Category Archives: Chinese Filmmaker

Producer Chenlin Qian sheds light on difficult teenage years and importance of family in new film

Chenlin Qian was just three years of age when she started playing the piano. Growing up in Shanghai, China, she always found that music was a way to release all of her emotions. As she aged, she found that different artistic mediums had this effect on people all over the world, and she began to explore them. That is how she found her way into filmmaking.

When watching the movie Amour, Qian was astounded by how moved she could be from a film. She noted the director’s choices and how he chose to display something as harsh and sad as death in a warm beautiful way. She realized that filmmakers had the power to completely influence their audiences, in an even more immersive way than music, and she found herself developing a new passion. She knew from then on that she wanted to make movies and has since become an award-winning producer.

“Film to me, is not a product, it’s more like a tool to help me to express myself to others,” she said.

Qian is now internationally sought-after for what she does. Her film Cowards saw great success at several prestigious film festivals, a pattern that continued for many of her other projects last year, including the drama Sixteen.

Sixteen tells the story of 16-year-old Jennifer, a girl with a perfect life who discovers her early pregnancy, breaks the image of a good girl and looks for her real self. Throughout Jennifer’s life, every choice is made by her parents. When she finds out she is pregnant, Jennifer decides to take control of her destiny, and be herself for once.

“It’s a movie about a teenager’s loss. Everyone has experienced this period of their life, it’s a time where we can so easily get lost. This story showcases the really sincere love of a family during a trying and difficult time,” said Qian.

Sixteen went on to win Best Short at the California International Shorts Festival, the Silver Award at the North America Film Awards, and Honorable Mention at the Los Angeles Film Awards. Such acclaim could never have been possible without Qian, who is said to have saved the project. Without her, the production was at risk of delays and losing money, but she knew just how to rectify the situation and produce an outstanding film.

“Although there is not a very happy beginning, there is a good ending of this film, and a story that needed to be told. It was really thanks to everybody who worked on this project, didn’t complain during the tight pre-production, and instead worked harder for the production to ensure everything went smoothly,” she said.

Yiyun Zhang, the Director of Sixteen, had previously worked with Qian on Cowards, and after it’s immense success, she hired the producer immediately to take part in her new film. Initially, a different producer was working on the film, but left with just two weeks left before shooting was supposed to start. When Qian came on board, she knew she had to work both quickly and efficiently to stay on schedule. From there, Qian began her work, and in just half a month, she began conducting auditions, finding locations and getting permits, organizing the crew, scheduling the shooting plan and getting insurance on sets and equipment. Qian also supervised the post-production for this project.

Last year was a busy time for Qian, who on top of working on Sixteen and Cowardsalso produced WhirlwindandTake Me Back. The latter was the producers first comedy, a refreshing change from the heavy topics and pointed dramas she often makes.

Take Me Back follows a pair of roommates who greatly dislike each other, but after a ridiculous body exchange, they start to understand each other’s lives. The film was nominated by Direct Monthly Online Film Festival and by Newark Short Film Contest.

“It’s a happy ending. I think this movie can bring the audience a positive attitude to life, when you don’t like someone, think and look in a different angle, maybe you will find the shining part of them. After seeing this short, you remember the happiness it brought to you but also you will start to ask yourself, those who I don’t like, do they have some good part I never discovered? If we exchanged bodies, would I do what he did or even worse than he did? I think, this movie can help us to understand other people’s actions. It takes the classic mantra of living in someone else’s shoes and makes it literal,” said Qian.

As Take Me Back was Qian’s first comedy, she conducted a lot of research to see what sort of tone needed to be set to make the film a success. She realized that the new genre was another way to get the audience to feel something while they watched, reminding her why she got into filmmaking in the first place.

“It’s fun to work with people who can bring others happiness. It brought me a fresh filmmaking take, reminding me that movies can not only talk about serious problems, but also can just entertain people,” she concluded.

