Tag Archives: Documentary film

JOSE ANDRES SOLORZANO PEERS DEEP INTO MEXICO IN “HUICOLES: THE LAST PEYOTE GUARDIANS”

Jose Andres Solorzano was looking for work that has a greater sense of adventure. He already had a very successful career at Red Bull Mexico Headquarters but wanted to pursue his career as a filmmaker full time. Although he had experience as a cinematographer he had never taken the full plunge. Feeling that the fortune smiles on those who take the risk, he quit his safe day job and ended up getting more risk than he had imagined or hoped for. Within a very short time he received a phone call from Argentina. Hernan Vilchez, famed documentary director, was looking for someone to cover the gathering of the traditional government of the Huichol Nation on top of their most sacred mountain. The Huichol were discussing a situation with a Canadian mining company that involved one of their most sacred sites. Without skipping a beat Solorzano was in, beginning what would become a three-year-long journey which would include escaping from armed drug cartels, witnessing ritual sacrifices, and often find him alone in nature without protection from its brutality. If Jose were not so busy filming a documentary about the Huichol it would be fascinating to watch one about his own epic experience as DP for “Huicoles: The Last Peyote Guardians.”

“Be careful what you ask for.” is a highly appropriate description of this period in Jose’s life. For three years he travelled some of the most remote areas of Mexico, sometimes alone and often at great risk. At times being around other people posed more danger than the forces of nature. It’s fitting that the Huichol and such a spiritual and enigmatic people; it’s an apt description of Solorzano’s experience as DP working with Hernan Vilchez on this documentary. Hernan sent Jose to the Huichol traditions government gathering on top of the Cerro del Quemado. He was so convinced by what Solorzano captured (by himself) that he immediately extended the project into a feature documentary. Due to Hernan’s permanent residency in Argentina, he often sent his trusted DP out by himself to get the footage he required. The belief of this celebrated director was both confidence building and demanding.

“Huicoles: The Last Peyote Guardians” follows the Ramirez family trough their sacred pilgrimage to Wirikuta, the place where they connect with their gods and gather peyote in order to talk to them. The documentary portrays at the same time the cosmogony of the Huichol culture and their fight against foreign mining companies that are trying to create an open sky mining in their most sacred territory. This natural protected area known to them as Wirikuta is the most biodiverse desert in the world for cactus plants. The documentary tells the point of view of the Ramirez family and the Huichol culture but also presents the point of view of the mining companies and the mestizo population of that area, presenting a dialogue to all the parts that create the complex problem of mining in this region of Mexico. The members of the Ramirez family are introduced on camera as we learn about them, their history, culture, and this pilgrimage that is intrinsic to the relationship they have with their gods. We also see the inhabitants of the Wirikuta, a very poor region of Mexico in great need of the work resources that could be brought by the oil company. The documentary tries to balance both points of view, allowing the audience to make their own decision.

The journey of the Ramirez family and the documentary start in Laguna Seca, Jalisco and it finishes on the top of their most sacred mountain, the Cerro del Quemado (Mountain of the burned one). Jose created a visual language for the film based on his director’s desire to be very realistic but also communicate the aesthetic of the sojourn. The method which both director and DP agreed upon was the use of time lapse photography as a recurring resource for this language. Time lapse allowed for the portrayal of these amazing locations in an unconventional way. This technique allows the audience to witness with an altered perception of time and movement normally unseen by the human eye. Time lapse allowed for this film to show the stark contrast of natural terrain and topography versus machines and other manmade objects. Of course, it also magnifies the viewer’s understanding of the mysticism and magic the Huichol feel connected with.

Remote locations without electricity, the middle of the desert, tops of mountains, the depths of mines, etc., were some of the many challenging factors which Solorzano was confronted with in his work on this production. The absence of running water or a sewer system can be navigated but cameras without electricity cannot be dealt with the same way. Solar power mats, power inverters that ran off car batteries, and gear which utilized less power in general were all a part of the required package for the cameras. Extreme heat, cold, and pervasive dust exacerbated the complications of running even a small amount of production gear. Jose concedes that it was the Huichol themselves who enabled him to survive due to their knowledge of navigating this perilous journey. Professing the constitution of these people he recalls, “We had been shooting a ceremony in the bottom of a valley and we needed to carry all the gear down the mountain to this sacred place. They sacrificed a cow and had a ceremony. After shooting the ceremony we needed to walk back to their village on top of the mountain. There was a moment when my legs couldn’t go any further. I was literally crawling and couldn’t keep on going. Hernan was still going forward and while in pain he kept a good attitude on every step of this way up. Near the end some of the women in the family grabbed my back pack and tripod and helped me to finish the way back to the village.”

