjoying the first class performances from Michael and Natalie, the suspenseful and dreamy tone of the film was really appealing.  I enhanced this mood in the edit by paying close attention to the characters subtle eye movements and breathing, then hanging on these moments for longer than comfortable. During the edit, I added the ambient dream like soundtrack which further heightened the tension and atmosphere. When I showed the director my first cut he wasn’t expecting music, but he loved my music choice and it was included in the final film.”

St. Patrick’s Day 

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In 2015 Edward teamed up with director Gary Shore to edit the film St. Patrick’s Day.  The film concerns a teacher who gets pregnant, with her doctor warning her, “we’re not certain with what.” It turns out to be (in a riff on the legend of st. Patrick expelling snakes from Ireland) a reptile, but her maternal love has no limits. The dark comedy was part of the “Holidays” anthology feature film and selected for the Tribeca film festival in 2016. Edwards relates, “I was keen to work with Gary Shore on a film after we had collaborated on two commercials in 2015.  Unlike the commercials, which were action packed and heavy in visual effects, this film is a pure narrative dark comedy. The film had over 12 scenes and included several nods to horror and comedy genres, which were fun to play with in the edit. These included creating a comical 1980s style documentary about the myth of St. Patrick. I edited this in a more literal ‘see-say’ style where the voiceover describes exactly what the images are doing, but in an exaggerated way. In the edit, we added a VHS video effect and traditional Irish music to add authenticity. We were so pleased with the resulting ‘mini-film’ that we used it for the opening scene.”

The Painters

The Painters

In 2016 Edward teamed up with longtime collaborator and director Sam Larsson (of multi award-winning collective Traktor) to edit “The Painters”.  Edward recalls, “Sam and I worked together on my first commercial edit in 2011 and have collaborated numerous times since, so when he wrote his first short film it felt natural that we’d team up again.”

The short film follows four house painters who kill time in a parked van as they philosophize about life and recall anecdotes, revealing a glimpse of who they really are. The editor communicates, “This film was a dark comedy with some serious undertones and an editorial challenge being a pure dialogue piece that takes place in one location, inside a van. The success of the film relied heavily on my edit to keep it entertaining and it took some experimenting before we found the film’s rhythm. During the edit I wasn’t shy to cut lines from Sam’s script that we felt were not helping the story, and Sam was very open to my ideas and choices.  As ever with editing, it was important to cut in order to move the story forwards and for emotion, and this was a perfect film to test that theory.” Larrson notes his affinity for the professional partnership he has experienced with Line as he states, “I have always held held Ed Line in high regards for his professionalism and dedication ever since I started to work with him back in the mid 2000. Ed is a great collaborator and very adept at his craft. His intelligent story-telling and comedic instincts have made him a pleasure to work with on every job we have done together. His skills for sound design and broad musical knowledge are invaluable and elevate the films we have worked on. He has a profound dedication to each project and will often stay involved even after his defined role is complete. He is one of the first editors I turn to when I am crewing up for a project.”

The Painters was selected for L.A. Shorts Festival in 2019 and will continue to be seen on the festival circuit into 2020.

Wale

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Inspired by racial tensions in East London, “Wale” follows the story of an 18-year-old mobile mechanic, who learned his trade whilst serving time in a young offenders institution.  After his release, he attempts to get his business going after being hired by the mysterious character O’Brien.

The ongoing tone that permeates the film the story is one of suspense and masterfully achieved through a blend of the director’s vision and editor’s pacing. Edward’s influence is prominent from the opening montage of Wale in which the footage slows down, causing the image to ‘strobe’ as it repeats frames. This editorial technique helps to convey danger and unpredictability and sets the mood for the rest of the film.  Later, in the scene where Wale [the main character] goes to O’Brien’s house to discuss fixing his car; Edward identifies nuanced moments in the character’s performance and lingers on shots to cultivate an uneasy and mysterious tone. The editing is full of restraint in a key driving scene where Wale wrestles with many emotions as Edward holds the shots longer than one might think possible; allowing the audience to really feel Wale’s emotions and try to understand where his mind might be taking him. Edward magnanimously states, “sometimes not cutting is the best decision an editor can make.”

Director Barnaby Blackburn recalls, “Ed has an extraordinarily natural talent for storytelling. He is able to quickly grasp the vision of the filmmaker and translate it on to screen in addition to his innate understanding of the appropriate tone, pacing, and emotion for every film he works on. Ed is not afraid to experiment beyond the traditional norms of film editing, which continually makes for groundbreaking work that pushes the craft of editing, and filmmaking in a broader sense, forward.”

Wale was very well received and boasts an impressive festival run, winning the prestigious Grand Jury Award at Dances With Films and ‘Best Short Film’ at a further five festivals.  The culmination of its success came in being shortlisted for an Academy Award (Oscar) and subsequently being nominated for a BAFTA in the ‘Best Short Film’ category.

