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Director Emily Feng on her award winning documentaries

Emily Feng is a writer, director, and editor based in New York City. She has worked on music videos, narratives, brand campaigns, and documentaries. Most notably, her documentaries shot in Havana, Cuba have been selected at Best Shorts Competition, PopDoc Awards, Asian Film Festival Los Angeles Hollywood, and Seattle Asian American Film Festival. She is currently working on writing her first feature film as well as working as an videographer and video editor for The Chelsea Music Festival in NYC. She aims to make space in the industry for stories of underrepresented voices and to connect people, despite our difference, through our shared humanity and emotions.

Why did you choose to be a filmmaker?

In high school, when I took my first film class, I fell in love with the endless possibilities of stories that could be told. I loved the process and I loved seeing stories and visuals in my head come to life in a video. After I got to NYU and wrote a few short scripts, I realized that I wanted to be part of the filmmaking industry to make an impact on what stories are shared and to create more empathy in the world through my stories. Through filmmaking, I hope to connect people and help create more understanding and acceptance of each other in the world through common emotions that we all share, despite our differences.

Emily Feng

What inspired you the most in filmmaking? What did you like the most in the entire process? 

I am inspired everyday by people all around the world. In documentary filmmaking, I am grateful to be able to interact and talk to unique individuals and for temporarily allowing me into their lives. Everyone has such different lives and experiences that we could learn something new from. I am also inspired by working with other filmmakers as I love sharing knowledge and receiving feedback to improve my craft, whether that's scriptwriting, cinematography, directing, or editing. I am inspired by all the passion, commitment, and energy that goes into the process of filmmaking. I love filmmaking because I have a need to share stories that I care about, and seeing how films have changed people's lives and perspectives because of that passion, commitment, and energy, I hope to do the same with my work. My favouite part of filmmaking is the filming process. I love seeing a story come alive through the combination of how the subject or actor is framed in the shot, their performance, the lighting and set design, and so many more parts of production. All these members of the crew come together to work towards the same goal and it's super awarding for everyone who took part to see the end product. 

What experiences have you gained in filming documentaries? 

Through working on documentaries, I've learned how to better conduct interviews, especially with a translator in a language I don't understand. I've been able to travel to places and connect with the people and the culture in ways a tourist would not be able to. Filming documentaries is a constant learning experience as I encounter different situations so I have learned to be highly adaptable, be able to think on my feet, and to be very observant of my subjects' surroundings. I've experienced many instances where the background tells the story visually, which is much more interesting than having the subject speak on it. Finally, I think that filming documentaries requires a lot of research and open-mindedness to be able to tell a truthful story that doesn't bring in a biased perspective.

If budget is not an issue, which location/s would you like to go to for your next documentary film? 

I would love to go back to China for my next documentary film because that is where my family is from and where my background lies. I have not had a chance to visit in 5 years and I would love to shoot a documentary about my grandparents while they are still fit and healthy. I, unfortunately, have never heard their stories of their childhoods and upbringings, and their lives as history that I've learned about was happening. I'm extremely curious to see what their thoughts are and their perspectives of the world. I think documentary filmmaking is a great way to connect and understand people, but I have not done the same for some of the most important people in my life and I would love to do so while I still have the chance. 

Please highlight your documentaries from Cuba and their selection for award(s)

Tao Qi was one the films I had in Havana Cuba. It's about a Chinese woman who arrived in Cuba for business and ended up marrying into a Chinese-Cuban family and opened up a successful Chinese restaurant. Most Cubans know her husband, Master Roberto Vargas Lee, who is famous in Cuba for opening up The Cuban Wushu School, but not many know the story of his wife, her restaurant Tien Tan, and her daily life of running her own business. This film has been selected at Asian Film Festival, Los Angeles Hollywood; PopDoc Awards; Seattle Asian American Film Festival; CineAsian Films; Spotlight Documentary Film Awards.

Carlitos is a portrait of a young Cuban ballet dancer who struggles with the balance of the rigor of practicing ballet, school work, and play time. In a culture of machismo, he is lucky to have the support of his close-knit family. This film has been selected at Oregon Short Film Festival; Best Shorts Competition; WILDsound Feedback Film and Screenplay Festival. 

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Director Emily Feng on her award winning documentaries Reviewed by JaamZIN on 8:39:00 AM Rating: 5
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