Filmmaking has always been in the stars for Chinese-Australian Qiao Li. At the age of 14, this filmmaker began creating home videos, including a short stop-motion animation starring none other than G.I. Joe. Born in Shandong and raised in Melbourne, Australia, Li studied directingat the Victorian College of the Arts, School of Film and Television. Upon graduating in 2006, he moved to Beijing where he co-founded the boutique film and video production company The Bag Ladies. His first feature film Ring Roads was shot in 2007, in collaboration with two other directors. Li’s show reels includes music videos, short films and commercials in Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and around China. At the moment, he is in post-production for a feature documentary entitled No Anaesthetic about the Melbourne punk band Backyard Surgeons. After completing the filming of No Anaesthetic, Li met with students from Yew Chung International School of Beijing to discuss the finer points of filmmaking and why making a good film is like telling a good joke.
Glenn Pang, 9, Singapore
What do you like about creating a movie?
I like everything about my job. You get to meet new people and go to new places. The coolest thing is that whatever you can think of, you can try to make. There are no limits. And it’s really cool to learn about all of the technical stuff.
Andrew Fu, 10, Canada
How many steps are there in making a movie?
A film starts with an idea. Once you have an idea, you need people to help you make the movie. Then you have to find money. Then you have to shoot the film with actors. Then you have to edit the film, which is putting everything together. The last step is getting people to see it.
Aubree Frost, 10, US
What is the favorite movie that you made?
Once I moved to China, I made my own feature film called, Ring Roads. And that’s one of my favorite films; it’s very personal. It’s a story about foreigners and Chinese living in Beijing. That was my first big film and I’m very proud of it.
Kanbra Aguayo, 10, US
Why do you like being a director?
The director says what kind of clothes actors wear, where the camera will be, what the building should look like and what theexplosion should look like. A director makes all of the creative decisions and that’s what I love. You get to draw pictures, tell stories, listen to music – you take all of the things that you love and bring it all together.
Ann Liang, 10, Australia
Did your job start off well?
Once I graduated, The Children of the Silk Road was the first film that I worked on. There were important and famous people on the movie set. I was nervous, but the great thing about working on a set is that everyone is like family. Everyone is there with the same purpose. So very quickly, you make friends and then you don’t get nervous anymore.
Will Yang, 10, US
What is your biggest failure and how did it make you feel?
My biggest failure doesn’t have to do with money; I haven’t lost a million dollars yet. It’s more about telling a story. Have you ever told a joke and someone didn’t get it? It’s not a good feeling. I think my biggest failure is when I make films and tell stories, and people don’t get it or it doesn’t work properly. But you learn from your mistakes.
Phoebe Cramp, 10, UK
What was a film that you made that you liked the least?
When I look at the films I made when I was 14 years old, I’m a little embarrassed by them. But it’s good to see how you’ve grown. In everything that I’ve done, even if they’re not perfect, there’s always something in there that I’m really proud of.
Bowen Liu, 10, Canada
Is being a director hard?
It’s not easy; it’s very tiring. You have to be creative when you don’t have a lot of time, you have to be able to deal with people, and you have to work long hours. You go home, sleep for a couple of hours and keep going, but I love it – I wouldn’t change a thing.
Vani Gupta, 10, India
When you make a successful movie, how do you feel?
It’s like when you tell a joke and everyone laughs; you feel good because everyone gets it. When you make a film and people enjoy it, it’s the best feeling in the world.