Interview with director Hu Li Huai


Hu Li Huai, Chinese, born in 1985, is a screenwriter and director in mainland China. He graduated from Beijing Film Academy. He has served as a member of the youth and new literary and art group working committee of the China Film Association, a judge of the China Golden Lion International advertising film award, a director of the Wenzhou Film Association, a member of the California Film Foundation, a film selector on the application platform of the International Film Festival, and a film selector of the Mumbai Short Film International Film Festival. With 10 years of directing experience, he is good at capturing the characteristics of life with nonlinear narrative techniques, paying attention to the living conditions and emotional disputes of small people, and deepening the theme. Main screenwriters direct feature films, short films, commercial TVC, promotional films, etc.

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

Yes, in 2022, this year, Hangzhou, China will host the 19th Asian Games, which is a good opportunity for a country and a city. It shows the city’s sports spirit and vitality. My hometown Wenzhou, as a branch venue, will undertake two projects, dragon boat and football. Under this background, I think this is a good publicity opportunity, so I made a short film to look forward to the Asian Games with passion. I combined the local Ou Yue traditional culture of more than 1000 years, such as opera, dragon boat and modern football, to express the common people’s expectation for the arrival of the Asian Games, and the theme of “the Asian Games for all”.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

Now is the era of national directors. If you have a good idea, you can use the shooting equipment around you to show it. However, to become a successful filmmaker, it is not enough to rely on enthusiasm. It needs more knowledge systems to support it. Film is a relatively comprehensive art, integrating philosophy, art, photography, music and literature, so you have to go to the film academy to learn professional knowledge, To find a way to observe the world.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

In fact, it is not difficult to learn movies, but many filmmakers have given up halfway. It is not because they are not talented enough, but because they are not persistent enough, and they have not found a suitable method when they encounter a creative bottleneck. For me, every film making is a new attempt and learning. I must build a new character image and find a unique presentation perspective.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

Montage aesthetics, which talks about the dramatic effect produced by montage lens, our students watched the classic passage of the film The Godfather. Mike attended the baptism ceremony of his sister and children, and the killer was cleaning up the family enemies. The parallel montage between Church Baptism and Assassin’s assassination of gang leaders, one is a new scene and the other is a death scene, creating a strong dramatic tension, which determines the direction of my future film aesthetics

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

The production of a film has to go through many processes, just like the production line of a factory. In terms of directing the performance of the actors, most of the actors in this short film are acting as they are. I will only tell the action and expression of the characters. As for the performance, they have room to play. It has been proved that once they enter the role, their performance is very natural and powerful.

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

Because I often work as a screenwriter and director, I think the most difficult artistic choice is the idea of the script. For example, the selection of themes, refinement, characterization and so on need to be polished for a long time to tell the story vividly. The second is to find a unique visual language to present, which needs to make full use of the director’s thinking. At present, it is also constantly learning and improving.

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

In the case of the first voyage, the director will have his own cooperation team, and so will I. I trust them. They are familiar with each other, understand their personalities, and have a sense of tacit understanding when cooperating. For example, when cooperating with a photographer, he can quickly understand my intention. As long as I make a gesture, he will know how the lens moves. Of course, we have had disputes about the shooting perspective, but the director can’t be too strong, let him know my scheduling and visual presentation intention, Of course, I will leave some time for him to play.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

I don’t think filmmakers make films to cater to or please the audience, nor to pursue self-expression. All film and television works need to stand the test of the market and establish a dialogue with the audience.

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

The film festival is a good promotion platform. With this platform, we can test the level of our own films, let more producers around the world know my films, and also have the opportunity to obtain film investment. In terms of participating in the film festival, I will understand the quality of the film festival, select the film characteristics, select the appropriate types to participate, and then participate in the film festival as much as possible, so as to increase the film exposure opportunities.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

This varies from person to person. Each director has his own style and personality. Some directors also serve as screenwriters. They prefer to produce films with original content and the shooting method is also very novel. Some directors insist on making films that traditionally focus on character narration. Personally, I prefer to produce films with original ideas.