What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?
A great film for me is a story with a unique perspective. We can see the world in the film through the director’s special eyes, getting inspired and entertained. If a film has a lot of details it certainly values a lot more for me. Since details create a sense of reality, the sense of reality helps the story and characters to be vividly told.
How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?
In the movie Tree Hole Owl, I have a small but very supportive team, a total of 7-9 people. Producer Xibei Hu worked with me on a few TV projects so we already know each other well. She handled works from budgeting, scheduling to casting and location management, pretty much everything about production. My UPM Bokang Feng bases in San Francisco, we used to do VR short film together, he is a very smart, high-tech guy also very hands-on. Bo Kang helped me find most of the locations, along with some local crew like the set dresser and makeup artists. I even stayed in his apartment to save some hotel costs. My DP Chen Yu worked with me before too. I like her visual and passion for making films.
Overall I would say you will need some close friends to do a independent film.
What were the challenges in shooting this movie?
The main challenge in making Tree Hole Owl was trying to build a fantasy story based on a realism tone base with a very small budget. So for the fantasy part we have to rely on cinematography, acting, on props and location itself rather than VFX. My DP Chen Yu did a great job on this.
Another challenge was the majority of the team was based in New York, like me, producer Xibei Hu, DP Chen Yu, main actress Yi Liu, the rest of the team like UPM Bokang, actor Carlos (the homeless guy) were in San Francisco. So we were actually doing a multi cities production with a tiny budget. I think we managed very well to communicate precisely and get the work down fast to save cost. At the end of the day we found out more than 30% of the budget was spent on travel and hotels, but still worth it.
Are you working on a new project at the moment or are you planning to? Is there anybody you’d like to thank?
Me and Xibei Hu are now producing partners, we produced Antonio Tibaldi’s feature film We Are Living Things in 2020, and we are now planning to produce Antonio’s new feature film Oldest Man Alive. For directing work, I become interested in American history a lot. Maybe I will direct an 1800s period piece about early Chinese immigrants, I believe there are stories worth being told about them.