We had the good fortune of connecting with Beibei Hu and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Beibei, what’s something about your industry that outsiders are probably unaware of?
Most people only see the glamorous appearance of the film industry, but they do not realize the hardness for filmmaking. It takes a long time for the whole crew to plan ahead. They need to communicate constantly to make sure everyone is on the same page. As one of the crew in the whole team, you need to have strong time management to balance life and work which is the hardest part. Because you could be out of town shooting for months, sometimes the place we go is in very tough conditions, you will stay outside for a long time in the cold winter. Or sometimes you need to work overnight because there are so many night scenes happening in the script. It is not always an easy thing to make a film. If you are not passionate enough about the film, you might not be able to make it. For example, the crew will spend several hours going into the mountains during the rainy day for a few hours just want to catch a beautiful shot. If this shot is cut off in terms of the storyline or exceeds the runtime of the movie itself, all the work will be wasted and the audience won’t see that as well. From the outsiders, people might think it is a very cool and interesting job, but the facts are not all like this. As a production designer, when you do an independent film, you need to arrange the itinerary reasonably, to think about the time for picking up and returning the props, painting the walls, putting wallpaper etc, to make sure everyone in the art department has the work needed to do and finish on time.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I majored in production design at UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. It is natural for me to pursue production design and art direction jobs in the film industry after I graduated. Production designer is an important position in the film world, they are responsible for the visual concept of a film production, dealing with the overall design look for the sets, and control the overall tone and style for the costumes, graphics, props. To become a good designer, you need to master many aspects of knowledge and good aesthetics which is a long and complex process. Starting from the research, I always get inspiration from paintings, exhibitions, art installation etc. Those are the resources you probably will use in your design in terms of what genre of films you are doing. Afterwards, you need to have your own explanation of the sets, the main way to express your ideas is through the rendering. It is not an easy thing to learn the 3d software at all, sometimes you will forget some parts if you haven’t used it for a while. But that is the strongest tool for a production designer to show the overall space to the director, they can get the ideas about the tone of the set, and sometimes you can also set up the different angles of the camera, suggesting the different shots for the director. What I have to do is practice and practice to get a master of that. I spent a long time touching the different softwares in order to get the rendering in terms of what I want. I appreciate that we have many online resources to learn. If you get stuck in some area, you can just google it, or find the step by step teaching video on youtube. Most people who work in the film industry are freelancers, you will get a job from the people you know, or someone else’s recommendation. In that case, you need to build your social network in this community. If you have a good reputation for being a production designer, the job will come to you naturally. I love what I am doing right now, and I always get the sense of achievement when I see the film come out.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
1. Universal Studios Property warehouse which is the largest and most diverse of props in the film industry. It is a magic place for production designers to come, you can pick any props in terms of the period and style. 2. Vintage Flea Market. There are various vintage markets in Los Angeles. If you happen to come across one of these market events, you could not miss out. You can
find lots of interesting goods and antique furniture there. Some vintage lovers from all over the world come here to purchase jewelry, clothes etc. And also you could explore some handmade stuff by designers.
3. Bradbury Building. It is an architectural landmark in DTLA. The entire building reveals the Italian Renaissance style from the exterior structure to the interior decoration. Entering from the door, you will feel the ceiling is very low and the lighting is dim. When you come to the lobby, your vision is suddenly bright. The gorgeous interior decoration will make you feel that you returned to a hundred years ago. This is also the location where many singers shoot their music video.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to delicate my shoutout to the director Yichi Zhang who is very talented. We’ve been working together many times. The story she writes has her own strong style, and she really knows what she wants. We met each other at UCLA TFT’s orientation, and she invited me to be her film’s production designer. We are very comfortable working with each other and very put our efforts into making a good film. Her script is full of fantasy elements which give me an opportunity to think innovatively and bold. Whenever we come up with some new ideas, we will talk to each other right away. Our passionate attitude towards the creation of works makes our relationship become closer, from partner to good friends in our life.