The success of the film points to the strength of the relationship between Director Barnaby Blackburn and Edward who have forged a strong working relationship.  As such, they collaborated again in 2019 and completed another short film Dad Was’. This film follows the story of Mattie, an eight –year-old boy as he gives the eulogy at his father’s funeral. The production reunited many of those who worked on ‘Wale’ and will be submitted to festivals in 2020.

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(Editor Edward Line at work)

 

An Empathetic Approach to Filmmaking with Producer Summer Xinlei Yang

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Producer Summer Xinlei Yang appears to have the golden touch when it comes to filmmaking. There are equal portions of passion and commitment applied to her work, the results of which speak for themselves. Her films repeatedly become Official Selections of Academy Award Qualifying Festivals and are met with overwhelmingly enthusiastic responses from the audiences who view them. As with anyone in the film industry, success is met when talent chooses the stories that they are most suited to tell. These days, Hollywood is discovering more than ever that certain individuals are perfectly suited to tell a certain kind of story. For Xinlei, this often means the tales of people involved in multicultural situations. As a native of China who has experienced success in both her home country and the US, Summer always finds the connective tissue of her experiences and that of the characters in the lauded films she has worked on.

The Way Home is director Yiran Zhou’s heart wrenching tale of the modern day immigrant and an Official Selection at Academy Qualifying Film Festivals, including the 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival, the 10th BronzeLens Film Festival, and winner of the International Vision Award at the Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival. The Way Home is the story of two immigrants; 18-year-old Chinese-American Jimmy who seizes the opportunity to prove himself to a Chinatown hooligan and thirty-year-old Haiyang who followed a Coyote through the US-Mexican border years ago while his younger brother [Bin] fell ill. As Jimmy and Haiyang venture toward their own goals, it becomes clear that there is a very high price to pay. The film intimately follows them on their emotional, physical, and moral journeys, providing a timely exploration of family, identity, and sacrifice. The story was inspired by the director’s acquaintance with some Chinese factory workers in a Chinese food warehouse. Most of the employees at the establishment worked ninety hours or more per week. Contrasting the misconception that they were looking for a free ride, these workers came to America for the opportunity to make money to send home and support their loved ones. The film’s producer informs, “This story is about two different generations of Chinese immigrants is relevant and meaningful for the director and I as we are both from China. From the beginning of creating this story, both of us were adamant that the film should have a retrospective and dark tone to show the gap between the reality and immigrants’ American Dreams.” The Way Home was also selected by the 22nd Shanghai International Film Festival for its longest running competition, the Golden Goblet Award.

Xinlei worked with director Angela Chen on the film Our Home Here which was an Official Selection of the 22nd Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival (Past winners and attendees include Oscar nominated actress Rosie Perez; Emmy nominee JT Takagi; Sundance Film Festival nominee Terence Nance; Golden Globes and Emmy nominee Issa Rae, Ebony Jo-Ann, Screen Actors Guild Awards nominee Margot Bingham). This story centers around four individuals in a Texas city; nineteen-year-old Dylan, his older sister Rose, fourty-three-year-old fast-food worker Celine, and a twenty-one-year-old addict named Sean. Unbeknownst to these four, their lives will soon come together in a violent clash at the Sunny Meals drive-thru when Sean’s drug-bender takes a sinister turn, forever changing the trajectories of their lives, their careers, and their relationships. The film explores the desires for control, identity and family, as we intimately follow these characters during the day leading up to the incident. Although the story takes place in Texas, the actual filming location was in Los Angeles.

An even darker tale is found in the film When the Shadow Falls which Summer produced for director Jeseung Woo. After witnessing the suicide of a stranger, a woman named Jane becomes overwhelmingly haunted by the question of whether she could have done anything to help. Inspired by the director’s actual witnessing of a stranger’s suicide in Seoul, the subject matter hearkens back to the idea of many of Summer’s films which asks, “What is the pain that other’s experience which I am unaware of and how would this knowledge allow me to change my view of them?”

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If there is one unifying thread here, it is empathy. Film may be the most powerful tool in helping society feel what goes overlooked in the challenges of its members. To this end, filmmakers like Summer Xinlei and her peers offer the most benevolent choices for us all. The producer plans on maximizing this with her talent on an upcoming project, the documentary feature tentatively titled Frozen Fertility. She relates, “Soon after I decided to make a documentary about reproductive rights for women in China, a director friend of mine forwarded me the news of Teresa Xu, a women rights activist who hopes to freeze her eggs while she works to save money for a future family. Since China bars single women from the procedure, she decided to mount China’s first legal challenge of a law that limits fertility treatments to married couples only. I was so excited when I saw the news, and right away I reached out to her lawyer and herself about my documentary. Our shared understanding and first-hand experience with the subject immediately led her to agree to join our documentary filming. We were able to capture her story of going through the court and facing both local and international media. Her unique story appeared just as I was looking for subjects for my documentary feels like fate. I am just following my heart. The minute I saw the news I thought ‘I must take action now to film this significant moment.’ Summer is prompting all of us to take action with the incredible films she produces.

