Interview with Award-Winning Film Director, Christina Xing

Budweiser: This Bud’s For You (DC)

Hey, guys! Long time, no blog. Things have been crazy hectic on my end. Lots of moving, job changes, and general ‘adulting’. However, I’m back with another interview. An American blog called Oneul asked me to interview a great talent, and as someone that loves to get into minds of artists, I couldn’t say no. So unfortunately, this isn’t original and so the interview can also be found on the site. But sometimes I like to reshare the work I do on to my blog too, just to expand the reach. Read the feature below, enjoy!

Christina Xing has created an alternate world that everybody wants to be a part of. Saturated with youthful yet nostalgic imagery along with surreal dreamscapes, she has made it impossible to look away. Seeking inspiration from watching classic Americana and the French New Wave movement, the Asian-American director looks everywhere in hopes to find herself.

The director’s catalogue ranges from the most influential brands and companies, collaborating with Crayola, Snapchat, Tinder, and dabbling on the music side too, with Sony, Warner and Atlantic records, having created music videos for Kenzie, Frances Forever, Victor Internet and many more.

But her creative reach doesn’t end there. She directed her first musical feature, ‘How the Moon Fell From the Sky and No One Even Noticed’ at only 17. The former garnered national attention on Twitter in Thailand, and it all snowballed from there. At 19, she was selected to be a ’Semi-Finalist’ for MACRO (the studio behind Oscar-nominated ‘Fences’) and The Black List’s episodic lab.

With nothing short of a bright future ahead, we caught up with her to discuss wanting to collaborate with Apple, coping with imposter syndrome and the value of friendship.

This Old Dog (2020) – Short Film

First of all, how have you been lately? Do you work according to how you feel?

It’s been really strange for me lately. There’s a lot of horrible things happening to my fellow AAPI community so I’ve been trying to navigate my emotions towards that. I’m also taking some time off of work to finish my vaccination rounds and also to write my newest short. It’s the first break I’ve had in over three years. It’s been so strange. I usually make a checklist of all the things I need to have done and organise my week that way. So often, my emotions don’t impact what I need to do.

When did you know you wanted to become a director?

I was always making little films around my house and telling stories ever since I was in 4th grade. I was always sure I wanted to be a screenwriter, but then I went to film school and completely realised I was a terrible writer and that the parts I was good at and felt the most at home doing, was working with actors and the more intuitive parts that come with making a movie. I dabbled in a bit of everything before that realisation sunk in because I always felt like the world didn’t need more directors (haha). But I think the moment I really knew was when I’d find myself reading screenplays and thinking about the ways I would execute them, rather than reading screenplays and learning the craft of how I’d write them, if that makes sense!

How the Moon Fell From the Sky and No One Even Noticed (2018) – Featurette

How do you best come up with creative concepts?

My real life plays such a huge part in my creative concepts. I’ve written so many music video treatments for people from afar. I’ve used the emotions of being hurt and my dumb fantasy sequences as fuel to make creative things. As corny as it sounds, I would say real life experiences mixed with my love of old films and movies. I try to watch a film a day to expand that vocabulary.

What has been your favourite project to work on so far? And why?

“Space Girl” by Frances Forever was truly a passion project. I’ve loved the song for a long time and when I first heard the song I had a slight idea for a creative but never thought it’d be possible. But by some crazy miracle I got to work with Frances and their incredible team and amazing partner. It was such a blast.

That sure sounds like a blast! How did you come about working with Frances Forever on the music video of ‘Space Girl’ and how do you feel about it?

It was so much fun. It was really difficult because the idea was very ambitious for the budget we were working on along with a lot of my core crew being from LA having to go to Boston for the video. It’s def the first video I’ve made where I’m like, wow, that was 100% the treatment and came out better than what I saw in my head.

How the Moon Fell From the Sky and No One Even Noticed (2018) – Featurette

If you could collaborate with anybody or any particular brand, who would you work with?

Apple! I love the risks they take in their commercials and I love how they value story in a lot of their work.

How have you kept inspired during these times?

My friends are everything. They keep me going through their work, advice and friendship.

You have a signature style of nostalgic, surreal yet dreamy landscapes and saturated visuals. How did you come to this creative conclusion? Will you ever evolve even further?

I think in my personal work a lot of my work has become quite the opposite of that, strangely enough. I think there is so much room for me to explore and discover more about my creative voice as I mature as a storyteller. I’m so young right now there’s so much more I haven’t tried yet. I came to that style of dreamy and saturated through my love of classic musicals and classic films. I loved how those movies made me feel and really provided a spectacle for me. I always hoped to do the same in my work.