Jose Andres Solorzano went looking for change and he found it. Perhaps it’s more appropriate to say that he helped to make it.  “Huicoles: The Last Peyote Guardians.” had a premier tour that visited many different venues, two of which were a part of the Huichol nation territory. Thousands lined up outside the theater in Guadalajara to see the documentary under the rain in Mexico City, a strong indicator for any premier. This feature documentary garnered more than 11 different awards at international festivals. The effect on the Huichol and those who viewed their story is public, the lasting meaning on Solorzano has been much more private until now. He reveals, “For me, this documentary changed my life and how I live it. Before starting to work on this production I came from doing a lot of actions sports content for brands like Red Bull and Vans. This content was really fun to shoot but I was missing something. ‘Huicholes: The Last Peyote Guardians’ took me back to my interests of trying to shape a better society with my craft. It also helped me understand a unique culture that is still alive in my country, the Huichol nation. With the understanding of their cosmogony it also opened my eyes to my interest in learning more from my roots and the different native indigenous cultures that are still alive in Mexico. If I had to choose the most memorable part of this production for me, it would be all the knowledge I gained and the people I knew in the road. That is a really interesting difference between narrative and documentary film. In a narrative film you are trying to create a world in order to portray an idea or message. In a documentary film you are trying to grasp that knowledge from other people and circumstances and at the end of the movie, you have changed because of all of that you have learned. Documentary filmmaking changes the filmmakers and the audience. At least, that is what it should do in my estimation. I believe that after three years of going to the desert and the different Huichol communities, I became a completely different person. The old Jose Andres died in the desert in one of those adventures when I rolled from a mountain or maybe when the drug cartels stopped us. One thing is for certain, without this movie I wouldn’t be who I am today.”

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Producer Melina Tupa talks upcoming documentary ‘Slaves Among Us’

Melina Tupa always has always had two passions: film and journalism. Growing up, it never really occurred to her that there was a way to combine both of these things. Then, one fateful day, she had an epiphany that changed her life. She could be a documentary filmmaker. Being a journalist, she believes, gives her an extra responsibility as a film producer to pursue stories that are of public interest and that will help the communities she lives in. Since coming to that realization, Tupa has been committed to making impactful documentary films, and that is why she is so sought-after around the world for what she does.

Over the past few years, Tupa has delivered hard-hitting documentaries that share truths many are unaware of or afraid to talk about. When producing the PBS Frontline film Rape on the Night Shift, audiences everywhere became aware of the horrifying stories of many janitorial workers who have dealt with sexual assault. With her film The Search, she told the story of a grandmother’s search for her long-lost grandchild, which dives into the Argentinean “Dirty War.” All who work alongside Tupa are not only impressed, but also inspired by her commitment to her work.

“I had the honor of being a Consulting Producer with Melina on her documentary The Search. It was a pleasure working with Melina: she’s smart, driven, tenacious, creative, and yet is open to different perspectives and ideas that are not her own, which means that she is also confident. What makes Melina good, but great is a better word, is that she always has a big vision for her work,” said Director and Producer Spencer Nakasako.

Soon, audiences will once again have the chance to see Tupa’s formidable producing abilities in the upcoming Investigative Reporting Program (IRP) film Slaves Among Us. The documentary will expose the many layers of human trafficking, from the recruiter in the home country to the smuggler, trafficker and subcontractor that make it possible for major corporations to profit from forced labor in the United States. The documentary will tell the story of a group of teens from Guatemala who, with the inadvertent aid of the American government, fall into the hands of a criminal enterprise. This investigation will show who makes money off such victims and how the American consumer benefits from their mistreatment.

“I wanted to work on this project because I believed this was a very important story that needed to be widely known by the audience. The fact that in 2017 we still have forced labor is outrageous,” said Tupa.

