We had the good fortune of connecting with Charles Xiuzhi Dong and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Charles Xiuzhi, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
Starting as a kid, I had a passion for telling stories. As a 12 years old, I started to play magic tricks and amazed everyone around me. My interests slowly transitioned into film – the power of images intrigued me. In 2019 I graduated from the Tisch School of the Arts NYU with a degree in film. Since then, I was fortunate enough to direct numerous short films and commercials and am working on my first feature film right now. Currently, I am part of the AFI conservatory, honing my craft of storytelling, always with the goal of telling stories in the most impactful way.
In 2018, I got the opportunity to direct my short film ‘After Class’, produced and shot by my fellow NYU peers. The short film is very well received by festivals worldwide and won numerous prices, for example ‘Best Short Film Asia International’ at the Oscar qualifying Short Shorts Film Festival.
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 believe that – to a certain degree – struggling is part of the process. Being a visual storyteller is a lifelong process in which you never finish learning. Roadblocks are an important part of it and played an important lesson for me to stay humble and push myself to new limits. Every project comes with its unique challenges, and I believe that with every project I work on, I am able to sharpen my senses in a different way. I left China at the age of 16. Not being able to communicate in English, and trying to build a second home in the US, was a great challenge – at that point nobody, including me, would have expected me to become a filmmaker.
With that in mind, it was a very rewarding experience for me to shoot my short film ‘After Class’ in my home country of China. It presented some unique challenges: this was the first time for me to work outside of the US. Solving logistical problems, for example finding a great cast, securing the most fitting locations, while still staying true to the story was a challenging yet important obstacle for me.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I moved to LA in the middle of the pandemic. I mostly stayed at home or be on set. I wish I’ve been to a lot more places. But I did had a great time at Big bear.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I am currently a first year directing fellow of the AFI conservatory (Class of 2022). The experience has been great, even though we are in the middle of the pandemic. But the school is trying their best to provide the best education they can. I want to honor my craft of storytelling, always with the goal of telling stories in the most impactful way. AFI is the place to be.