We had the good fortune of connecting with Bofan Zhang and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Bofan, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I grew up in a small village in rural China, where people barely talked about dreams. The days, especially in harvest season, were labor-intensive, beginning well before sunrise and ending at sunset. A high proportion of my childhood memories were about walking barefoot in the muddy roads and pasturing cows in the water meadows, which have shaped my appreciation of films that depict the portrait of the original inhabitants in various cultures and my delicate emotions as a storyteller. During the days, under the subtle influence of my grandmother who was a victim of China’s Cultural Revolution and wasn’t able to pursue her dream to become an actress, I repeatedly watched a limited number of films. In this way, I fell in love with the way classic Chinese movies telling history via hero’s stories. After my College Entrance Examination, I chose to study film without hesitation and it has led me to my filmmaking career till today.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I majored in Film and TV Production Management as an undergrad student, which belonged to the Economics and Management School. In my undergraduate education, I participated in many film productions; I wrote, directed and produced low-budget student films; I found myself incredibly interested in creative producing. Therefore, I came to New York where I obtained my MFA Degree in Creative Producing from Columbia University and continued to pursue my filmmaking career.
This journey has never been easy but it’s full of fun. What I feel the proudest of and excited about is that I’ve been able to tell a lot of stories through filmmaking these years. My film tastes are realistic films and films that depict the portrait of the original inhabitants in various cultures. Therefore, I intend to produce films that can raise social awareness. I’ve produced films about minority groups (visually and hearing impaired children, etc), the ethical struggles of an AI scientist, the ordinary and mundane life of a postman, stories based on true South Korean historical events, and more. I always remind myself to remain true to my original aspiration of filmmaking in my career. My goal in filmmaking is not only to entertain people but to engage social consciousness and impact communities through entertainment as well. The power of film is the fountainhead of my responsibility as a storyteller.
The biggest challenge I’ve encountered was making films in the COVID-19 period. When the pandemic just broke out in March 2020, unfortunately, I had to shut down a short film that we’d prepared for months, due to many uncertainties at that time. We’ve paid almost half of the production. We had no idea what covid virus was about and how to protect ourselves from it, there were no clear and mature COVID-19 production guidelines by then, we were not sure if the insurance could cover the potential disease brought by the virus. Therefore, we made a tough decision to shut down the production. It was a not pleasant experience.
After that, I started to do works that we could handle when being quarantined. We picked up the post-production of two short films and submitted them to many festivals. In the cycle of 2020-2021, we gained fruits of the harvest— We received many great festival selections, and attended online film festivals by watching ceremonies via live broadcastings. Some of the festivals even designed virtual programs for us to attend online. It was a brand new and exciting experience.
Now COVID-19 continues to influence the world, what I’ve learned is to prepare for the rainy days with a heads-up attitude.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
First of all, I’d recommend my favorite Korean restaurant, Cho Dang Gol, it locates in K-town, New York, definitely worth trying and you won’t regret it. For cafe and dessert, I’d recommend the Hungarian Pastry Shop around Columbia campus, try their cheesecakes!
In addition, I highly recommend the Met Cloisters. It is a museum in Fort Tryon Park in Washington Heights, Manhattan, specializing in European medieval art and architecture, with a focus on the Romanesque and Gothic periods. I love the Unicorn Tapestries the most, which depict a hunt for the legendary creature– A unicorn. Besides, the gardens of the Cloisters are well worth a visit. Especially the Gothic Bonnefont Cloister, which is filled with more than 250 species of herbs used in the Middle Ages, is rich in color and fragrance.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My long-term director partner at the MFA Film Program of Columbia University — Minkyu Kang (https://www.imdb.com/name/nm5070543/)