We had the good fortune of connecting with Yucong Chen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Yucong, is there something you can share with us that those outside of the industry might not be aware of?
I’m a documentarian, and sometimes people are not aware of how hard it is for filmmakers to bring true stories to screen. First of all, it is always emotionally difficult for filmmakers to stay 100% objective while making a documentary because we come too close to the story. In the case of ‘Unfinished Lives'(my latest short doc), it was even harder because the story felt so relatable. We shared the same experience with the victim, who was also an international student like us. Instead of remaining objective, we were, in fact, trying our best to stay rational. When we were visiting the DA’s office, It was heartbreaking to watch the surveillance video clips of the crime over and over again during the editing session. It’s a painful but meaningful journey to convey the same feeling to our audience.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m really proud of our creative use of sand art. Like all the documentary directors, I had a love-hate relationship with editing. The major problem in my project was the shortness of footage. I only followed the last part of the legal procedure, which made it difficult to visualize some of the most critical scenes. But luckily, we found other art forms, such as sand painting, to tell the story creatively. Sand painting can tell the story visually and poetically. Watching the images flowing is just the perfect way to express our idea of “memory”.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Elysian Park is definitely somewhere I want to show my friends if they come to visit LA. On top of the hills, I found “Angel’s Point” the best view of the city, especially at sunset. There are also recreation centers and parks down the hill, where we can bring some food and drinks to have a picnic under the pandemic situation.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’d love to dedicate my shoutout to Peter Robinson, who was the first person to encourage me to do my short documentary “Unfinished Lives”. Peter was one of my directing professors, and his television work began as a documentary filmmaker too. At the very beginning, I was planning to do a documentary about international students’ experience, but he suggested me to focus on Xinran’s case specifically because it is usually hard to discuss a big question in a 20min short film. I really appreciate his advice, and “Unfinished Lives” won’t be done without the conversation with him.