Tupa was approached to work on Slaves Among Us after her success with the Investigative Reporting Program on the documentary Rape on the Night Shift. The producers of the documentary knew she had a very good reputation and she had an asset that was key to work on the field: she is bilingual in Spanish and most of the characters on this story are Spanish-speaking individuals. As a field producer, this was vital.

“I liked that I had direct contact with the sources of the story. I did old school reporting: just knocking on people’s doors and asking what they have seen or heard about the case. I was able to get to know the community I was reporting on thoroughly. And I was also able to gain the character’s trust. A lot of them are undocumented immigrants and many times they are afraid of telling wrongdoings because they are afraid of the retaliation they might get,” Tupa described.

Working in Ohio, Tupa reported on the trailer park where Guatemalans (adults and minors) trafficked to the United States were living. She was able to conduct interviews with more than thirty individuals there. She was able to secure three interviews (one in shadow, two full face) where the sources confirmed the story about the trafficking scheme she was after. She was also able to establish a connection with a very important source who had worked with the main characters of the story. This led to finding and securing and exclusive interview with one of the victims of labor trafficking.

Back at Investigative Reporting Program office, she worked as a Researcher. She found archival videos, photos and newspapers on the DeCoster Egg Farm violations, unaccompanied children entering the United States across the border, egg industry facilities, and the case of immigrant minors working on an egg farm. This information was pivotal to illustrate the story.

“I believe it is important to tell this story because nobody should be living in slave conditions in 2017. It’s important to let people know this is happening so this could result in a change of policy, for example, in unaccompanied minors entering the United States or for the poultry industry to have highest safety standards for its employees,” said Tupa.

Slaves Among Us is expected to be released in 2019. Based on Tupa’s track record, audiences can expect an outstanding film once again.

 

Photo by Vanessa Arango Garcia

PETR GOLIKOV USES HIS PRODUCING SKILLS TO CREATE AWARD-WINNING DOCUMENTARIES

As far back as we can trace the history of mankind is how long storytelling has existed; that’s because storytelling allows us to communicate our own history. At some point (most likely around a campfire) storytelling became an art and, as art does, the tales became more grand and entertaining. Through the ages, the means by which stories were communicated has evolved; oratory, legible, theatrical, and eventually we came to our modern cinematic means. Moving Pictures may be just a skooch over a century old but they have already transformed in so many ways and have escalated the art of storytelling on a global scale. Hollywood may be the epicenter of TV and film but many countries in the world have ingrained some form of the industry into their social fabric. Hollywood can be proud that its child has become loved everywhere on planet Earth. All the corners of the world use this means to tell their tales. By studying the productions of different countries we can understand more about them as well as gain insight into how they see themselves. Petr Golikov is a Russian producer who has had immense success in the world of commercial production but who has also been a producer on many documentaries which present the history of his country as well as how historical figures have effected Russian society. Because of his successful career as a producer and his respect for US productions, he has a healthy respect for Americas contributions. Viewing the documentaries, he has produced allows one to have an insider’s look at many historical figures and social aspects of Russian society that are not often presented to the US. It’s particularly interesting that a producer like Petr, who has such a lauded career (working with well-known US companies like: PUMA, Gillette, Kraft Foods, Ford, Phillips; with campaigns that won awards such as: an Effie Award, a Silver Prize at the Kiev International Advertising Festival, and a Golden Prize at the Golden Hammer International Advertising Festival, as well as others) is always searching for a way to hone his abilities and challenge his approach. Golikov left the world of commercial producing for a period of time to work at the award-winning Studio Ostrov. Studio Ostrov is a recipient of many prestigious awards including:  an Emmy Award, Bafta Award, and Nika Award. This award-winning production company was founded by the award-winning filmmaker Sergey Miroshnichenko. Petr admits that when he was offered the opportunity to work with an artist as important as Sergey Miroshnichenko, he could not forego the experience. It is a scenario that has altered his approach to production ever since, particularly his style of communication with directors.

