Creating a Unique Perspective for As Ye Sow
There are only so many unique stories that can be told in film. The real difference, and the truly interesting part, is the perspective of the person telling the story. This might be a character in the story or someone behind the scenes like a director, writer, etc. The unique vantage of the storyteller tells us much more about the world than the facts and events of what transpires on the screen. As Ye Sow is a redemption tale which positions itself from an unexpected position. Director Seraph Liu has given the audience of this film a way to reconsider the actions of an individual through the eyes of love and confusion while simultaneously rethinking how we consider the questionable choices of a man on a dangerous path. A number of awards from the Canada International Film Festival, Five Continents International Film Festival, Oniros Film Awards, and others confirm that the choices made for this film have captured the attention of the film industry, critics, and audiences internationally with great acclaim.
Billy [Ted Harvey of Heat starring Robert Deniro and Al Pacino] is a gambler with no job and no savings. With one last day to pay off his bookie (Peter Fitzsimmons of Blindspotting and Oscar-nominated film The Pursuit of Happyness by Columbia Pictures starring Will Smith), he turns to his sister, ex-wife, old friends, and even his mother who is the middle stage of Alzheimer disease (played by actress and SAG-AFTRA San Francisco-Northern California Local President Kathryn Howell). Ironically, it is the mother’s disease which leads to Billy’s change of heart. Her memories of him as a little boy remind him of the man he once wanted to be and rekindle the hope inside him.
One of the most remarkable aspects of As Ye Sow is that the filmmakers chose to tell the film from the perspective of the mother who has Alzheimer's. A perfect example of this uniqueness is the scene in which Billy’s bookie enters his mother’s house looking for him. Because she is caught in a moment where (to her) Billy is still a little boy on his way home from school, the mother only sees a stranger in her house with no connection to her young son. This tension and emotion is expressed in shots of mother’s eyes, tightly closed lips, and clenched fist. A movie’s heart and soul centers around the camera; camera operator Jun Li (a member of both the Society of Camera Operators and Steadicam Operator Association) was literally the professional most connected to this. He describes, “There were numerous emotional scenes in this film. To accompany the ups and downs of the plot, the director wanted a smooth picture instead of many fragmentary pieces. The original plan was for a camera on a dolly combined with some pickup shots; however, the space of the actual location was too limited for a dolly to move properly. We changed the plan and redesigned the shots to work on Steadicam. Combining all the references that DP gave me and the feeling that director wanted to express, I utilized the actor’s blocking and their emotional moments as my motivation to move the camera. This created a smooth picture and flow of movement that expressed their emotion and pushed the story forward, allowing us to save a lot of time and overcome the limitations of the space.” It was the talent and insight of Jun Li that was equal to the other professionals, allowing the intensity of this story to be manifested and proving that filmmaking is very much a team exercise. The camera is the center point of every film set, placing Jun Li in direct control of perhaps the most critical element of the production.
As Ye Sow is a film which reminds us that the key to becoming our best selves may not always be the most obvious; in fact, it may come from the all too often overlooked contributor. Whether in front of the camera, behind the scenes, or in the message that we absorb into our own lives, As Ye Sow is as enlightening as it is entertaining.
Author: Kelly King