Why a Reel of Film Is Just a Reflection of Real Life
Film is a very unique form of art because it captures life in a way that other forms of expression, like painting or photography, cannot. Ms Chelsea Chen from our YWIES Shanghai Gubei Class of 2015, hopes to continue making films that convey the beauty of humanity and nature through art, culture and sustainability.
“Film ultimately combines every single thing I love – music, art, words and stories.”
As a writer/director, Chelsea is constantly observing broader society, not just the people around us, to understand more about ourselves. “It allows me to create what I want to express,” she says.
During her time at UBC, the environmental courses Chelsea took helped her realise how serious the problem is of climate change and pollution. “I will keep your light” is her first big production, exploring the theme of climate anxiety. “I feel it is a privilege living in Canada surrounded by nature, the sea, the beach and the forest. While I was creating this film, I came to treasure this even more.”
Her second big production “Reverie”, explores our relationship with technology, another big issue that we all deal with daily. Through a story about a power outage, Chelsea hopes to depict what would really happen if we were forced to disconnect from our digital devices. Ultimately, the film encourages her audiences to find the right balance between humans and technology. “As a creator, I feel like everything around us, everything we are experiencing, naturally draws me towards something I really feel passionate about. Although I might not be able to solve the problem, being able to ring a bell and bring awareness of the problem is already enough.”
“Art is here to give us comfort, to tell us that we are not alone. There are always other people going through what you are experiencing.”
Interestingly, the movies that give us serious chills aren’t the ones with the greatest optical or sound effects, but the ones we closely relate to. This is what Chelsea is trying to do as a producer. All the films she has produced relate to her own experience and observations. She is currently working on two film projects. One explores the sense of loneliness in a big city. Inspired by the current Covid outbreak, it looks at the reasons for our generation’s alienation and examines how we might break free of this cycle.
The second project examines how we often overlook the working classes, the people that laboured to build the world we enjoy now. As Chelsea explains, “We often say in Chinese, ‘Art is inspired by life but goes beyond it.’ I want to express myself from a female perspective as someone just graduated from college; someone who has just entered society and is trying to figure out what is happening in life.”
We often enjoy different types of film at different stages of our life. For this reason, Chelsea has neither a particular role model nor a film she solely admires. But at her current stage in life, she recommends two films that have much meaning.
• ‘YiYi’ (一一), a 2020 Taiwanese film directed by Edward Yang (杨德昌) that brings the audience right into the lives of three generations of a Taiwanese family and explores the experience of living in Taiwan.
• ‘Roma’, a Mexican film directed by Alfonso Cuarón shot in 2018, which follows the life of a live-in housekeeper of a middle-class family, in a semi-autobiographical take on Cuarón's upbringing in the Colonia Roma neighbourhood of Mexico City.
Sometimes, the theatre effects play an important part in movie enjoyment, but relating to characters, families and storylines, gives us a deeper connection and lingering aftertaste that keeps us thinking about issues and circumstances. This is why Chelsea particularly enjoyed these two films.
Balancing Between Dreams and Bread
During the ongoing Covid outbreak cinema theatres are closed. Film doesn’t feel like an essential activity any more. “But people need these comforts… people need art,” says Chelsea. Although her current projects are all short films, she eventually wants to make the transition from small screen to big. Keeping herself busy with small projects and building up her experience for a career in film, she ultimately hopes to get involved in theatre projects to develop her own style and stories.
Of course, early on it is difficult to find the right balance between the dream and your daily bread especially if, as with Chelsea, you’re not working for profit. Currently apart from all her non-profit film production, Chelsea is also doing a lot of commercial advertising and branding videos. “Right now at an early stage I don’t need to make a definite choice. But it will eventually become a challenge to balance both. It is a question that will need an answer if I continue to go on this path.”
Art is never about satisfying everyone, but to create a special bond and connection with someone.
Chelsea strongly recommends those who are already in or still considering this field to keep their passion alive and to believe in their pursuit. “Being able to explore things fully is a privilege,” she says. “Take advantage of this and don’t overlook how precious it is. When you have the passion for art or are in an environment where you can explore art, take advantage of it. It doesn’t always happen.”