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The production Gogol: The Farewell Letter mixed actual letters of correspondence from one of the most celebrated Russian writers with a very artistic presentation. The film was recognized and awarded at the Kiev International Film Festival in 2009. The film is based on Nikolai Gogol’s correspondence with friends and contains reconstructed scenes from the life of this writer and the intellectual debates which he led with them. The main role was played by Eugeniy Voskresenskiy (he won an award at the Kiev International Film Festival for this role). Golikov describes the creative approach which the film is known for, stating, “Three-fourths of the film took place in the set designed and built to look like a huge head of Gogol. People appeared there like ghosts or thoughts or images. We wanted the viewer’s to feel that they were inside Gogol’s head and we took the metaphor to a very literal place, which the audience seemed to really enjoy.”

One of the films Petr produced (at Studio Ostrov) which received the most accolades was The Word. This film is about the life of famed writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The Word received a TEFI Best TV film nominee, a LAVR (2009) Best documentary film award, and a special award at the 2nd New York Festival of Russian documentary (2009). The Word was filmed shortly before Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn death in 2008 and discussed the writer’s book The Gulag Archipelago, his ideas, & future plans. The documentary contains rare footage of his life outside Russia and unpublished exclusive interviews in which he discusses modern literature and the future of Russian in the 21st century. Because the film discussed one of the most important writers and thinkers who witnessed such an extensive change in the world, it was paramount that it present his firsthand take on history and the literature of his lifetime.

One of the most intriguing documentaries which Golikov produced for Studio Ostrov is titled Closest. This is a riveting and poignant documentary which views the city of Kazan in Russia. This location is extraordinary in the fact that its population is comprised of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim people who live peacefully together. It is a model which attempts to explain if we can live amongst each other with these differences without strife and war. The production asks if “love thy neighbor” can truly exist. Filmed on location over a ten-day period, Closest gives first-hand accounts of what these different ideological groups think of each other and how they implement their religious teachings.

Reaching much further back into Russia’s history, Petr produced Pyotr and Fevroniya: Story of Eternal Love for Studio Ostrov. The Orthodox Church in Russia has declared this couple saints and the keepers of family and marriage. According to lore, Pyotr and Fevroniya were buried in separate tombs but the following day their bodies were discovered together in the same tomb. Many people visit this tomb and ask for intercession. Golikov communicates, “I had to approach the story with great care before it was presented to channel’s producer. There was a presentation for a priest from the Orthodox church because this couple is recognized as saints. The church was happy with it and the film crew was actually very moved by the story, as were the viewers…which gave us such high ratings. It’s a wonderful love story.

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Petr’s acclaim as a producer of both documentaries and commercials in Russia has led to upcoming productions with Feel Good Video in the US. Golikov has been enlisted to bring his talents to a number of projects for Feel Good Video including the documentaries Dreams by the Ocean and Twinsters in addition to a series of commercials for both Dyno Wave and Joe To Door brands. Petr’s immensely popular and acclaimed work in the past is a causality to the effect of these international offers. The best reward for a professional such as Golikov is the abundance of offers that continue to find their way to this consummate producer.

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Sound designer Veronica Li’s work takes a STAND

Every film tells a story. Every person that touches that film contributes to telling it. For a film about music and dance, the sound often replaces speech. The sound tells the story.

Sound designer Veronica Li knows this better than most. Her innate talent of working with sound compels audiences, which earned her the Faculty Award for Outstanding Sound at the 2014 First Look Film Festival.

STAND is a documentary about a Krump dance group in South Los Angeles. The subject of the film that discuss social problems through an art form and explore how art can affect people really attracted me.

Full of stomps, jabs, and something called ‘the get-off’, Krump is a cathartic release of emotion. It’s a dance form that is aggressive and loud, but can also be an intimate portrait of individual struggle. As an alternative to the rough streets of Los Angeles, a Krump group called Demolition Crew offers the youth a safe haven to express themselves.

STAND follows one of the crew’s leaders, ‘Krucial the Liberator’, a 24-year old South Los Angeles born and bred Krumper, as she uses her love of Krump to build a safer community in an area known for its history of violence.

“It was a wonderful experience working on STAND,” said Li. “Every crew member on the team was great. And since I also recorded production sound on the project, I got really close to the characters and the story.”