Written by Annabelle Lee

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‘The Ballerina, The Shoemaker and His Apprentice’ takes audiences back in time with help of Meibei Liu’s editing

As a film editor, Meibei Liu sees herself almost as the conductor of an orchestra. She puts together endless footage and turns it into a piece of art, transforming a script into a true visual masterpiece. In many ways, she is like the doctor of a film; she removes what is unnecessary and replaces what needs work. Editing is putting the final pieces of the director’s puzzle together, and Liu not only understands that, but she also thrives because of it, and that is what makes her a good filmmaker.

Having worked on a variety of projects that have made their way to many prestigious film festivals around the world, Liu has made quite a name for herself as an editor. Such films include Dear Mamá, Headshot, Faith Need Not Change Her Gown, Pumpkin and Fried Noodle, and more. Recently, her film The Ballerina The Shoemaker and His Apprenticereceived nominations at the Oscar-Qualifying Hollyshorts Film Festival and LA Shorts Fest, Maryland International Film Festival, and Ouchy Film Festival in Switzerland, New Port Beach Film Festival where it was nominated for Short Film Award, The Grand Jury Award and Best College Film at The Next Generation Filmmaker Film Festival.

“I’m happy to hear that the film went all over the world for festivals and awards. I was glad that my changes made it into the film and was shown to people who speak different languages. It confirmed that emotions expressed and enhanced by editing can be identified by everyone, which made me believe that I should continue doing what I did for the film. I was glad that Eva asked me to go on board and be part of the project. That gave me a chance to show my attitude towards editing to people,” said Liu.

The film takes place in 1963 Hackney, England, and follows George Arkwright, a young man down on his luck, who must navigate the refined world of ballet pointe shoe making and redeem his value as the apprentice under the shadow of Mr. David Traynor, a talented but stuffy point shoemaker. George’s imagination turns into a reality when he becomes smitten with the Ballerinas the shoes are built for, one named Sylvia particularly, but soon learns this magical and seemingly distant world is not beyond the reach of affliction. Liu came on board half way through editing the film when the Director, Eva Ye, realized she needed expansive editing talent to turn her vision into a reality.

“Working with Meibei was great. She has a strong sensibility for impactful storytelling through an editing perspective. She often provides new perspectives to the story and is invested in trying different ways of getting the emotion across. Sometimes she is more willing to dig deep into the materials just to find something I didn’t even know existed. Her passion and dedication to editing is something I’ve seen rarely. And in many ways, she makes my work better,” said Ye.

Liu is able to address the problems of cuts quickly. When she reviewed the first cut that was made before she was brought on, she realized exactly how to transform the footage into what the director wanted and what audiences would connect with. She took what was a half-finished film and reworked it, making it better. She realized that the scenes were dragging; all of them could end earlier by cutting out some of the lines and actions. She stopped in the middle of the first scene and started the second scene earlier, helping to show the main character’s eagerness. Sometimes, however, she chose to extend a scene and have it linger longer to show the apprentice’s feeling of loss and disappointment. This film has very subtle emotions, and an editor’s vision and eye on digging out the emotions, and enhancing them by editing is vital. Being a very emotional person who is strong at noticing the emotional changes of people, Liu was the ideal candidate to take over as editor.

“It’s a story of dreaming. I believe this is a film that speaks to everyone in spite of when and where it happened. It’s a worldwide emotion that people all over the world can understand. I believe it is important to tell this kind of story, giving the audience a short period of time to experience something they can relate to,” Liu concluded.

The Ballerina, The Shoemaker, and His Apprentice is currently available on Amazon Prime Videos.

 

Written by Sara Fowler

Dixie Chan talks honor of producing China’s most viewed documentary of 2015

For as long as she can remember, Dixie Chan recalls having a deep passion for the art of filmmaking. When she was a child, she would actively search for the “behind-the-scenes” footage of her favorite films and study the styles and techniques through which they were created. Particularly, Chan found herself interested in the making of documentaries. There was something so intriguing about how the lives of the individuals or concepts presented in narrative documentary style films would tell themselves. As she got older, Chan began exposing herself to film festivals around the world and her fascination with the visual and narrative power of documentary films grew stronger the more that she watched. She could often be found in the back of a film screening, jotting and scribbling notes about the techniques and ideas that interested her most. Flash forward to today, and Chan has developed a remarkable career as a film producer, exploring her love for documentary style films and forming a livelihood around it.

