A Woman’s Quiet Journey

The story behind making “Mute”

Whenever I saw “free-range chicken” on the menu(and I see that a lot living in a trendy area of Brooklyn), images emerged in my head — a dozen of chicken clucking & fluffing wildly while I tried to chase one down; I would fail multiple times until my grandma taught me to hide behind the coup and sprinted to secure it by the wings.

my uncle’s chicken coup in 2012

The Idea

In 2011, I discovered films by Jia Zhangke. His films, such as Xiaowu(1994) and The World(2004) were documentary-esque; the story unfolded with long takes, pauses & huge spans of silence; the line between fiction and documentary was blurred.

The Sketches

To make loose ideas more tangible, I made a few video sketches. Similar to putting together a moodboard in design, in filmmaking world, these helped me to find the voice & tone I was looking for.

The Making Of

During the shoot, my intention was to capture the most spontaneous expressions and the most natural actions. Yet I still set up the shots, and made artistic choices on composition, light, and color. I carefully selected what objects to place in the background and what the actors would wear.

test dolly shot with me in place of the actress

The Characters

My lead actor’s name is Zhang Xueliang. He is a barber in real life as I had found him and asked me if I was shooting a promo video for the town. I intentionally didn’t give him any script and wanted him to act himself. I was able to retain his purest form of expression.

“Craft” & “Un-craft” the Story

Returning to school with a hard drive full of raw footage, I was content and couldn’t wait to start editing. In my senior year, I enrolled in a course called “open media” at RISD. I had learned a new concept that got me thinking a lot — “mediation.

The Future

It’s been years since I made “mute” but it still seem like yesterday. I didn’t end up choosing filmmaking as my profession, but my filmmaking days were what have shaped me as a creative. I developed a point-of-view and showed people what that point-of-view is using powerful and immersive visuals and storytelling(in an unconventional way).

Product Designer at Groupon/ from Nanjing, China / lingzhou.co

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