STAND has been recognized continuously for its powerful story and filmmaking. Originally released in July of 2013, it has gone on to receive several awards and nominations. These include the 2013 Director’s Guild of America (DGA) Jury Award for Latino Filmmaker, the 2014 San Francisco Dance Film Festival for Best Student Film, Indiefest’s award for Best Documentary Short, and nominated for Best Documentary at the 2014 First Film Festival. It also was an official selection in in 2014 for ONE LENS Film Festival, Pan African Film Festival, Beijing Film Academy International Student Festival, Chicago International Social Change Film Festival, and the SOUQ Film Festival in Italy.

Melanie D’Andrea, the director of STAND, attributes much of the film’s success to Li’s work.

“Veronica has proved herself to be masterful through an impressive variety of successful projects,” said D’Andrea. “What I love about working with Veronica, besides her respect to the material and her attentiveness to detail, is that she always pushes the soundscape of the film and presents very bold and emotive choices. Veronica’s talent and dedication to the art of sound design has no doubt opened many opportunities for her career. She has rapidly grown and evolved as a Sound Designer and Sound Editor and I am proud to see her credits expanding. I am eager to see her vision continue to be a part of Hollywood.”

Since working together on STAND, D’Andrea has reached out to Li to work on many projects.

“The director Melanie takes sound design very seriously and willing to experiment and explore with sound,” described Li. “It was an luxury as sound designer to have a director who is very creative and open to suggestions.”

Because STAND is truly a film about social problems, there were challenges that came along with properly telling the story.

“We tried to combine signature sounds in South LA sound scape into the sound design and also tried to make it work with the dance and music rhythms, which is quite challenging,” described Li. “There was scene when Krucial, our main character, was dancing on a overpass above the railway. The sound design of train, siren, metal sound elements from jail and ambiences worked so well. I feel it’s a scene that tell story and convey emotions purely through cinematic language without words. It’s very powerful.”

The sound is it’s own character in the film, and Li is the creator of that. She managed to tell an important story using no words, and allowed herself to be impacted by the work she was doing.

“There was moment that as the filmmakers we got so moved by our characters and situation that we had to hold our emotions in order to capture those moments perfectly, and those kind of feelings helped a lot when I started to design sound,” she said. “I felt I really connected to the characters, I was with them, I was one of them. STAND is not just a project, it’s such a unique life experience that I’ll always remember.”

Q & A with Chinese Producer Min Dai!

Producer Min Dai
Producer Min Dai at the Texas Black Film Festival with Festival President David Small courtesy of Selig Polyscope Company

For nearly a century Hollywood has been the one place in the world that is recognized for great filmmaking beyond all others. While Bollywood and other regions have tried to catch up to Hollywood’s annual box office results, for the most part, their efforts have paled in comparison; however, China has proven itself to be a formidable competitor for the Hollywood film industry in the last few years. According to an article published by Bloomberg.com last month, “China’s monthly box office receipts for February passed those of the U.S. for the first time.”

International Film Review recently had the opportunity to interview Chinese producer Min Dai, the producer behind the films Icebox, Device, 4 Latas, Come Wander With Me, Eat a Hot Dumpling Slowly, You Only Live Once and many others.

Last year Dai’s film Meeting Gary, which she both produced and directed, was nominated for Best Short Film and a Best Actor Award at the 2014 Texas Black Film Festival where it was chosen as an Official Selection. The film was also chosen as an Official Selection at the Action On Film International Film Festival, the San Francisco Black Film, the Arizona International Film Festival, the Langston Hughes African American Film Festival and several others.

Dai has also established herself as a leading producer in the documentary film genre bringing films like You and Me, A Trip to Tibet, Ning Xia and Momo Lee Aoi’s Wake up with Me to the screen for international audiences to enjoy.

After working as a producer on several popular television shows like Mission for Peace, The Story of Gengtian Xi, King of Silk and others back home in China, producer Min Dai transitioned into the American film industry where her ability to liaise between U.S. and Chinese productions has become an invaluable asset to a long list of productions.

To find out more about the work of producer Min Dai, and why the growing collaborative relationship between the American and Chinese film industries is imperative to the future of film, check out our interview below.

 

IFR: Where are you from? When and how did you begin working as a producer?