“What I love is that every documentary project has a certain theme, message, or vision. My role as a producer, then, is to flesh that out by searching for the right people and the right places to tell those compelling stories. In the field of documentary storytelling, you look for these compelling characters and you let their lives tell their stories. With that, preproduction work often involves extensive research, most of which is done in the field with locals. As a producer, I am always the first one to access the location and characters, so a big part of my job is to gather as much intelligence for the shoot as possible. Subsequently, I cast characters and scout out the best filming spots and angles. I also brainstorm with the field director about how we can bring our narrative ideas to life, from the types of scenes that can be shot to the kind of questions that we can raise during interviews,” shared Chan.

During her career as a producer, Chan has worked on some of National Geographic and The Discovery Channels most prestigious documentaries. Her work on documentaries such as Frontier Borneo, The Bridge, Warriors of Wood and Stone, and Expedition X — Silk Road Rising, are the reason that she has earned such a strong reputation amongst her peers. She is well known for her ability to see a project through from conception to post-production and her unique style makes her a force topple reckoned with in the producing community. In fact, the caliber of work that Chan is capable of producing typically earns her a significant amount of praise and award buzz in her field. For instance, it is no coincidence that after Chan produced Frontier Borneo, it went on to receive a nomination for Best Documentary Series at the 2017 Asian Television Awards, as well as an Official Selection for the 2017 Eco Film Festival in Singapore. These awards were little, however, in comparison to the recognition she received for her work on National Geographic’s hit series, China From Above.

China From Above is a 2-part documentary commissioned by the National Geographic Channel which takes an aerial perspective showcasing how China has transformed its cities and infrastructure over the last three decades, whilst still retaining its strong traditions. From the monumental engineering feats of the Great Wall, to innovative and unique farming techniques, and a massive water splashing festival, the show illustrates how these strong traditions have shaped China’s landscape to make it uniquely recognizable around the world and truly magnificent, especially from the air.

Chan began working on China From Above in 2014, partway through the show’s production. Given that aerial cinematography was still a relatively new style of filming, she was eager to explore her own personal production style along with it. At the time that Chan was asked to join China From Above’s production team, management had identified a gap in communication between the show’s Chinese and Australian partners. Fortunately, Chan had experience working on Chinese documentaries and being bilingual, she was able to communicate extensively in both Mandarin and English on all logistical and editorial matters. She was thrilled that she was able to bridge the gab between Chinese and Australian work cultures. Though it was challenging at times, she was rewarded by the opportunity to expand her experience within the field of documentary style film production, as well as to explore her potential as a bilingual producer.

As the show’s lead producer, Chan had a very large task on her hands. Given the fact that aerial documentaries were so new and unexplored, she had few points of reference to go by when researching and planning the film’s production. For this reason, she motivated herself to utilize the skills she had already established throughout her career and adapt them for this new and unfamiliar style of filming. In addition, she had her work cut out for her when it came to scouting characters and locations to feature in the show. She was in constant battle with climate and terrain conditions, travelling through extreme winter and desert conditions at even the best of times. Beyond that, she carefully and considerately searched for characters who would bring a certain degree of unpolished authenticity to the footage. For this reason, she spent countless hours grooming candidates and refused to stop searching until she found the best possible individuals for the job.

“There was one instance where I arrived on location to work on a story about Kazakh Eagle Hunters and realized that the characters that were introduced to us were not ideal for our project, and had to spend another 5 hours traveling in the snow to find a more authentic candidate. I am a perfectionist in that regard. I never take the easy way out especially when it comes to characters and stories,” told Chan.

