Europe Film Festival U.K. spoke exclusively with Eve Zhao

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What, in your opinion, is the most important quality of a Film Director/actor/actress?

Sensitivity, among all others, is the most crucial and fundamental quality an actor ought to possess in my opinion. This traces back to what an actor does in essence. Like all other artists, an actor’s job is to create, and the first step of any creative process is to understand what they’re creating, which requires great sensitivity towards the subject and the surroundings. For example, if a painter were to paint a tiger, all he needs to do is to go to a zoo and “observe” or watch a nature documentary. In this case, the overall sensitivity to visuals is the very basic element and then comes imagination and actual execution.  

However, there’s a whole another layer of complexity in actors’ jobs because what we create are actually living beings, which are granted very reason to “do” in this fictional three-dimensional space. Human or animal, it’s always the mind that initiates the movements. Therefore, to me, it’s an actor’s job to rationalize their character’s mind to themselves, and then to the audience through their performance. But the first step is, again, to identify what those minds are. 

A simple example would be when a mother loses her child, it is indeed, common sense to believe that she would be miserably sad. But what if her ignorance is the reason she loses her child? Would she be utterly guilty? What if she loses her child to her ex-husband? Would she be mad and hysterical? What if she knows her ex-husband is more capable to be the custodian than she is, would she be bitter and sour or would she be secretly relieved? 

People have the sensitivity of many levels in many aspects and actors need to have as wide a range of sensitivity in as many aspects as possible. If creating a character is like playing a puzzle game, then sensitivity allows an actor to see the interlocking jigsaws on each piece so they know what should be paired with accordingly.  

Do you feel that being a creative person requires that you give back or tell a particular story or not do something else? Why and why not.

I absolutely believe this. Creativity is such a powerful gift that it calls for a certain price to pay in return. Those who are blessed with the ability to create, to influence the world in an intangible and profound way are also responsible for the choice they make——How they want to influence and change the world. Personally, I think storytellers should have a deep connection with the story they tell. This connection doesn’t necessarily have to be from personal experience, but it needs to be strong enough for the storyteller to care about the story, dearly and genuinely, and would go any strength to tell it right.

For example, with The Indifference Between Us, I resonate so much with Maia because, in my relationship with my family, I used to be ignorant of what they said to me as well. I used to think the generation gap between us differentiates the way we see this world until I realized that no matter what they say is right or wrong, meaningful or not, it is their intention that truly matters. Not to say a lot of times, they do see things that I don’t.

This experience really shaped my relationship with my family and led it to a direction that we’re all happier with, which is exactly why I believe this story is so important and needs to be told and heard. Hopefully, we could all see part of ourselves in Maia and acknowledge that, if not learn from it.

That responsibility also comes from what the storyteller believes that the audience needs to know, but that could, indeed, be a lot more subjective, which circles back to the fact that all storytellers or artists who choose to express themselves and or, to voice their opinions in whatever way they prefer, all have and should proactively take responsibility in culture and society. And we all should keep that in mind.

Are you working on a new project at the moment or are you planning to? Is there anybody you’d like to thank?

Yes! I’m currently working on a few indie films, genres ranging from dark comedy, body horror, and drama, and we’re looking to go into production later this year. It’s truly an incredible journey for me as an actor to go through, to see, to hear, to feel, and to learn. I’m really looking forward to these projects because I believe every single one of them touches on something truly important to us as an individual, and as a unit in this bigger entity, where the connection with one another is inevitable.

We all have sweet and terrible moments in good or bad relationships with family, friends, lovers, or ourselves. And so, I’m just hoping that these films could bring some comfort and inspiration to people who are seeking it.

I really want to thank my family who’s been supportive of my career choice this entire time, even if I know it’s not easy for them. Acting is too far from the world they’re familiar with, but they still tried to support me as much as they can after they realized that that’s what truly makes me happy. They’re my strength and weakness, and I appreciate nothing more than the power they’ve given me simply from being and understanding.

I also want to thank Dom, the director of “The Indifference Between Us” for trusting me with his idea, vision, and story. Working with Dom and his team is one of the most pleasant experiences for me, we not only collaborated well as director and actor but also became friends during the production. I think there is a real bond between us that allows both of us to be honest with each other and therefore, to form a deep relationship based on that.

Are there any directors/actors/actresses that were a form of inspiration for you?

Maggie Cheung is one of the actresses that I admire of all time. It’s been many years but I still vividly remember watching In The Mood For Love for the first time. It feels like getting struck by lightning—I’ve never seen anything more beautiful than that. And Maggie’s performance is just so delicate and nuanced, it pulled me straight into that fascinating world. Her unbelievably precise control over her expressions, gestures, and body language brought that character back to life and I couldn’t help empathizing with her, feeling her vulnerability and struggle. Her performance left me a great impression when I was a child and eventually became the reason I started acting and it still, influences me to this day.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to have a life creating film/acting?

I was greatly encouraged by what Kate Winslet said at BAFTA when she was awarded the best-supporting actress that we shouldn’t listen to anyone who has ever tried to put us down, no matter it’s a teacher, a friend, or even a parent. Because when we walk through this world, this is going to happen a lot and to walk as an actor, you’re going to hear even more. So, it’s just really important to filter out those voices, believe and focus on yourself, and learn and grow.

Acting is indeed a very hard career path to take, unlike other jobs, what you’re facing is yourself. You need to face a lot of imperfections, insecurities, and fears, but if you could get over them all and eventually stand in front of yourself, you’ll be surprised how far you’ve already gone. And I just want to say, to anyone who wants to have a life acting, to those who have found their way or are still trying to figure things out, me myself included, that no matter what others say, don’t listen to any of it, don’t doubt, listen to your heart, and just keep going.