YO YO, 9min., USA, Drama
Directed by Shuyin Zheng
A 15-year-old girl, Lin, who stays home pretending to be sick, lost her best friend because of a sketch, which also exposed her unrequited love under the summer sunlight.
My writing professor once told me we had to struggle to find "what matters in our stories." From this perspective, struggles seem to be the one journey I will have to travel to become a true "Filmmaker." For me, life is not always what it looks like. People more or less pretend at some point. This was the first time I realized a "theme" in my writing, and then I created Yo Yo, my first film. It's a story about a failed attempt at pretending, derived from a phase of my high school.
I grew up mainly alone, living alone in a rented home across the street from the school. Endless schoolwork and a girlfriend, Lin, were everything I had during that time. We studied, hung out, and lived together sometimes. Projecting my memories and emotions onto her came naturally. I love the calm feeling that to have my life entirely around her. This beautiful relationship ended on a summer afternoon. My status quo was broken when Lin confessed her love to me. I didn't know what to do; cultural stereotypes tell me it's not allowed. I joined the group of pretending and intentionally alienated her. Everything went wrong after that. We never spoke again, and I lost my best friend forever.
For a long time, I refused to face this memory. As my writing career progressed, I realized that being quiet is even more brutal. I can't stay quiet about my fault anymore. I made this story to apologize to Lin, even if it might be too late.
Creating this script didn’t take me too long, but directing the movie was another story. “Is this what you want?” was the question every crew member asked and what I feared the most. They made me hesitant about my decisions. But inspirations also came from those questions. I had to face the facts and strive for the better. I realized that the director is a storyteller juggling different elements of sound, art, and photography to continually inspire the team to execute their responsibilities with in-depth perspectives. Irrespective of how many different voices emerge along the way, I, as a director, must be conscious of my own voice.
Get to know the filmmaker:
1. What motivated you to make this film?
Yo Yo is an autobiographical story inspired by my own experiences during high school. I was around 15 or 16 years old when it happened, and even now, it is still difficult for me to recall that girl, the archetype of the main character, Lin. She was my best friend back then, and we did everything together, from hanging out and studying to even sleeping over at each other's houses. I felt like she was my twin sister. But when she confessed that she loved me, I was so overwhelmed that I simply froze. I ran away from her and never found the courage to speak to her again. We went our separate ways after that summer, but the feeling of regret and guilt lingered on. When the opportunity arose to create a short film for my thesis project, this experience immediately came to mind. From there, the production process flowed naturally. This story is one that I had to tell, in whatever form it may take.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
The process of creating Yo Yo was a challenging yet rewarding journey that spanned two and a half years. I shot the film in September 2020, in a small village outside of Beijing. However, due to the pandemic, my reshoot plans had to be postponed until the following year. During this time, I began to doubt my story and its potential for success. This self-doubt allowed me to be lazy during the production process. Fortunately, with the support and assistance of my dedicated crew, I was able to complete the project by the spring of 2022. As a novice filmmaker, I believe that one of the most valuable lessons I learned from this experience was “Finish it and Move on!” You will never know what your film will look like until you finally have every materials and put all of them on the timeline.
3. How would you describe your film in two words!?
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
Just like I mentioned in the Question 2. The most significant obstacle I encountered during the production process of Yo Yo was my own lack of confidence. As a new filmmaker, it can be daunting to tackle such a significant project, particularly when faced with uncertainty and self-doubt. At times, I struggled to believe in the story I was trying to tell and worried that it might not resonate with audiences. However, through the encouragement and support of my crew, I was able to overcome these doubts and see the project through to completion. This experience has taught me the importance of resilience and self-belief in the face of adversity.
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
As a first-time filmmaker, hearing feedback from an audience can be a daunting yet exhilarating experience. When I received the feedback video from WILDSOUND, my initial reaction was to avoid watching it altogether. So, I clicked my email page, using that page to cover the video, only listening those audience’s voice. However, as a student of the craft, I knew that this feedback was a vital part of the process and an opportunity for me to grow and improve. When I eventually watched the video, I felt a sense of gratitude and relief. The audience had connected with the story and felt deeply moved by the characters' journey. It was a humbling and inspiring experience that motivated me to continue pursuing my passion for filmmaking.
6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?
It was during my final year of undergraduate studies that I realized my passion for filmmaking. As a student of playwriting, I had long been fascinated with the art of storytelling. However, it wasn't until I had the chance to work on a film set that I discovered a new way of expressing myself through the medium of film. We live in an era of explosive development of fine arts, and for me, the decision to pursue filmmaking was a natural evolution of my artistic journey.
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
The film that I have watched the most in my life would have to be "In the Mood for Love," directed by Wong Kar-Wai. Not only is it one of my favorite films by Wong Kar-Wai, but it also happens to be a popular choice among my students. I have tutored high school students in writing and film for five years, and every year, "In the Mood for Love" is their top anticipated film. Over the years, I have watched the film a total of nine times, and it continues to inspire me with its stunning cinematography, haunting soundtrack, and timeless themes of love, loss, and longing.
8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?
I am truly grateful for the tremendous support and assistance that WILDSOUND provided throughout the entire process of launching my short, particularly the invaluable audience feedback section.
In terms of the other elements that could further enhance the festival experience, I believe that an online mixer with the other filmmakers from this year or previous years would be an ideal addition. As I was watching this year’s showcases, I was inspired by the extraordinary talent of the participating filmmakers, and I yearned to forge meaningful connections with them and collaborate on future projects. An online mixer would provide a platform to facilitate such interactions, which also allow us to gain insights, share experiences and grow in our craft, thereby nurturing a vibrant community of filmmakers.
9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?
As a budding filmmaker, I have found FilmFreeway to be an exceptional platform for showcasing my work and engaging with the wider filmmaking community. Not only is it a professional and reliable film festival platform, but it is also user-friendly. The platform’s intuitive design and streamlined functionally have made the submission process much smoother.
10. What is your favorite meal?
It is interesting you brought up this question, as I’ve recently come to realize what my favorite dish is “MiXian”. It is a specific rice noddle bowl from my hometown, Kunming, a small city located in the southwestern China. After spending three years living abroad, I‘ve realized that the flavors of our childhood are often the most memorable and enduring.
11. What is next for you? A new film?
Currently, I am pursuing my MFA at Columbia University and am in the midst of my thesis year. My primary focus is on creating a new short film happens in a theater, with the central character being a janitor who works there. In addition to this, I am also working towards obtaining an intimacy coordinator licenses, as I am keen to explore the diverse range of opportunities that the film industry has to offer. As a filmmaker, I am always eager to challenge myself and push the boundaries of my creativity.