“Lion Dance” directed by Zheng Kang featured on the X1 Asian American destination within the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival collection. We had the chance to ask Zheng what inspired his filmmaking journey, and how his Chinese heritage influences his work.
Tell us about your film featured on X1 this month!
Zheng Kang: “Lion Dance” is an animated short that Tim and I created for our MFA thesis at University of Southern California. We wrote it specifically to address the lack of lead roles for Asian characters in western animation.
How did you get into filmmaking?
ZK: I got into filmmaking because of my love for animation. I enjoyed watching animation when I was little and was fascinated by becoming an animation director at that time. After my undergraduate study in Industrial Design, I went to USC to study Animation and Digital Arts for my graduate study. During the program, I created 2 animated short films and then teamed up with Tim for our thesis film.
What are some films and/or filmmakers that have inspired you?
ZK: I was always inspired by Japanese animation directors such as Hayao Miyazaki, Mamoru Hosoda, and Masaaki Yuasa. I really enjoyed their character development and storytelling. I also loved Edgar Wright's cinematography direction and his sense of humor.
Do you have a favorite Asian and/or Asian American film?
How does your Asian heritage influence your work?
ZK: While creating “Lion Dance”, I was driven by wanting to bring more Asian elements into my story. The story surrounds a Chinese traditional festival. My Asian heritage helps me to better design the character and environment, create the right festival atmosphere, and achieve characters’ performance in a more Asian and gentler way. I was always trying to develop Asian stories around a universal theme.
What is your outlook on the state of Asian American cinema?
ZK: Asian American has historically been an underrepresented ethnic group in American films. However, I can see the bright future of Asian American cinema. Asian American filmmakers have put a lot of effort in making their voices be heard in the States and around the world. “Crazy Rich Asians” is a great example of how Asian American films can be successful in the mainstream media.
What’s next for you?
ZK: Currently, I am a Storyboard Artist at DreamWorks TV, working on a “Fast and Furious” animated series. I had the opportunity to meet a lot of experienced directors and artists and learn from them. My next step is to sharpen my skills and create more unique works that can better represent Asian cultures.
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