Chenlin Qian talks producing and addressing life's big questions through film


Making a film is never a one-person job, as anyone who has ever stayed until the end of the credits of a Marvel movie knows too well. Every shot takes many hands to turn into a masterpiece, from a director all the way to a set assistant. However, every film does need a leader, and that is where the producer comes into play. The producer keeps everyone on track, working toward the same goal at the time pace, and is the first position that needs to be considered when making a movie. It takes a vast amount of determination and sheer talent to produce, and that is just why China’s Chenlin Qian found herself drawn to the role.

“I want to make good movies. I enjoy every step during production and want to feel every exciting moment from pre to post. That is what a producer does. I can help every filmmaker on my projects realize their dream while I realize mine,” she said.

Known for her work on films such as Cowards, Take Me Back, and Sixteen, Qian’s most recent film is a well-organized script with a cool setting to remind people to wake up from the numbness to their life and to show more care and love for it. Mr. Lopez tells the story of a mortician who is so used to death that he is numb inside, becoming insincere to those who have lost loved ones. One day, he gets involved in a family murder where the husband killed his unfaithful wife and asks the mortician to clean his wife’s body. During the cleaning process, the mortician discovers the husband loved his wife deeply. He becomes moved by the love between them and saves the husband from a suicide attempt. The film hopes to encourage audiences to change an unhealthy lifestyle.

“People get so busy working, but don’t know what their job means to them. They get bored while repeating the same thing day after day and become numb to the work, even numb to the people surrounding them. In today’s world, we don’t know how to care about people and slowly are forgetting how to love people. My film addresses that,” said Qian.

Not only did Qian co-produce Mr. Lopez, she also wrote and directed it, making it one of her most personal films to date. Since its release in January, it has gone onto the Miami Independent Film Festival, the Los Angeles Cinefest, and the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, where it won Best Cinematography.

Mr. Lopez was not Qian’s first project that deals with the complicated emotions that can arise from death. Last year, her acclaimed film Whirlwind stirred up similar feeling in audiences, following Ben and Shelly, a pair of con artists, who are trying to earn themselves a fortune but ended up having a dead body and emotional struggles to deal with.

While working on Whirlwind, Qian constructed a very detailed pre-production plan and shooting plan, considering every aspect that would influence the physical shooting. This is what makes her such a formidable producer, as she solves problems before they even happen. She maintains a positive attitude at all times, and always works to better whatever film she takes on.

Prior to shooting Whirlwind, Qian suggested that the film take place in 1970’s America. This created a vintage look that suited a runaway story better. Although this created challenges, such as finding wardrobe and props that suited the time period, Qian’s instincts were on point as changing the decade made for a better film.

“We faced challenges every day but that’s part of filmmaking, you have to overcome them in many different ways. It’s always worth it. When we finally finished making this film, it looked amazing in the location with the vintage production design,” Qian described.

It was the Director, Allan NG, who approached Qian to produce the film. He had come from England and wanted to adopt a European storytelling style with a movie dream, and that enticed the producer. Not only would a road trip movie present fun challenges for producing, such as multiple locations and more complicated permits, insurance, and travelling of cast and crew, but the story itself excited Qian.

“I think the director wanted to address important questions in life. What is more important: fortune or love? What should we treasure?” she asked.

Qian’s films often address life’s biggest questions, encouraging audiences to have a cathartic experience and allow their emotions to flow. That is exactly what both Mr. Lopez and Whirlwind achieve, so be sure to watch them both.

Photo copyright Fangxiang Zheng, from left to right: Haoxun Jiang, Hans Zhang and Chenlin Qian

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