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

Andrew Thomas Huang: nature, aliens and the resurrection of FKA Twigs

An interview with American-Chinese director Andrew Thomas Huang on collaborating with artists such as Björk and FKA Twigs, connecting to his heritage and finding inspiration within nature.

Andrew Thomas Huang is someone that has never been just regular, proving himself time and time again that he is a creative force within the art world and beyond. Expressing his passion and interests through a deep immersion of digitally-rendered figures, puppetry, fine prints and surreal live action performance; Andrew has cemented his mark as a truly unique and pioneering individual who is definitely worth keeping on your radar. Just ask J.J. Abrams. Seriously.

I actually reached out to Andrew a few days after a very recent and special project of his became popular, in which to my surprise he responded almost instantly with great enthusiasm!! But due to exams, planning my 3-month trip to America and other errands, I’ve had to unfortunately delay the publishing of this interview. However, we are finally here and this feature is something that I have been looking forward to getting out for such long time as I couldn’t get enough of his saturated and phantasmagoric visions; and so with that in mind, I spoke with the artist about the creative process behind Cellophane, reconnecting to his roots and finding inspiration within nature.

Image courtesy of Andrew Thomas Huang

Since graduating from the University of Southern California in Fine Art and Animation, he has become a master at intertwining futuristic elements of future folklore, ultramodern queer cyborg and mystical surrealism; ultimately creating a universe of his own. Andrew’s imagination began to run wild through elementary and middle school when he was first introduced to puppeteer Jim Henson and his iconic 80’s films such as The Muppets (duh!), The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth; which originally inspired him to begin playing with his video camcorder where he would start creating stop motion. As he got older he got more into the fantasy adventure franchise of Star Wars which then further inspired his work “I would watch the behind-the-scenes making of those movies and try and replicate the process on my own. I started learning Maya and After Effects in high school and got hooked on building my own worlds!” Being such a diverse creative who works across an array of mediums, his catalogue of pieces and instalments stretches far and wide, however, when it comes to his favourite type to work with, he tells me “I think puppetry is the best combination of everything – performance, dance, bringing inanimate things to life, while also being sculptural and craft-driven”.

After his successful debut Doll Face in 2007, he has brought forth many other moving pieces; from his nine-part video series titled Flesh Nest, which explores and constructs a post-apocalyptic world inhabited by digital immortals “It is essentially my sci-fi Fraggle-Rock inspired trash opera, and so I built this project around the concept of afterlife. I wanted instead to construct imagery that had the same efficiency, weirdness and mythic vastness as a Hieronymus Bosch painting in which a multiplicity of characters and edifices are building up and crumbling down in the same hellish scrolling tapestry-like space. It was important for me that there is an honesty about the artifice of this universe”. To his newly short feature Kiss of the Rabbit God which premiered just a few weeks ago at the Tribeca Film Festival, where Huang explores his own personal identity, cultural heritage and queerness to which he proclaims to be a form of personal revelation.

The film follows a young Chinese restaurant worker’s journey of self-discovery through a sexual awakening, after falling in love with an 18th century Qing dynasty God named the Tu’er Shen (兔兒神) “This is my first narrative short in 10 years and also my most personal film to date! I started out directing narrative films, but left to pursue more art and experimental video-making. Rabbit God is my attempt now to return to narrative but more on my terms. The film is really a love story and I’ve never been brave enough until now to create a romantic film between two queer Asian men. So, this film in a way is a confession as much as it is a love letter to my LGBTQ+ Asian community”.

Everything about Andrew’s work opens up a portal to illustration of a digital multiverse- which hasn’t gone by unnoticed. He has championed a collection of awards and honours for his creative work, becoming more popular through music videos that he’s directed for the likes of Björk, Thom Yorke’s supergroup Atoms For PeaceKelela, Perfume GeniusSigur Ròs and many more; emerging through the mist. He tells me, Music videos are a wonderful medium to experiment and build worlds and draw people into the emotional message of a piece of music. I’ve learned nearly everything I know about directing from creating music videos: how to collaborate, delegate, communicate with a team of people. But, I would also say it’s my own personal work that has informed my videos. Doing the work on music videos has helped build my vocabulary of techniques to bring to my own work as well as my own practice that has fed the ideas that I bring to the music videos. It’s a two-way conversation! I need to know what each artist is trying to say and where they’re coming from in order for me to formulate a clear concept. I prefer to have personal conversations with each artist and really get to know them as people. I don’t like to go into a collaboration guessing what they’re going to like or what they’re going to respond to. Making videos with artists, in the best scenario, is building a relationship with them and dreaming the same dream together.”

Image courtesy of Andrew Thomas Huang

Back to the recent and special project that I mentioned earlier, just last month he collaborated with FKA Twigs on her emotionally charged single; Cellophane. A video that is filled with vivid mechanical creatures and bionic figures, accompanied by a blend of renaissance imagery and dystopian scenes, showcasing a contrast of life and death, birth and destruction. An idea that embodies a new chapter, to start anew and welcome a path-breaking world that hums with possibility; Andrew also added that it is an “miraculous Icarus tale: a dance-of-death striving towards unattainable perfection, the fall from grace and the fragility of putting yourself back together”. Alongside him and Twigs graced production designer Fiona Crombie, who was nominated for an Oscar last year for her work on The Favourite. “We really did have the perfect team come together on this. Cinematographer Dani Abello came on board who shot beautiful videos for Rosalía, and pole choreographer Kelly Yvonne, too! I actually started to develop the story with Twigs in June 2018, and then Twigs, Kelly and I would rehearse together in a dance studio in Los Angeles where we brainstormed to create some of the emotional and physical beats of the performance”

Since it’s release, Andrew has been extremely candid about the inspiration behind Cellophane, admitting to outlets that the concepts of the video stemmed from Twigs’ own personal struggles; from laparoscopic surgery that she underwent to have six fibroid tumours removed from her uterus, to public scrutiny and blatant attacks regarding her ex-fiancé Robert Pattinson. Yet, the formation of the video did not arise as naturally as the ideas behind it seemed to, the process to creating such a visually compelling film was complex as it was enjoyable. “I drafted my own visualisation and storyboard for a couple months before we shot the film in Kiev, Ukraine for two days. Fiona also worked with the Ukrainian team to build some beautiful sets, namely the 360° curtain world and the large clay pit. I edited the video myself and then worked closely for four months afterwards along with Analog Studio in London to create the visual effects”.

Taken from ‘Cellophane’.

FKA Twigs in ‘Cellophane’.

Despite the constant use of extraterrestrial figures in his art, it isn’t always deliberate, confessing “I actually always thought that Martians were kind of boring! (with the exception of the Martians from Mars Attacks). Extraterrestrials aren’t though, alien life is always fascinating…like the aliens in The Abyss or The X-files”.  yet, with everything that’s been going on in Andrew’s life, I concluded the interview by asking him what he does to unwind and how he finds new creative energy “Hmm. Detaching from society, for sure! And going into nature are the most nourishing things for me. My most vivid and connected moments in life have occurred when I’m hiking or by the ocean, or just spending time with my grandmother! I’m eternally working on the challenge of being present in the moment”.

Keep up with Andrew and his work;

Website- http://www.andrewthomashuang.com/Art.htm

Facebook Page- www.facebook.com/AndrewThomasHuangAndrewThomasHuang

Instagram: www.instagram.com/andrewthomashuang/

Twitter: @Andrew_T_Huang

Youtube Channel- http://www.youtube.com/andrewhu

Vimeo Channel- https://vimeo.com/user1293099

Tumblr- andrewthomashuang.tumblr.com

Avatar_D1s