Composer Weijun Chen creates stunning chamber piece ‘Dancer’

Elegant, beautiful, and meticulously crafted. These are the most common adjectives listeners use to describe Weijun Chen’s work. As an industry-leading Chinese classical composer, he combines unique harmonic and orchestration sensibilities to create stunning pieces of music. His musical persona has been influenced by many aspects of his interests, surroundings, and diverse upbringing. His music is not meant to represent any particular musical style, but he is able to speak for his own musical identity.

“On the one hand, I grew up listening to Chinese vernacular music of the 90s. On the other hand, I was trained rigorously in Western classical music idiom, during which I developed strong interests in Renaissance music, late 19th-century Romanticism, Impressionism, contemporary music, and multimedia. However, rather than aligning myself with a particular style, or forcefully combining different styles, I simply allow my intuition to take over, and express my multitude of influences in a genuine and organic manner,” said Chen.

Throughout his esteemed career, Chen has continuously demonstrated his superb musical capabilities to audiences all around the world. His compositions, such as Watercolors, Three Earlier Songs, and Canoe tell pointed stories through beautiful melodies that evoke untold emotions to their listeners, all while playing at prestigious music festivals and venues.

One such music festival was the 2016 MATA Festival of New Music. MATA is one of the most renowned new music festivals in the world, taking place annually in New York City. Chen was chosen out of 1,156 submissions that year for the chamber version of his piece Dancer. The artist director of MATA was Du Yun at the time, a Pulitzer-Prize winner. The piece was performed by Ensemble Linea, a leading new music ensemble based in France, conducted by Jean-Philippe Wurtz. The performance took place at the National Sawdust in Brooklyn, NY. Chen received a positive review from MusicalAmerica after the premiere. It then went on to the 2016 “June in Buffalo” Festival and was performed by Ensemble Dal Niente, a leading new music group based in Chicago, conducted by Michael Lewanski and the 2018 University of South Florida New-Music Festival & Symposium, performed by the USF New Music Consortium, conducted by Matthew Kennedy.

Dancer is a difficult piece to write and even more difficult to play for the ensemble, as the detailed rhythmic notations and complex harmonic sonorities require both individual virtuosic playing as well as a high level of ensemble work. I definitely breathed a sigh of relief after the successful premiere and was grateful for Maestro JP and the musicians of Ensemble Linea,” said Chen. “It was an honor to be featured at the MATA Festival and to meet their artistic director, Du Yun. Surrounded by more than a dozen of the world’s most talented young composers and hearing everyone’s music was both humbling and eye-opening. Each one of us showcases a strong, original, and unique musical voice, that collectively shows a diverse and vibrant contemporary music scene today.”

Dancer for chamber ensemble (flute, clarinet, piano, violin, and cello) is written in four sections. The opening section features a series of scales that overlap on top of each other, creating slow harmonic movement. The second section features a prominent melody that resembles passionate Spanish dance, although the melodic line quickly starts to break down and the texture becomes increasingly erratic. This leads to the third section: It is fast and energetic, with a strong pulse in the background. After reaching the climactic point, the last section returns to the slow tempo of the opening section, although it features a much more somber tone. The scale returns as well, albeit in the form of one long and continuous descent that spans the entire section.

It took Chen over six months to write Dancer. It was a challenging project on a technical level, due to the intentional restrictive use of the materials (scales only) as well as the instrumentation itself. The quintet of flute, clarinet, piano, violin, and cello, known as the Pierrot ensemble in contemporary music, is difficult to blend and balance due to the vastly different sound quality of each instrument, according to Chen. However, these two challenges complement each other, and the distinctive color of each individual instrument crystallizes the contrapuntal development of the otherwise limited musical materials.

“This piece reflects on the moment when technique becomes art. Growing up as a child pianist, I plodded through endless scalar exercises, passing the time by imagining my fingers as dancers gliding across the keyboard. Scales, sometimes embellished, sometimes transparent, form the musical fabric of the work, which consciously tries not to evoke keyboard exercises, instead seeking an elegance beneath its technically complicated surface,” he said.

After the success of the chamber version of Dancer, Chen decided to write it for an orchestra as well. The orchestral version received great praise, and demonstrates both Chen’s vast musical knowledge, and also his versatility. Undoubtedly, he is a force to be reckoned with as a classical composer, and we can expect to hear many more beautiful compositions from him in the years to come.

“The art of composition goes beyond a pencil and pieces of paper. Live life to the fullest: go on adventures, embrace nature, and explore cultures, all of which enrich your creative life. Of course, never stop learning and perfecting your craft. Seek mentors in and out of schools, and find music communities around you. Know and love the repertoire! Listen and study the music composed by the masters of the past as well as present. Listen to music of all genres and go to concerts as often as you can,” he advised. “Concert music is meant to be experienced live, and you can also meet your fellow composers, conductors, and musicians there.”

With those wise words for those looking to follow in his footsteps, be sure to keep an eye (and ear) out for Chen’s future works.