Editor Shuo Wang talks new documentary that explores life in Shanghai
When Shuo Wang was only nine years old, a Chinese television series named My Fair Princess began airing. Wang became enthralled and credits the show for sparking her interest in film and television. It was the first time she became aware of the magic that film can create.
“I could be happy, sad, nervous, or even mad depending on what happened in each episode. It is a story that happened in China a hundred years ago, but from this TV series, it made me feel like I was also in that story following the characters’ emotions,” she said.
After watching the show, Wang became curious of how such television series and movies were made, and what the behind-the-scenes of a production would look like. She decided at that young age that she wanted to pursue filmmaking as a career path and has since dedicated her life to bringing that magic to the big and small screen.
Now, Wang is an internationally in-demand editor, working on countless award-winning films including Mire, 100 Days Under, A Mistake, and more. Her distinctive approach to editing consistently sets the tone and pace of whatever project she takes on, directly contributing to their commercial and critical success.
Wang is incredibly versatile, known for her work on narrative, fictional films and the documentary genre, which requires impressive editing skills to be both informative and entertaining. This is evident in Wang’s newest documentary Outlander, which tells the story of A Yi Gu Li and Ai Sha, a couple of Uyghur Nationality from Xinjiang Province of China. They use a small vending cart to sell authentic street food skewers during the night. They are the typical epitome for ordinary people who come from small towns but work hard and struggle to pursue a better life in big cities like Shanghai.
“This documentary Outlander focuses on a couple’s struggle and life in Shanghai. This topic has the similarity and part of the same feeling as my experience. As an outlander, I come from a smaller city and I lived and studied in Shanghai for four years. Therefore, I am interested in this couple’s story and see what kind of story I could create for it,” said Wang.
Outlander not only touched audiences in China, but all over the world. It premiered in both San Francisco and Shanghai in 2018, and has since had a tremendous festival run. It was an Official Selection at the South Film and Arts Academy Festival, a Finalist at the Florence Film Awards, and took home the Silver Award at the International Independent Film Awards and Best Documentary Short Award at the Los Angeles Cinema Festival of Hollywood. Such awards and nominations are an affirmation for Wang and the outstanding work she did on the project.
“For me as the editor, it is worth spending so much time in the editing room to deal with the footage and trying my best to create an emotional and attractive story for the audience. My ideal goal is to create a vivid story with my editing skills and the real clips from people’s lives. My hope is that viewers will feel inspired after seeing this film. This should be the meaningful function in documentary that helps our society to develop better,” she said.
A documentary’s storyline may not be as clear as narrative films, as the structure of the story is decided in the editing room reviewing the footage rather than a script before filming. Therefore, Wang needed to be very familiar with all the footage before she began her work. When faced with the situation that footage during some points was not good enough to support the story, she provided advice to the director to cut or shorten those shots to let the story move forward better. This allowed her to be more accurate in knowing what kind of shots fit for one moment and how the story was supposed to be told.
“It is an emotional story and could happen to every ordinary family in China. The story in Outlander is the epitome of ten million people who come from outside of Shanghai. They may not have the same situation but possibly have the similar confusion and struggles. This story reflects on some of society’s issues that could make people consider deeply on how to improve the politics to let them have a better future. This story could also give inspiration and encouragement to those people who have similar struggles and fight for it,” she concluded.
By Annabelle Lee
July 22nd, 2019