Though daunting at times, her hard work eventually paid off in the end and Chan considers her work on China From Above to be one of the greatest highlights of her career. For anyone who worked with her on the project, it is no secret why. She placed a great level of dedication and effort into ensuring that each second of film was edited and refined to shed China in the most compelling light possible. Felix Feng, Vice President of Operations: China, Natural History New Zealand, worked very closely with Chan when researching and scouting locations for the show and knows how particular she was about capturing high quality content throughout the duration of the filming process. He credits her as having been the reason that the project was executed so smoothly and considers himself fortunate to have been able to collaborate with such a high performing producer.

“It was a great experience working with Dixie on this award-winning and breakthrough project about China. Her patience, hard-work, smart and creative thinking, persistence, and proper communication skills were very valuable in the production of China From Above. This helped us in an extremely smooth execution in both the research and ground shooting of the production. Today, the show has a viewership of over 200 million people and is one of the best rated documentaries in China. Dixie was a hero behind the scenes and is one of the biggest reasons why it was so successful,” added Feng.

After it premiered, China From Above went on to earn a slew of awards and praise at film festivals across the globe. For instance, the film won the award for Best Camerawork and Best Cultural Issues at the New York Festival Gold Awards in 2016, as well as a Gold Panda Award at the 2016 Sichuan TV Festival, and more. In addition, it received over 130,000,000 views within the first two weeks of premiering in China and was later named China’s most viewed documentary TV series in 2015 by China Mainland Media Research Co., Ltd. Its widespread success and praise was above and beyond what Chan had dreamed of for the series and she feels fortunate to be able to have played such a prominent role in creating it.

Lili Huang casts an honest lens on the life of “Xixi” in award-winning documentary

Alfred Hitchcock once said, “To make a great film, you need three things: a great script, a great script, and a great script.” For award-winning screenwriter and producer, Lili Huang, these words resonate deeply. If her career has taught her anything, in fact, it is that a well-written script is absolutely essential to the success of a film. For this reason, Huang pours her heart and soul into ensuring that when she writes a script, she fine-tunes each and every detail to perfection, regardless of its size. This dedication to scriptwriting, coupled with her business acumen and knowledge of film production, make her a rarity in the entertainment business and an asset to any project she works on.

“For me, screenwriting is about using my writing skills to take a simple idea and turn it into a gripping story for an audience. I enjoy the entire creative process of writing, from developing each character, to building the structure, planting every small or large detail, and ultimately, of course, presenting a final story that people will eventually fall in love with,” told Huang.

When Huang looks back on her career, however, she recognizes that originally, her passion for screenwriting and producing were not as clear cut as most. On the contrary, they have slowly and progressively built over the course of the last decade and as she continues to explore the film industry, her love for the two professions only grows stronger. To date, Huang has written upward of thirty film and web series scripts and makes no plans to stop any time soon. In addition, she has received a number of prestigious awards for her unique set of skills and techniques. For instance, in 2011, Huang tested her abilities as a screenwriter, director, producer, and editor when she created her film, The Flower of the Future, and earned herself a nomination for Best Screenplay at the Golden Panda Awards in China. For another of her films, Mei Mei, Huang won Best Film at the Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Film Festival, earned herself an Official Selection at the IndieFest USA International Film Festival, and more.

To little surprise, Huang is used to receiving a substantial amount of praise for her work from her peers and fellow film-lovers. For instance, well-known Chinese director, Xuehua Hu, acted as both a mentor and colleague to Huang over the years, considers her to be an asset in the industry. When asked about what makes Huang so good at her job, Hu had the following to say:

“Lili Huang has a rare professional dedication and passion for filmmaking. Throughout her career, she has gained a comprehensive understanding of the filmmaking industry, especially as it pertains to the differences between filmmaking in China and in other parts of the world. I can say confidently that she is an invaluable, professional filmmaker.”

