We had the good fortune of connecting with ZiCheng Li and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi ZiCheng, why did you pursue a creative career?
I took my first class on cinema in my Junior year in college when I was still pursuing a degree in psychology. It was the only filmmaking class available and I just thought it would be interesting to learn about making films. I took the class just for fun, but it changed my life. In the class, we talked very little about film histories or the techniques of production, but more about what did we want to say using cinema and why did it have to be cinema. We also watched a lot of masterworks, which opened the door to the fantastic world of cinema and filmmaking. I realized that, although I was studying psychology at the time and wanted to know more about social issues, I also wanted to express myself with what I’ve learned and what I was thinking. And films seemed to me to be the perfect way for me to express myself. That was when I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in filmmaking. After graduating from college, I started preparing for my application for a graduate program in filmmaking. Then I was admitted into USC and came to LA in 2016, which could be considered the official beginning of becoming a professional filmmaker.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I love writing stories of the most ordinary people around us. They might seem mundane, but I’m sure each person can make a great character for a film. I’ve been told by others that they admire my ability to use the simplest and most poetic way to convey complex and compelling emotions in characters that people can feel empathetic for. I always put emotions in the first place instead of the plot. I think cinema should be about emotions; it’s how you want people to feel, not how you want people to think or analyze. I can’t say it’s necessarily easy or difficult because it depends on who the character is and what kind of emotion I’m writing about. Sometimes it’s easy because it’s something I’m familiar with, so I can just write about it because it’s so deeply engraved in my heart. But I also have to do research when it comes to characters or situations that I don’t know about, which may make the process more difficult.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I think we will definitely go to LACMA and the newly opened Academy Museum. And the Getty, too. Pasadena would be a great place to hang out since it has a great number of commercial establishments. We might go to Torrence and Gardena since there are lots of great Japanese restaurants.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would consider myself to be lucky that I have a supportive family as well as groups of friends in different phases of my life who had always stood beside me. My parents knew that pursuing a career as an artist means instability, but they respected my choice and my passion. And all the friends – some I’ve known since middle school, others pretty recently; some have walked away from my life, others stayed until this moment – I’ve always been grateful to have met them and living my life with their love and care. I can’t be who I am today without any of them.
Junrong Huang, Huazhang Dai, Chaochen Li