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