After years of developing her skills in the genre of drama, Huang felt that she was ready to branch out of her comfort zone and explore the realm of creating a documentary-style film. Given that documentaries interest her greatly, Huang was confident that this was an area of filmmaking through which her talents could prosper. In 2012, she felt compelled to tell the story of Xixi, a girl who was born in China, immigrated to the United States as a child, and moved back to Shanghai, China, as a young adult. Huang spent the next eight months gathering raw footage of Xixi’s daily life, endeavoring to capture every moment of happiness, hardships, romance, friendship, and more. Ultimately, Huang wanted to shed a light on the Xixi’s unique life circumstances and allow audiences to draw their own conclusions about the intricacies of Xixi’s cultural transitions.

“I wanted to show my audience what her daily life is really like. For her, having had just moved back from the United States to China, she was definitely experiencing life in a very different way than local Chinese people were. I wanted to share her point of view on her new life in Shanghai, on how she was adopting new customs, etc. I also wanted to audience to draw their own conclusions after watching the film,” she said.

Once she had concluded her filming process, Huang edited her footage and eventually, in 2013, Xixi premiered at the Golden Panda Film Festival in China. Later, at that same festival, she received a nomination for Best Director of a Documentary Film, and was overwhelmed with pride. Director Haiying Wu, who acted as an advisor for the project, offered a great deal of praise for Huang and had only positive things to say about the film. Xixi, in conjunction with Huang’s other achievements in her field, have proven that there are very few limits to what she can achieve when she sets her mind to it and fortunately, she intends to continue dedicating her efforts to telling meaningful stories and continuing to help contribute the art of film for years to come.

Through Motion Visualization Captures and VFX Zhaoyu Zhou Creates Innovative Film “Last Dance”

VFX artist and director Zhaoyu Zhou23592110_10215392853721198_2657579445691441541_o
VFX artist and director Zhaoyu Zhou

From manipulating the imagery of live-action footage to creating characters like the titular bear in “Paddington,” the CGI Autobots in “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” and even bringing former ones back from the dead, such the “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” character Grand Moff Tarkin, the advances in visual effects technology has given filmmakers exponential freedom to literally create anything they can imagine.

A perfect example of the unique power and possibilities that new digital technologies have brought to modern filmmaking is Chinese VFX artist and film director Zhaoyu Zhou’s recent film “Last Dance,” which earned the Best Experimental Film Award at the Miami Short Film Festival and was chosen as a Semifinalist by the 2017 Adobe Design Achievement Awards.

An experimental motion capture visualization film, “Last Dance” tells the ancient Chinese romance story “Farewell My Concubine” in the way of Peking Opera, a traditional Chinese performing art that combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance and acrobatics.

"Last Dance"
Poster for “Last Dance”

”I came up with this idea and concept back in 2015 since I have family and relatives engaged in Peking Opera performances, and I have also been influenced by this traditional performing arts since childhood,” explains Zhou. “By creating this film I wanted to depict Peking Opera in a new form, while also giving audiences the opportunity to experience this traditional Chinese performing art.”

Zhou shot “Last Dance” using famous Peking Opera artist Zhang Ming, who assisted in the choreography and performed the dance as both the King and the Concubine simultaneously on a motion capture stage. Zhou then transferred the motion capture data into Houdini where he created the dynamic simulation effects we see on screen. A data intensive film, Zhou also brought in Houdini FX artist Debra Isaac, who’s known for her visual effects work on the documentary films “Holy Man: The USA VS. Douglas White” and “Wildest Weather in the Solar System.”

“Motion visualization is a newer form of storytelling, and it utilizes the most advanced VFX techniques. The final visual look is achieved through the effects of dynamic simulation. I used Mantra to render and Nuke to composite,” Zhou explains. “There are no texture maps on the two characters, so in order to achieve the elegant look I had to tweak the light and shader material.”

The film, which has also been chosen as an Official Selection of the 2018 USC First Look Film Festival, is visually beautiful, with Zhou’s master skill in VFX making it possible for the figures to dance gracefully across the screen. Zhou’s minimalist style in “Last Dance” provides a lot of space for the viewer’s imagination. The dynamic fluidity of the characters, their bright colors– a key representation of the costumes in Peking Opera performances, and they way he structures the two characters, with the King coming across with a level of sharpness and the Concubine with smooth rounded edges, make “Last Dance” a rich expression of innovation and a homage to tradition at the same time.

