Zitong "Lilien" Xu

Motion Pictures & Television / BFA

Always remember your past and goals. This is the maxim and philosophy I follow in life, and lest I forget it, I can look down and spot it emblazoned on my arm. It reminds me to persist every time I feel weak and helpless.

I am a young woman and a female director. When I was a kid, I asked my parents a very naive question: "Do the actors on the TV shows really die when they are shot in a scene? If not, how do they make it look real?" At that time, my parents lacked knowledge about how television and movies were made, so they could not give me a reasonable answer. I became curious and wanted to know my answer to this question and many more. So I immersed myself in reading books about the industry, and watching everything I could find.

Slowly, I found myself falling in love with all the possibilities that moviemaking afforded a creative, imaginative person like myself. The countless intriguing ways to tell stories, the multiple perspectives on shooting, the artful ways to shoot and design the sets, the ways that music and sound design enhance the experience of the viewers.

So, I chose to be a female director. Directing attracted me because of its importance it holds in filmmaking. It is the director's vision that audiences will see. It is the director who is responsible for communicating with the heads of the departments, and most importantly with the actors, whose performances can make or break a film.

For that reason, I went to an acting school for a year to study performance. By putting myself in the actor’s position, I gained a clearer understanding of the difficulties that actors encounter, and how best to nurture and communicate with them to get the needed performance. I learned how to mine characters' backstories, and the psychological complexity that determine their behaviors, attitudes and emotions.

A director needs to deal with all kinds of problems. I'm pretty even keeled, and try to keep my temper and nerves at an even keel so that I can calmly guide the cast and crew and keep everyone on track.

And before yelling, Action, the first day of the shoot, I look down on my arm and always remember my past and goals.

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