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

Hi Xiaoqian, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I am sure my opinion does not apply to all the fields. I feel that if you’re willing to take a risk, then it is not really a risk, because you’re somewhat prepared to take the worst possibility. I think risk is something not only related to our knowledge and experience, but also to our sensitivity and imagination.

Risk is what you foresee about the uncertain future. We can always sense risk, and inevitably, we will do something to avoid them. I think, the more sensitive and imaginative you are, the more you may feel about the danger. However, it’s like Murphy’s law. The risk would have an impact on your decisions and emotions even when nothing happens yet. And then, the thing you worry may really happen in some way if you try to avoid it.

So for me, I simply just not to think and worry too much for my further-away future. Since I chose to study video art and film seven years ago in undergraduate school, I was keep wondering about my specific direction and worrying about what job I can do, just like other art students would worry. But whether it is risky or not never dominate my choice of direction. I chose to do animation in graduate school because I like to create a fun, childlike, meaningful or meaningless, pretty or crazy little world. And I decided to focus on stop-motion animation in the middle of my MFA program because I found that I enjoyed handling the actual miniatures and giving life to puppet in this type of animation. I agree with what my classmate said to me: it is always a wonderful and beautiful thing to have uncertainty in the future.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I guess changing my direction within film cost me a lot of time haha. Time cost is a risk I have to take lol. Unlike many of my other friends, I haven’t decided to study art until my Junior year in college. And I haven’t even started to do stop-motion animation until two years ago in graduate program. Like I mentioned earlier, I started from live action film, art video, then to animation in general, and then to stop-motion. I was like narrowing down from many kinds of filmmaking year after year and then finally found my true love! This path makes me more certain about my true love haha. Previous experience also gives me various perspectives. I became more aware of my own way in artistic expression, my preference, my passion, and my beliefs.

Speaking about my language of expression, recently, I found that I like using metaphor and comparison a lot. It is fun putting my feelings into animals in an unrealistic world. These characters can actually tell my feelings better than human characters do.

Thus, I am always stimulated by little things that happened close to me in daily life. For example, after interacting with people, I usually have lots of emotions. I like to catch my emotions and thoughts by writing them down and rethink them. Plants also act as an important element in my work. The reason behind, which I noticed afterwards, is that I believe that there is an inseparable relationship between things and their surrounded environment.

Sometimes sequences of images directly come to my mind, then I will describe them in words to record them first. So I may translate them into my work in the future.

My most recent work is my thesis work called“Unintended Forest”. It is about a newborn dewdrop named Little Dew (the blue guy in the images) who is unintentionally kidnapped by a pair of strange leaves. Along the way, Little Dew becomes excited about what these huge pink leaves take him to. This idea is from my own experience, more specifically, from people to people’s relationship. But I believe audience can have their own imaginations and thoughts. You may find both beauty and dark sides in it. They are both right feelings. I am still finishing it for a longer version. Hope it can be done and showed to the public very soon.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I will definitely take my friend to Santa Monica Beach and Griffith Observatory. If she/he is interested, we can visit some art museums and galleries such as LACMA and Getty. Besides, one big reason I like LA is that there’s so many different food from various countries! I have tried a few restaurants. I recommend Saffron and Rose Ice Cream, Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee. I also like the Italian restaurant called Bestia in downtown and Vietnamese restaurant Oc & Lau Restaurant in southern LA. If my friend miss Chinese food, there’re lots of great Chinese restaurants in San Gabriel and eastern LA, such as Hunan Chilli King and Lunasia Chinese Cuisine. If he/she miss Chinese fruits, there’s a street in San Pedro with trees growing loquat fruit. Maybe just taking a look😄

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
First of all, I want to thank the animation program in USC, where I just graduated from. The faculties gave me lots of advices and many opportunities. It is a memorable journey that has led me to my current one.

I also want to thank my friends and classmates who helped me and gave me feedbacks and critics on my work. The stunning works they create always encourage me to keep creating my own ones. I am so honored to be their friend.

Finally, I especially want to thank my friend, Fei Taishi, in Beijing. He accompanied with me and encouraged me a lot remotely (on phone) when I was struggling with my thesis film in the stop-motion lab in LA during this year. He also helped me with most of my post-production work of my thesis film.

Website: https://xiaoqiaz.wixsite.com/zhuzhu

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/isa_aplumeofbreath/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/joyce.zhu.75/

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutLA is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.