Another key element to the film, one that helps create an emotional experience for the viewer, gives life to the characters and drives Zhou’s concept of blending the traditional with the modern is the accompanying music.

He says, “This kind of experimental work using motion capture and CG not only require a unique visual style, but they also need to be fully integrated with the music to achieve the best audio visual experience. I am so grateful to my composer Meizhen He for creating the music.”

Zhou, who’s originally from Qingdao, China, began his career a little over five years ago, and what he’s accomplished since is nothing short of amazing. Lately Zhou has been pulling in award after award for his films, which for the most part, are either animated or created through motion visualization techniques. His seasoned skill as a VFX artist is definitely one of his most powerful assets, one that is matched only by his unique creativity and the stories he’s driven to tell.

Some of Zhou’s other films include the 2017 animated film “Karma,” which earned more than nine Best Animation Awards at festivals including the Los Angeles Film Awards and Asians on Film Festival, as well as the Award of Distinction at Greece’s Athens Animation Festival, the 2016 film “Spherical,” which was chosen as an Official Selection of the Melbourne International Animation Festival, the Adobe Design Achievement Awards and more, as well as “Reunion,” “Dancing Blue” and others.

Considering Zhou had already proven his strengths as a narrative storyteller through his previous work, and being someone who’s driven to push his personal creative boundaries, “Last Dance” was the perfect opportunity for the VFX artist and filmmaker to experiment with his craft and create something new.

“This time I wanted to try something new. I saw a lot of experimental works in the beginning. The ones I found most inspirational are the series of motion visualization films by Universal Everything in the UK and WOW studio in Japan,” explains Zhou. “Minimalism combined with surrealism, and integrated with the Chinese Opera is such an innovation. Being able to innovate and combine traditional art with modern technology has always been my pursuit.”

Thanks to his vast knowledge and experience with VFX, Zhou was able to translate an age old form of performance and storytelling into the experimental and wildly creative concept that he envisioned in his mind; and created something audiences across the globe could enjoy.

“It was such an amazing journey for me. My favorite part was transferring the design and concept to the final look through the way of VFX by using Houdini. I couldn’t imagine making this happen without VFX,” says Zhou, adding that, “motion visualization has never been easy but it has challenged me to move forward without fear.”

 

RACHEL ZHOU DIRECTS A MULTINATIONAL NAIL BITER IN LOS ANGELES KIDNAPPING

China not only possesses an acclaimed and burgeoning film industry but also a huge number of movie goers and cinema fans who greatly contribute to a film’s international box office. There’s a good reason that you see many Chinese names in the credits of Hollywood films these days as well as an increasing number of the country’s talent appearing alongside Hollywood marquee names. The relationship between these film industries has been mutually beneficial artistically and financially. A key ingredient in this scenario is the ability of at least some of the professionals to communicate in both languages (sometimes multiple languages) whether in front of the camera or behind it. Rachel Zhou is a Chinese director well versed in American film. She has found herself working on numerous productions due to her talent and her command of both languages. Communication is key for a director when speaking with the actors, cinematographers, and other members of the film crew. It’s even more so when the same vision must be communicated clearly to a cast and crew who do not share the same native tongue. The China-US production Los Angeles Kidnapping enlisted her as a director due to their need of cross cultural assuredness in both the storyline and the performance of the off camera crew.

The occurrence of US/China film productions is becoming increasingly more prevalent. Directors who are both talented and at ease in communicating in both languages (Rachel speaks four languages) make them even more attractive these days. Zhou believes that the communication involved in a film production transcends even the spoken. Her goal is to have her team work together culturally and spiritually. Directing more than the film, she feels that it is her job to create a positivity, a sense of calm and confidence that permeates the very air of the working environment to sync the minds of all involved. Even though she possesses more than the appropriate verbal skills needed for all on her team, it’s Rachel contention that once she creates this “vibe” on set, everyone understands and anticipates the needs of the work.