How the Moon Fell From the Sky and No One Even Noticed (2018) – Featurette

How do you cope with imposter syndrome – if you have ever felt it?

I feel it every day. I think the best way to cope is to not look too much into your work and just focus on moving forwards. I find myself spiralling and hating everything I’ve made when I let myself think too much about it all. When I get in those mindsets I always try to push it to being productive and focusing on the next thing.

Your bio says that you strive to eat vegetables and always keep your nose clean. Is there anything else you aim to always be in life? What are your ultimate goals for the future? Where do you hope to be?

I’d love to make a feature in the next two years or start directing TV. That’s the real dream. But overall, I value my friendships and family above all. I hope to spend more time with them in the next few years.

Lastly, do you have any advice for young creatives who are interested in the film industry?

Watch as many movies as you can! The movies have taught me everything I know in film and in my life.

Claud – Wish You Were Gay

KEEP UP WITH CHRISTINA XING:

Website : https://christinaxing.com/

Instagram: @christinaxing

Twitter: @christinaxingg

Blackbear: an interview

Ahead of his latest album release, I talk to hit-making sensation Blackbear on his first Father’s Day, a future collaboration with Elton John and his feelings behind making “everything means nothing”.

As we’re all aware of now, 2020 has been a year of many grievances, brutal truths and realisations. Amidst this, people are looking everywhere for positivity and light, whether through memes about our current climate, seeing how our favourite celebrities are coping despite living in mansions the size of an island, and so much more. For Matthew Tyler Musto, otherwise known as ‘blackbear’, it’s been about satirising the seemingly shallow aspects of our concerns and educating ourselves on the significant ones, such as the Black Lives Matter movement. As well as this, blackbear has spent 2020 navigating newfound fatherhood and creating new music for his upcoming album “everything means nothing”—all lowercase, exactly like his name.

His summer defining bop ‘hot girl bummer’ has over a billion streams on Spotify alone, and he’s collaborated with Justin Bieber, Machine Gun Kelly, Linkin Park, G-Easy and Ellie Goulding. Yet, blackbear is an individual who still, as the kids say, “slept on”. The self-made music prodigy has a loyal fanbase and is making waves nonetheless, with Elton John even giving him a call as of recent. So with this in mind, I gave Matthew a ring, and we chatted about all things quarantine, changes and our favourite quotes.

How do you like to be referred to as in your day to day name wise?
People call me Matt or Matthew. Sometimes my therapist calls me ‘Bear’, I do not know why. Think he is trying to be all supportive like, “Come on Bear, you got this!” as if he’s cheering me on [laughs]. You can call me Matt, that is totally fine!

So, the story behind the name Blackbear, I heard multiple stories. From gangs being in relation to an addiction to Haribo gummy bears, but I need full confirmation.
Yeah, I had to go to rehab and the whole thing because I could not stop. Now we cannot have them in the house, every time I think about gummy bears or even see a gummy WORM, it is a gateway drug for me. No, I’m just being cheeky [laughs]. I like to see how far I can fucking take things to the point where it’s not even funny anymore [laughs]. When I was a child, I thought that God was this black teddy bear in the sky that you could just cuddle with. I came to find out slowly and later in life that this could both be true and not be true. You cannot tell me whether that is real or not, but it was one of my first true beliefs. So, I just named myself Blackbear because it was one of first creative thoughts.

Father’s Day has just passed, how did you celebrate?
Father’s Day was surreal for me. It was just one of the most beautiful, normal days for a normal guy that anyone can experience. I don’t want to take away the experience from anybody, but you just have to experience it, it’s just unexplainable. Just so amazing. It’s like…I’m someone’s DAD. That is the coolest part, this weird guy that you’re talking to right now is a parent of someone. It’s so strange, like we’ve gotten in the car before and my song was playing on the radio. That’s definitely a lifelong achievement for me, I just think that it’s just such a big flex, like, “Look how hard daddy worked!”, you know? I don’t know whether he’ll remember it, but maybe I’ll have songs in the future that will play on the radio.

blackbear-press-photo-2020-1585680763
Photo by Sam Dameshek

What was the meaning behind the name Midnight for your son?
It just means new day, 12 o’clock. Fresh start, it’s a new chapter. So that’s what Midnight is for me in my life. He’s already smart in some way, he already has such a personality and is already his own person at 5 months old, it’s just so strange because he’s this little person that we made together.