MD: I am from Beijing. I began working as a producer back in 2006. I started producing Chinese short films, commercials and television series; and in 2010, I studied directing in New York City and have extended my work as a producer to include American productions since then.

IFR: Can you tell me about some of your experiences in the industry as a producer?

MD: I am from a media centered family in Beijing. Growing up I had opportunities to learn from many field professionals in China, so by the time I was in high school I was already busy working on film projects. I have always been interested in the entertainment world. My mother’s production company, Beijing’s Voice of Time, has worked closely with the China Central Television (CCTV) for many years since the late 90s.

In 2006, I began producing short films directed by Chinese independent filmmakers, including my own short film, Reborn. In 2008 I was hired as the line producer for television shows, including the large-scale television series, Mission for Peace and King of Silk in 2009, which were produced by China International Television Corporation, and starred notable Chinese actors Ma Yili, Zhang Guangbei and so on.

My work was very crucial for the daily operations of each program, premiered on CCTV Channel 8’s Primetime Show. At that time I was often mistaken for being a much older producer while working on King of Silk production, until one day a young actor chatted with me and found out I was six months younger than her. Because of the trust Ma Runsheng, the Chairman of China International Television Corporation, had in me, I couldn’t afford to fail him or anyone else, so I worked extra hard each day during the shooting period. And, I have grown so much since then thanks to that experience, and countless others like it.

In 2010, I came to America to study film directing. I began to connect with many interesting people in the U.S. entertainment industry and I was fortunate to work with producer Jackie Subeck, the president of a production company located in Los Angeles called Footprint Worldwide. I began working on projects involving 30 seconds to Mars and Linkin Park during their tours in China where I was the co-producer for both of their projects handling the productions in China. In 2012, I worked with Carl Gilliard, the co-founder of the Duke Media Foundation, the partner of Bill Duke who is famous for his roles in Predator, Commando and Action Jack, on my film Meeting Gary. The film was an Official Selection at several international film festivals and was nominated for awards at the Texas Black Film Festival and San Francisco Black Film Festival. I also produced the film. I also produced the film One True Yarn.

PLM: With China making huge advances in their film industry, what is that makes you want to work in the U.S.? What differences do you see between the film industries in the two countries?

MD: China film industry has been booming lately, and it is very exciting. What’s more exciting is that between Hollywood and China there are countless collaborations going on where people that are familiar with both cultures like me can be of great service. China has a great history of producing good quality indie movies, and now we are on our way to producing big budget movies that are not only for Chinese audiences, but also for the world. We cannot achieve that without having a strong partnership with America, which continues to produce many of the greatest big budget movies in film history. From my experience I’ve learned that there are different processes in filmmaking between these two countries. It is much more flexible in terms of running a set in China than it is in America, where in China more spontaneous surprises can be captured and in America the sets are more professional and regulated. There are pros and cons in both styles and I think to incorporate the differences and learning from each other will enhance our film industries so both can make better movies for the world.

IFR: You’ve also produced several documentaries– can you tell me about them?

MD: In 2009 I produced my first travel documentary, A Trip to Tibet, directed by independent director King Zhang in China. We followed a group of city teachers from Beijing who volunteered at an elementary school for three weeks in Tibet. The school conditions were extremely poor and there was only one local teacher in the whole village. The shooting was very difficult considering many members of the crew experienced altitude sickness. We were able to finish all of the shooting on schedule within the time frame that we were there; and the film was screened at the Beijing International Film Festival in 2014, and the 2014 Shanghai International Film Festival.

In 2010 I had the opportunity to produce and direct the documentary film You and Me, which concerned the living conditions of elderly people in the Washington County Home, and documented their daily lives. The film revealed the dark side of elderly caretaking in the region, showing that many of them were abandoned and forgotten, but County Home took them in even though many of them couldn’t afford to live there. Our crew went to the home for interviews and for most of the shooting, and we spent a lot of time with the residents there, including eating and chatting with them. The film was used as the election material at the Washington County for fundraising in 2010.

IFR: What is it about producing documentary films that you are passionate about?

MD: I love documentaries because they challenge you to face reality and reveal some of the dark corners of human history. At times I find documentaries create a much stronger impact, sometimes more intense than a thriller. I think filmmakers that are interested in documentary films feel a social responsibility and want things to change for the better. I want to make things for the better and that’s why I am passionate about documentary films.

