Rising Star Xin Li On The Five Things You Need To Shine In The Entertainment Industry

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In filmmaking, there isn’t separated work like producing, editing… you have to master all areas of filmmaking including scriptwriting. It’s a staying up job, so balance well your lunch time and eat well.

As a part of my series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Xin Li.

Director, Xin Li, of Los Angeles, CA, is out to open the eyes of America. Li, whose specialty is documentaries and short realistic fiction films, wants to touch the lives of Americans through her art and break barriers seen in film and animation for both females and minorities.

Li, who has studied under Oscar winners such as Jana Memel, has made a number of films for her producer and has been nominated for many awards. Her newest film is an animated film called Uninvited Guests, Lin’s most ambitious project to date. Uninvited explores concepts about what it means to be human and humanity’s wasteful nature.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up in China’s north side, Hohhot city, Inner Mongolia. In Inner Mongolia, people like dancing and singing. They often dance and sing songs during mealtime, if you go to restaurants, eating in an eating lobby, you often could see several other tables of different groups of people, they stand up and sing Mongolian songs, so art is an important part of the life in Inner Mongolia. My parents are also good at playing music — Dad plays guitar and mom plays harmonica, they also have lots of friends who are artists. They often talk art and sing songs when we have parties, and I was listening to their topics. So, the old generation’s lifestyles have deeply influenced me to enjoy art and to do art working.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was a big fan of Korean TV series when I was a high school student. Back to 6 years ago, 70–80% of Korean dramas on Chinese Internet platforms I have watched. I could watch a long episode for 1.5 hours without tiring, I even learned the Korean language from watching dramas and I guess many Korean pop cultures’ fans have similar experiences like me. Until one day I felt the actress hadn’t done well enough, and I could remember her dialogues. I felt if I could produce the TV series, I could do better! I wanted to make motion pictures and televisions by myself. But comparing with South Korea, the United States is the best place to make motion picture and Television with Hollywood, Oscar, which is a fabulous environment for filmmaking. Los Angeles is the center of the world’s entertainment, so I must come to LA. Now when I look back, this dream came true, and it has processed for 10 years.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Well, there are a lot of interesting things. I guess I first wrongly understood this industry as sophisticated social division of labor. I thought if I wanted to be a producer, the only thing was studying producing. Why should I learn editing or cinematography? I questioned when I was in film school. However, filmmaking is different with other industries. Other industries may make people work on different position and only do well in your thing, but filming is that you have to master all departments of filmmaking — like editing, camera, scriptwriting, production design, casting, and producing. The first job after I graduated was running a social media account, which was a totally new area for me. So, after graduating, the first job in this industry might not be your main focusing major. I have opened my eyes to learn all the things to make up what I had no idea before.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Back in film school time, I had a film class and students should learn the principle of light. We used a Bolex camera which is using real film rolls. I was used to using digital camera like Iphone’s camera, I thought Bolex was similar. I was holding the Bolex to face the sun, after the film was washed, a long part of the film was all white because it’s too big exposure.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Every project I’m working on are very interesting even they are all small projects because every time I could learn something new from doing it. While the most interesting project is Paradise: Nature Hasn’t Mercy But People Have (2019). We have only two filmmakers with a very low budget. It’s related to real people of the Town called Paradise and their real life, after the camp fire in 2018, was ruined at all. So, it’s meaningful to record the real life or the real mistakes, focusing on vulnerable people, then to reflect from it. So, it’s a serious project, I feel I did something right.

You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

Oh, thank you for saying that, It’s my pleasure to be blessed. Yeah, doing filmmaking is a very difficult career. The failure is just so common, so normal, we have to be used of that. It doesn’t mean we don’t need high standards to require ourselves, just don’t be discouraged. Today it just starts, then the whole life will be a “catastrophe”, and it takes time, don’t rush. I often doubt myself too, I also think about giving up in cycle times, but when I am at the point of having a giving up mind, I truly can’t find any other better work that I want to do, so I still insist until today. So, maintain a peaceful mind, living in a comfortable way, no proudness, no restlessness, don’t make shortsighted shallow goals.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry, can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

Well, we have diverse races of people from all over the world, every person has very unique cultural background and unique expression. Every culture should be treated respectfully and equally. The diversity is the audience’s demand all the times. Keeping diversity could make films more creative and attractive; focus on different social issues, go deeply on the themes’ discussion dimensions, explore different value systems.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

The producing work isn’t in a suit, you have to be used to doing the work such as making coffee and other low sense of fulfillment work.

How many departments of filmmaking? What’s the secret to the difference between good project and bad project?

In filmmaking, there isn’t separated work like producing, editing… you have to master all areas of filmmaking including scriptwriting. It’s a staying up job, so balance well your lunch time and eat well.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Haha, work with good people, distinguish the bad assholes. Don’t only focus on the theme of love or sex, try to open eyes to seek some deep social issues topics even if you’re still figuring out what’s going on it.

You are a person of enormous influence, if you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Oh, thank you so much. I’m not working good enough. I guess I will do something for natural females. I mean, male and transferred people they are also very important to be supported. But right now, the society has an atmosphere that it seems that so many social issues’ solution ways in the end are paid by natural women. For example, in LA, in 2021, there was a protest case that a spring center let transferred women went into the woman side bath, but natural woman got shocked cause they thought the transferred person was a male. Could they make a new space for the natural woman too? For the recent “Ban Off” protest. The pregnancy right is a very natural human being’s right, it’s just a personal choice depend on the pregnant woman’s body situation but right now it’s politicized thing by “law”. It forces all-natural women to feel scared as if returned to 50 years ago. I guess I will let the world know what a natural woman must suffer in the whole life, why they are scared, why this is mattered to them, why they must need more protection from the world. None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I feel I’m very lucky that so many great professional people have helped me. One of them is my father’s friend, he’s called Q.Songbuer. He is a Chinese Mongolian Independent film director. He was the 1st person to encourage me to do film even if I thought I didn’t have enough working experiences. He told me what I have learned about writing, drawing pictures, painting, music, I could use these all skills in filmmaking. And painting, architect that we look, these all kinds of arts could be included into the film. This is the great thing of motion picture and television. And I must work very hard so that the world could see my effort.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Holding a peaceful mind to seek dreams, trying different ways to approach it.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them.

My dear mentor Andrzej Bartkowiak (He is a famous cinematographer and director, known for Romeo Must Die (2000), Speed (1994). It’s been a long time no see him. He is a very humble, energetic person and he knows a lot of Chinese culture which is surprised me. He owns very well personality charm. I met him on a film festival. He has given me very insightful point of views for the scriptwriting and film reviews. Yeah, I have learned many things from him. The reason of why it’s been a long time no see him because I feel my animation script isn’t very well so I’m not confident to let him have a look, Haha! I’m trying to finish it. You know when you meet your teacher, even they are nice, you still feel nervous on yourself, right? Haha!

How can our readers follow you online?

You could find my Facebook account, Twitter, and Ins: LIXIN2017AAU.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

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Edward Sylvan CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group
Authority Magazine

Edward Sylvan is the Founder and CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc. He is committed to telling stories that speak to equity, diversity, and inclusion.