Los Angeles Kidnapping is a Chinese story taking place in the US but the theme is universal. Through the experiences of Delger (played by Siyu Lu) the audience is asked the question, to what ends will one spend their life fixated on revenge. Motivated by avenging his brother’s death, Delger follows clues about the murder to Los Angles. As a graduate of the police academy, he both understands the law and is willing to work outside it as a result of his anger. Working undercover as an Uber driver in LA, he continues his investigation. When a friend of a friend is kidnapped by mobsters, Delger is enlisted to aid in the rescue. The experience and a surprising plot twist at the end of the story cause this protagonist to question whether a life solely focused on vengeance is one he is willing to live.

While the list of Zhou’s directing credits is extensive, her work on action films was not, prior to Los Angeles Kidnapping. She fully embraced the idea of the different approach required for the genre. Taking great care to design and discuss the film’s many action sequences with stunt coordinators for entertaining action designers, Rachel’s cast underwent extensive training for them film. While storylines of a more emotional nature are centered around the actors, action films present the action as a character in themselves. This includes crew members and professionals who specialize in the genre such as stunt coordinators, drone operators, traffic controllers etc. The film also gave Rachel a chance to use one of her favorite tools as she describes, “I’m into Steadicam shots a lot. When I direct an action/crime/drama, especially actions scenes, I prefer to go with Steadicam shots. Steadicam is a novel way to shoot a scene as it isolates the movement of the camera operator from the camera. Stabilizing mechanisms counter the movements of the camera operator to eliminate the inevitable imperfections present in handheld shooting. These work in an extremely powerful way since the Steadicam shots, compared to handheld shots, give a stronger sense of subjectivity with steady movements. The audience finds it easy to become engaged in the setup.”

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Los Angeles Kidnapping garnered a plethora of awards at such prestigious events as the London Independent Film Awards (2017), Miami Independent Film Festival (2017), Hollywood International Cine Fest (2017), Los Angeles Film Awards, and received an astounding 1.94 Million views on Iqiyi.com (China’s version of Netflix) which announced Zhou as an action director. Los Angeles Kidnapping’s producer Cleo Zou has an acclaimed career in China as a producer, working with the country’s most respected and successful stars like Jackie Chan. Cleo declares, “With Rachel on the set, I never had to worry about the shoot because she is such a highly-productive artist. She`s talented, smart, hardworking and humorous. She always knows what she wants and how to get it. We all love working with her. She possesses that ease of working with professionals from both cultures which enables everyone involved to relax and enjoy the process, which is when artists are able to deliver their very best.” It’s this tone that Rachel always strives for, in both big and little ways. She reveals, “Everyone works very hard on a film set. I feel it’s important for us to not only support each other but to lift the spirits of one another. I think there is always time to make it fun. When we were shooting a conversation scene in an alley for Los Angeles Kidnapping, the art department was asked to make wanted posters to place on the walls. Because those posters are never in focus, they made ones that said “Wanted, Giraffe” & “Wanted Dinosaur”, etc. It was a tight shoot that day but the funny posters made all of us laugh. It’s not only the little things that the audience appreciates but also the little things the professionals making the film like.”

LA MEETS CHINA IN DIRECTOR RACHEL ZHOU’S LOS ANGELES KIDNAPPING

China not only possesses an acclaimed and burgeoning film industry but also a huge number of movie goers and cinema fans who greatly contribute to a film’s international box office. There’s a good reason that you see many Chinese names in the credits of Hollywood films these days as well as an increasing number of the country’s talent appearing alongside Hollywood marquee names. The relationship between these film industries has been mutually beneficial artistically and financially. A key ingredient in this scenario is the ability of at least some of the professionals to communicate in both languages (sometimes multiple languages) whether in front of the camera or behind it. Rachel Zhou is a Chinese director well versed in American film. She has found herself working on numerous productions due to her talent and her command of both languages. Communication is key for a director when speaking with the actors, cinematographers, and other members of the film crew. It’s even more so when the same vision must be communicated clearly to a cast and crew who do not share the same native tongue. The China-US production Los Angeles Kidnapping enlisted her as a director due to their need of cross cultural assuredness in both the storyline and the performance of the off camera crew.

