We had the good fortune of connecting with Hao Zheng and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Hao, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
I make films in different genres just like how I’ve been traveling among worlds in my entire life. Moving from place to place, I found that the more I travel, the harder it is for me to answer the question “where are you from”. I was born in the Gobi Desert area in the north west of China; but at the age of 5, my family moved to Guangzhou, a city on the south east coast and right by the Pacific Ocean. As if haven’t traveled far enough, I then moved to Long Island, NY for high school, Boston for college and LA for graduate school. And now, in 2021, I’ve been in the US for 11 years.

Every time I moved to a place, it would be a new beginning filled with anxiety of the unknown future. It’s scary, tiring and extremely lonely. It’s like living so many lives and yet always felt lost about who you are. That’s probably why even though my films vary in genres (sci-fi, war, fantasy…), the theme of my works is always about “searching for identity”. I hope by exploring this theme in my work, I can also find answers to where my place is in the world.

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 wanted to be in the movie business ever since I was a child. I had a tough childhood and I remembered every night, in order to fall asleep, I had to imagine myself becoming a super hero, a warrior, or someone not as powerless as I was in reality. But I didn’t realize what I was doing until one day our school held a screening of Brave Heart. I just couldn’t stop my tears. I was so ashamed, but being in a dark space, escaping from reality, imagining myself turning into that hero on the big screen, I found that was exactly like what I’d been doing every night. And that was the moment I said to myself I wanted to make films. Then naturally I started acting, as in a way I already had years of “acting experiences” as sleeping aid. Funny enough, in my 15 years of acting experiences, people really liked to offer me roles that are extremely sad (I’ve played so many orphan characters). Come on, I thought I could be a super hero! Then quickly, I realized that even though keep acting in sad roles is an escape, what I really wanted was to tell my own stories and escape to a place that is empowering and hopeful. And that’s how the thought of directing came about. It is my hope that by telling these stories about escaping, me and my audience can understand ourselves better and find our place in the world.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
We will have breakfast/brunch at the Republique, Blu Jam Cafe or Stamp Proper Foods. Other than signature LA sites like the Universal Studio, Hollywood Blvd and Griffith Observatory, I would make sure to take them to Little Tokyo (best in the afternoon because a Japanese street musician named Arthur always come here to play). We will have Shabu Shabu here, Pad Thai and Thai Tea in Thai Town, Stir-fried Hotpot and milk tea in San Gabriel, and Army Pot, BBQ or Beef Soup in K town. Hopefully we can go visit a film set, a film festival, or a premiere party.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I felt so lucky that I had so many amazing people supporting me on the filmmaking journey. Other than my family, I would love to give shoutouts to my AFI professors. Peter Markham, Andrew Wagner and Rob Spera who not only taught me the craft of directing, but also ways of understanding myself. I also want to give shoutouts to Julian Higgins, Barry Sabbath and Jennie Tugend who never hesitated in giving me advice and guiding me. Then of course people in programs like the Disney Launchpad and HBOAccess. They’ve given me professional exposure and most importantly the confidence to tell my stories. And last but not least, my supportive, talented, hardworking director and writer friends. It is because of them that I don’t feel alone.

Website: http://zhengfilm.com/

Instagram: dragonisafish

Facebook: Hao Zheng

Other: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm5501302

Image Credits

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