IFR: Can you tell me about some of the music videos you’ve produced?

MD: I had a couple experiences producing music videos. I found it a bit relaxing producing music videos since they are fairly short and easy to shoot based on the scale of the productions I worked on so far. But they are a great fun to work on because of the people involved. I also produced my own music film Transparent Thing, and the music video for “Chasing Happiness” by Chinese singer Kelly Cha.

IFR: They are all very different, what made you choose to participate in these projects?

MD: I actually like the fact that I am able to work on so many different projects. That’s the fun part of producing, you can use what you know and your ability to make so many projects happen and help so many people. It works that way in documentaries as well as in music videos.

IFR: Why are you passionate about working as a producer?

MD: I think my passion for making things happen is a great motive of being a producer. I don’t want to let people down. I have participated in most of these projects because they are honest and present an important matter that I care about. I think it is a very precious thing to produce something honest in this industry.

IFR: What production companies have you worked with in the past?

MD: In 2008 I began working with China International Television Corporation as a producer and line producer w on several of their television series. The corporation produces television shows in China nationwide. The projects I worked on ranged from 10 episodes to over 49 episodes. As an executive producer, I have also worked with King’s Film and WIN China group for their short films and commercials.

In 2010, I produced multiple projects for Footprint Worldwide and became close friends with the founder of the company, Jackie Subeck. The company works closely with Chinese productions and China related projects. I produced numerous films since 2010 in the U.S. including many award winners. In 2012, I worked with Hollywood actor Carl Gilliard on the film Meeting Gary. I have and will be working with him closely in the future.

IFR: What production companies or agencies are you currently working with?

MD: I am going to work with Gilliard Media Group founded by actor/ producer Carl Gilliard. Carl has a successful career as an actor with over 70 film credits including Inception, Coach Carter, Red Eye and hit television show 24.

Next year I will be working with Duke Media Foundation, Time Pieces founded by independent filmmaker Alice Millar, Mano a Mano Productions founded by independent filmmakers Victor Martin and Fabian Martin, as well as others.

IFR: You get approached all the time to work on projects with people, what makes you pick one project over another?

MD: I’ve picked most of these projects because the project itself intrigued me, or because I thought I was capable of helping these specific projects. I have a strong feeling when someone really needs me, for example, in 2013 I helped produce a project for LA tourism that was geared towards the Chinese consumer to help boost Los Angeles tourism in the future. The project was in need of a Chinese-speaking producer who knew the market in China to guide them through, and that was where I found myself being the most helpful to the project. When the need is great and you can help, the motivation is strong.

IFR: What have been a few of your favorite projects so far and why?

MD: It’s a very hard question because I have many favorite projects. I think I am a fan of working on film projects, because it is intense and you must make sure you are making the best decisions for the cast and crew at all times.

IFR: What would you say your strongest qualities as a producer are?

MD: I’m very hardworking. I think that’s the fundamental quality of doing anything successful. I think producers must have the instinct to discover valuable materials and finding appropriate resources. So far I’m doing good on those aspects.

IFR: What projects do you have coming up?

MD: I have projects lined up including the documentary film Wake Up With Me, produced by InterMix Productions, the web series Tina, produced by Wilson Becton and other projects including feature films and TV movies with Gilliard Media Group and Duke Media Foundation. I also have an exciting documentary film coming up about dogs and human relations in China. 

IFR: What are your plans for the future?

MD: I have found myself happily working as a producer and creating stories and I want to keep doing what I love for many years to come.

IFR: What do you hope to achieve in your career?

MD: I started working in this industry at a young age and I’ve found myself growing stronger and wiser as time goes on. But most importantly I learned a lot about life and how to be a better person. My work has become my lifestyle. More than the wealth and the fame my career can bring, what I hope to do is create better and more unique projects that most people will remember and love for many years to come.

IFR: What kind of training have you done, and how has it helped you in your field of work?

MD: I have a bachelor’s degree in Television & Broadcasting and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Film Directing. I have had extensive training in all aspects of production of television and film from pre-production to post-production. I also think the experience of running productions in both China and the U.S. has expanded my ability in working in different culture conditions.