The occurrence of US/China film productions is becoming increasingly more prevalent. Directors who are both talented and at ease in communicating in both languages (Rachel speaks four languages) make them even more attractive these days. Zhou believes that the communication involved in a film production transcends even the spoken. Her goal is to have her team work together culturally and spiritually. Directing more than the film, she feels that it is her job to create a positivity, a sense of calm and confidence that permeates the very air of the working environment to sync the minds of all involved. Even though she possesses more than the appropriate verbal skills needed for all on her team, it’s Rachel contention that once she creates this “vibe” on set, everyone understands and anticipates the needs of the work.

Los Angeles Kidnapping is a Chinese story taking place in the US but the theme is universal. Through the experiences of Delger (played by Siyu Lu) the audience is asked the question, to what ends will one spend their life fixated on revenge. Motivated by avenging his brother’s death, Delger follows clues about the murder to Los Angles. As a graduate of the police academy, he both understands the law and is willing to work outside it as a result of his anger. Working undercover as an Uber driver in LA, he continues his investigation. When a friend of a friend is kidnapped by mobsters, Delger is enlisted to aid in the rescue. The experience and a surprising plot twist at the end of the story cause this protagonist to question whether a life solely focused on vengeance is one he is willing to live.

While the list of Zhou’s directing credits is extensive, her work on action films was not, prior to Los Angeles Kidnapping. She fully embraced the idea of the different approach required for the genre. Taking great care to design and discuss the film’s many action sequences with stunt coordinators for entertaining action designers, Rachel’s cast underwent extensive training for them film. While storylines of a more emotional nature are centered around the actors, action films present the action as a character in themselves. This includes crew members and professionals who specialize in the genre such as stunt coordinators, drone operators, traffic controllers etc. The film also gave Rachel a chance to use one of her favorite tools as she describes, “I’m into Steadicam shots a lot. When I direct an action/crime/drama, especially actions scenes, I prefer to go with Steadicam shots. Steadicam is a novel way to shoot a scene as it isolates the movement of the camera operator from the camera. Stabilizing mechanisms counter the movements of the camera operator to eliminate the inevitable imperfections present in handheld shooting. These work in an extremely powerful way since the Steadicam shots, compared to handheld shots, give a stronger sense of subjectivity with steady movements. The audience finds it easy to become engaged in the setup.”

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Los Angeles Kidnapping garnered a plethora of awards at such prestigious events as the London Independent Film Awards (2017), Miami Independent Film Festival (2017), Hollywood International Cine Fest (2017), Los Angeles Film Awards, and received an astounding 1.94 Million views on Iqiyi.com (China’s version of Netflix) which announced Zhou as an action director. Los Angeles Kidnapping’s producer Cleo Zou has an acclaimed career in China as a producer, working with the country’s most respected and successful stars like Jackie Chan. Cleo declares, “With Rachel on the set, I never had to worry about the shoot because she is such a highly-productive artist. She`s talented, smart, hardworking and humorous. She always knows what she wants and how to get it. We all love working with her. She possesses that ease of working with professionals from both cultures which enables everyone involved to relax and enjoy the process, which is when artists are able to deliver their very best.” It’s this tone that Rachel always strives for, in both big and little ways. She reveals, “Everyone works very hard on a film set. I feel it’s important for us to not only support each other but to lift the spirits of one another. I think there is always time to make it fun. When we were shooting a conversation scene in an alley for Los Angeles Kidnapping, the art department was asked to make wanted posters to place on the walls. Because those posters are never in focus, they made ones that said “Wanted, Giraffe” & “Wanted Dinosaur”, etc. It was a tight shoot that day but the funny posters made all of us laugh. It’s not only the little things that the audience appreciates but also the little things the professionals making the film like.”