How has becoming a father affected your creative process?
Oh! Good question. If it’s done anything relatively massive in my life…it’s made me more keen to the idea that I have to provide for someone. I need to make music that people are going to resonate with and really relate to, and really love, and keep me touring. I need to keep working so that I can support my family and I think that overarching idea has set in. I made Hot Girl Bummer as soon as I found out Michele (girlfriend) was pregnant. So, I thought, I need to step this up into high gear. No more fun and games.

How has quarantine changed the way you have seen life given recent events?
That was well put. Amazing. That was amazing. Is this my interview or yours? [laughs]. As soon as the death of George Floyd hit the news and started becoming such a massive thing, I will admit that THAT was the moment for me and a lot of other White people, like, that was our changing moment where we were like, you know what? I am going to post about Black Lives Matter, I’m going to make a pledge, I’m going to bring my child up the correct way, buy the books on Amazon and I’m going to teach him about racism, about these things. All I can say is that we are the teachers of the next generation. When I look at Midnight I see opportunity and I see change.

blackbear-press-photo-credit-Sam-Dameshek-interscope-records@1400x1050
Photo by Sam Dameshek

Have you been getting creative this time? Hot Girl Bummer part 2, 2020 edition? Or another summer-defining anthem?
So…you’re asking whether I’d make another satire record that pokes fun at our times? I just see it as this, I have a platform to say what maybe everyone is thinking but nobody is saying, thinking or even feeling. I know that the reason Hot Girl Bummer took off was because people really related to it. I stood in the club before and wandered why I was spending so much on a drink, on a table and why is it so important that I wear my fake diamond necklace when I’m going to be in the dark? It’s just all of these ridiculous little things that we do that I’m guilty of as well and so, the title was definitely more of a satirical take on our culture. We are generally getting into a time where it’s harder to not fuck up and not say something wrong and whatever it is as long as your intentions are right. I’m not worried about making someone angry because yes, I am sensitive to the way people feel today but at the same time it’s kind of my own therapy.

You’ve worked with a lot of accomplished artists- do you prefer the song writing process and working behind the scenes or releasing your own?
I enjoy making music for other people, especially when Justin Bieber or Linkin Park or somebody who is totally different from Blackbear. Like, Blackbear would never come out with a Linkin Park song! Mainly that is what I get out of writing for other people, I like to read the vibe of a room and get something out of them.

Speaking of which, you said in another interview that when you’re not creating Blackbear songs you’re writing songs of your own- is there a particular artist who you really want to write songs for? Dead or alive.
I actually recently spoke to Elton John, I know- it’s so insane. He called me on the phone and said that in the future that we have to work on something. That’s definitely something that we’ve been talking about.

A lot of your fans were heavily anticipating your new Queen of Broken Hearts EP which is now going to be a full-blown album! How come you are splitting the release dates?
So that it will be more digestible. I just want people to spend time with the songs. It’s kind of like eating a sandwich!

Having looked at the track list I noticed your album features LAUV and Trevor Daniel who I actually interviewed this past month. What made you decide that those were the artists to best collaborate with?
It was not the matter of these being the artists that I wanted to collaborate with, as much as it was the case of working on a song and just HEARING Trevor Daniel on this song. With if I were you, I thought that this sounded like the perfect LAUV song. I just had to ask Ari (LAUV) if he will do this. They are also just my good mates, they’re just great friends. It’s just really cool to take the opportunity for my friends to be on. We all sing about the same topics.

Your social media is typically littered in quotes, what would you say is your one mantra in life? A quote you like the most?
The last quote I posted was in my own words, it said “If you don’t learn from the past you will live there”. I love quotes, and in this album, I want people to feel…I think, I want people to feel validated in their individuality. I want people to feel empowered, I really want them to feel like they can be who they really are. Sorry, that is so deep.

Last question. What quote do you swear that you live by?
Live. Laugh. Love. [Laughs]. Okay, I love you.

album cover

STREAM ‘EVERYTHING MEANS NOTHING’ ON ALL PLATFORMS.

Unity Over Comfort: Thoughts on the Black Lives Matter Movement

“Things are not getting worse. They are getting uncovered. We must hold each other tight as we continue to pull back the veil”. – Adrienne Maree Brown

One of the 35th President’s of the United States, John F. Kennedy, main sayings was based upon an interpretation of Dante Alighieri’s poem titled Inferno. As his brother Robert F. Kennedy explained in 1964, “President Kennedy’s favourite quote was really from Dante, “The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality”.

