Yang Shao describes cinematography as “the beautiful art that lies within the parameters of filmmaking.” His job it to bring audiences to the edge of their seats, taking them on a cinematic journey. He is an entertainer; he is a storyteller; he is an artist. The visual aspect of a film is fifty percent of a moviegoer’s experience, and Shao takes this responsibility to heart. He considers every aspect of a shot, from the angle, the movement of the camera, the lighting, and the color in each scene. This is what consists of visual storytelling.
Originally from China, Shao has become a force to be reckoned with in the film industry both in his native country and abroad. He aims to consistently deliver masterful productions, and that is just what he does. This is exemplified with his work on the film Once More, as well as Under, The Great Guys, Life is Horrible, and A Better World.
A Better World is the tale of hard working yet spineless Chinese father who works his every magic to please his pop-star crazed teenager. After she destroys everything he's worked for, he ultimately sells his kidney so that he can continue to provide for her. But it's never enough, and as her attitude and ingratitude grows and becomes more apparent to her father, he finally comes to terms with his daughter’s true self.
“It’s important to show and share real emotions. As much as I like to work on the more entertaining side of the industry, I also gravitate towards serious films that ask questions, those movies where you leave a theater with a feeling that you’ve changed. Even if it’s just a small degree. The story shows a father and daughter relationship that I can 100 percent relate to. My daughter is six now and due to the tough shooting schedule, I don’t see her as much as I want to. The story is shown from a perspective of the teenage girl and helped me to gain some knowledge on that generation. Of course, by the time she’ll reach that age time will change, but it reminded me again that it’s necessary to put yourself in the shoes of other people in order to find the right angle to solve an issue,” said Shao.
A Better World is one of Shao’s most decorated films to-date. After its premiere at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards 2017, where it took home Best Drama Student Short, the film continued to the NYC Indie Film Awards where it won Best Short Film, the Direct Short Online Film Festival where it was an Award Winner for Narrative Short Film - Fiction, Animation, International Independent Film Awards taking home Spring Session Award Winner Student Film, the Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival winning Best Drama Short Student, and the Nevada International Film Festival where it was an Award Winner for Student Film. This year, it was an Award Winner for Student Films at the California Film Awards and Best Dramatic Long Short at WorldFest-Houston International Film & Video Festival. The Director, Christy Wang, believes none of this could have been possible without Shao as cinematographer.
“Yang joined the project early since we knew that he would be able to bring the idea to life and execute it in the best possible way. While Yang is easy to work with, he knows exactly what he wants, and he would never sacrifice the idea of bringing the project to the next level,” said Wang.
For this project, Shao filmed the character of the dad only with close-ups. This decision was dictated by the desire to let him into the world of this lonely character and get the perspective of the protagonist without distracting the audience with the outside chaos that is happening around him. Shao is known for his ability for using such techniques to highlight the most dramatic moments of a script. Using the right camera movement and lighting he is able to capture the exact mood of a scene. He used natural light whenever possible for this film, as it gave it a more realistic appearance. When natural light was unavailable, he and his camera crew were able to pull off true movie magic to give the appearance that it was daytime when it was, in fact, the middle of the night.
During one particular scene in the film, the main actress, Shavvon Lin, was required to deliver a serious monologue immediately following a fun scene. Because of this, she was having difficulty composing herself. Rather than fall behind, Shao came up with the idea of losing all the light except for one small gap, lighting only half of the actress’s face. It was this take that made the film, as it added to the heartbreak viewers feel when watching the scene. Shao’s creative decision in the spur of the moment proved fruitful.
“The more I was working on this project the more I was diving into that story and the world it was inviting me into. I really enjoy movies that teach you something. Shooting that project helped me see and figure out some things in my life that were unresolved. When there’s a moving story I’m down to take the ride and look inside myself to find out answers to the questions I might have overlooked and maybe forgotten due to some circumstances. That’s why I enjoyed working on A Better World,” he concluded.