INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR JUNYI XIAO

Junyi-Xiao
  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

I think it’s back to 2014, when my graduate animation film After School first screened in Annecy animation festival. After the screening, I saw people came from different countries laughing and applauding.  That is the moment I feel like movie can be the global language. Chinese or English cannot travel all over the world, but film can.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

Because I’m an animation director and I make animation films, I do think trained professionally is essential. The best thing film school can bring you isn’t the filming techniques or animation skills, but the diversity of perspectives. Your classmates and professors can always brings you different and fresh ideas, all those voices are supper helpful for a director to build up their own language.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

To make an animation film, I’ll say keep going is much more difficult than getting things started. Different from live action film, if you want to make a five-minutes animation film by yourself or with a small team, it may take you a whole year.  So I’ll say keep energetic and efficient is the most difficult thing.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

Back to 2015, I was trying to make an animation short film that can be selected by a lot of film festivals. At that time, I did a lot researches about the different tastes of different festivals. And then I started to make a film that can fit all those tastes. And of course, the film failed and came out very bad.  The most important lesson I learned is never making films only for film festival. Filmmakers should always listen to the voice inside their heart and tell stories they really want to share. Stay sincere to your work is the most important thing all the time.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

The best thing for making an animation short film is you can have more control of the whole production. The realities won’t go too far from what’s in your mind. That means if you had a well prepared pre-production, things will be super easy for both the animation section and also post production. The most important thing is making sure each one of your team members have a very clear blue print which contains everything they may need from style frames to animation sheets.

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

The hardest choices I made are always happening at very early stage in production. The thing is how clearly I want the audience to understand the film. I do like films that are very meaningful but also a little obscure. I’d like to tell the story in a less straightforward way, but some times it could be very disappointing when the audience cannot get your idea at all.  

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

Because I was study in film school for a long time, it’s not hard for me to find someone I do need. When I did my student films, I collaborated with people I know and found out who gonna be a reliable team member in the future.  And another important thing is, most people want to work with filmmakers who are very professional. So just try your best to work in a professional way. If you did good enough, people will want to come back and work with you again in the future.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

I do believe that audiences want different life experiences when they go into a theater.  They want to see something they cannot see or didn’t notice in their everyday life.

Filmmakers don’t make films for the audience, but they still want to communicate with their audiences. So it’s very important for a filmmaker know what their audiences want. It’s just like our everyday life, you are talking with someone you never met before, finding some topic he want to talk about is a

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

For me, film festival is a perfect way to watch new films, get inspiration and make new friends. The official selection part for the film festival is like a watch list. Every year there are just too many new films come out, and good film festival can give you a guide about what films are worth to watch.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

I think it depends on what kind of film the filmmaker wanna make. Being original and fresh is always the most important thing I care about. Only if we have lot of filmmakers who always wanna make something new, the boundary of film language can be expanded. But when talking about the box office, make a safe film is never a bad idea. After all, most audience doesn’t want take a risk when they pay for their movie ticket.