Within the last couple of weeks, we have seen a drastic spike in the global conscious awareness of police brutality, systemic and institutional oppression, White privilege and most importantly, racism. The mobilisation of the Black Lives Matter movement has never spread so effectively, nor has the conversation been so widely discussed amongst the general public. For the first time in centuries, the dialogue surrounding these topics are being highly mobilised to the point where Juneteenth is being considered to be a national holiday, new laws have been created and named after police brutality victims, countless artists have released songs to raise awareness and so, now what?

We’ve done our stories, posted the black squares and Martin Luther King quotes, but this movement isn’t just some trend. Black lives exist and matter outside of hashtags. We are here now, but who will stay till the end? When the hashtags no longer trend and the hype subsides, will you still be as outraged and demonstrate a willingness to learn? Will we continue to be anti-racist in a society that has spent centuries becoming accustomed to being so?

As someone who has more or less always been aware of police brutality in America (I even wrote a blog post about it in 2016) alongside the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement following the senseless killing of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin, I was outraged as well as felt an extreme sense of hopelessness. I had seen Floyd’s death without watching it, I watched it countless times before, with the deaths of others, too many to name. I was struck by the similarity of Floyd’s death and Eric Garner’s before him, both uttering the same breathless last words, “I can’t breathe”.

I have a Black younger brother, and my fear for him grows with each birthday. I have been reporting on the link between structural racism and toxic stress and the high rates of death for Black mothers and children for three years. I’ve been truly devastated by the reports about how many Black people are dying from COVID-19 as well as police brutality.

With this sudden awareness of continuous injustice towards BIPOC within ALL areas of life, from medical racism, whitewashed history, down to the wedding industry, it’s almost frightening to see how complacent and blissfully unaware (predominately) White people have been towards these problems. This is far more than just “Some guy getting shot” and other racist arguments that tend to get put forward, this is about unveiling many underlining issues within society. But in order to be a real ally that advocates for change, there are a few things that need to be understood.

First of all, as mentioned, this is merely the surface. Be prepared to feel the tiredness, dread, and a lack of hope at a system that takes one step forward and five steps back. There will be more names and it will shock you how quickly more bodies are added to the pile and how corrupt officials will behave. You will grow weary and your souls will tire from what seems like never-ending travesties and exploitation. I want to ask if you are ready. Ready to have continuous uncomfortable conversations with co-workers, with family members, and with friends.Irish-Nigerian writer and PhD researcher Emma Dabiri made a very informative thread on her Instagram titled “Notes on Allyship and Coalition“, specifically catered to those with White and White-passing privilege in order to help ensure that the anti-racist momentum continues beyond quarantine. I’m going to take sections of that thread, re-write some of it and post them below. But please do continue to do your own research as there are plenty of resources out there for you to educate yourself on the issue

STOP DENYING THE EXISTENCE OF RACISM.

A lot of people do this. Not only do they deny racism in modern day society altogether, but they also deny that any form of racism exists within them by vehemently refusing to accept that the world has forced us to see race through a certain lens of supremacy for centuries that no one is immune to. White supremacy isn’t an abstract concept coined by the Left in an ever-evolving society, nor is it a political issue that we must ‘sympathise’ with. It is a very much real yet damaging humanitarian issue that we must interrogate and dismantle immediately. It’s a privilege in itself to learn about these experiences rather than having to go through them yourself. 

SPEAK OUT WHEN YOU HEAR RACISM. CHALLENGE IT.

This might be difficult because a lot of these racist “jokes” are used an excuse to project offensive and outdated stereotypes that most people feel like they have outgrown. Unless you’re a Ben Shapiro listener or you still watch Filthy Frank. Either way, it’s 2020 and even KSI doesn’t let his fans use racial slurs anymore. I’m just referencing controversial YouTubers now. Bottom line, don’t place the burden on Black and ethnic minorities alike to call out racism. It’s selfish and extremely draining, this is just as much YOUR responsibility as it is theirs. 

ABANDON WHITE GUILT.

YOU ARE NOT PERSONALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT YOUR ANCESTORS DID. WE KNOW THAT, OBVIOUSLY. Okay, glad we got that out of the way. However, you are responsible for what YOU and your White counterparts do from this point onward. You are responsible for uncritically accepting all of the advantages accrued to you by virtue of their wealth acquisition, land ownership etc. Oh yeah, and the entire creation story that justifies it. In conclusion, KEEP FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT! Keep signing petitions, spreading awareness, contacting local MP’s, staying informed, listening to Black academics/authors/people and understand their experiences, watch documentaries, utilise resources and remain educated. We’ve got this.

BLACK LIVES MATTER.