Sydney Film School alumni, Liu Tianrong and his success in China
Sydney Film School equips their students with the tools they need to work not only in the Australian film industry, but also on a global scale as alumni, Liu Tianrong has discovered.
Currently living in Beijing, Tianrong graduated from Sydney Film School in 2011 and found not only that he was able to apply what he learnt to make his films in his homeland, but also that the filmmaking education he received was superior to that of his colleagues in China. His two films The Stormy Night and Illusions have recently been released in China and we are grateful to have been able to talk to Tianrong about his journey so far and how Sydney Film School has contributed his success.
Congratulations on your films, The Stormy Night and Illusion! Both of these films were made and released in China, so what can you tell us about them?
The Stormy Night is about a girl who was stuck in her car because the rain had made her car’s electrical system not work so she could not open the doors or windows. The water is getting higher and higher, she must find the way out of her car otherwise she will drown. This is a true story, every Beijinger knows it. Film is a kind of art about moments. This film is about survival, life and death and memory. Illusion is a mockumentary. I shot it within 15 days. They were very cold days in a winter mountain village. That was a very hard and unforgettable experience. That experience told me filmmaking is very practical. You have to make it if you want to truly understand it.
Your film, The Stormy Night is a horror film. What made you decide to make a horror for your first film?
Why I chose to make a horror film at the beginning of my career? I think there are two reasons. First, horror film can be made for a very low budget. Secondly, I believe film must be very stylized. Horror film is very stylized. That means you can make a real film with a very low budget. That is great for every new filmmaker.
What is something you learnt about making a horror film?
I found a very interesting thing and that is that humour and horror are very similar. I had read a book about Humour Psychology when I was kid. In that book, it gave me a very vivid metaphor about humour… humour is, at the beginning, making people believe you will lead them to A, but at last you lead them turn to B suddenly. The point is you have to make people believe you are leading them to A as much as you possibly can. Same as in a horror film. Making some things beyond audience’s expectations, but you have to hide them well at beginning.
Is horror the direction you wish to take your upcoming films in?
No. I want to try another type of film if possible. I am looking for a change.
What do you find are the biggest differences between working in the Chinese film industry and the Australian?
As a Chinese filmmaker, we often say that “horror film is one thing, Chinese horror film is another”. Why? In China we have censorship. For example, In China you cannot create a real ghost in the film, but in Australian horror films real ghosts are very common. Hence sometime we describe filmmaking in China is like “dancing with feathers”.
Did you find that what you learnt at Sydney Film School could be applied to global filmmaking and if so, how?
In Sydney Film School, we shot and edit film. That experience was very important to me. That makes me like a craftsman. It gave me deep thought in image, which is hard to explain. I work on every detail; I treat my film as an artwork. In China, no film school teaches filmmaking so I believe these young filmmakers cannot really understand filmmaking as an art and it’s beauty.
Why did you choose to study at Sydney Film School?
It is great school and has friendly and lovely teachers. It’s like a big family. I learnt things in a very practical way. An unforgettable memory.
What was the process like beginning your career in China after you graduated from Sydney Film School?
My first job was as a writer working at the Beijing TV station. In the beginning, I had to earn the respect and trust from the investors and making my own networks in the industry.
What are you currently working on at the moment?
I am working on a few films as producer. Some new directors will shoot these films.
What advice would you give to students studying at Sydney Film School?
The most important thing in the beginning of your career is stamina. Sometimes you feel lonely because no one asks you to be his or her filmmaker and sometimes you feel angry because no one trusts you could be a good filmmaker, but you have to believe yourself and stick it out. Keep your dreams and your dreams will come true.