Growing up in China, Sabrina Yu was fascinated by science fiction stories and the world of fantasy from a young age. She realized quickly that film is the best medium to explore the fantasy world and set her sights on becoming a filmmaker ever since. Combining her innate illustration talents with her passion for movies, she has become a sought-after storyboard artist, being the first step in taking an imaginative story and showing it to the world.
“I think people's imaginations are infinite. I want to draw these imaginary worlds and show them to more people. Storyboarding is an important part of filmmaking. I can help the director and screenwriter to present the main idea of the story and show a clear storyline in a specific picture,” she said.
Working on a series of decorated films, such as Inside Linda Vista Hospital and The Good Memory, Yu has shown the world just what she is capable of. Her success, however, is secondary to her, as she primarily aims to tell impactful stories.
Working on the film Cello reminded Yu why she got into storyboarding in the first place, and is, as she says, the highlight of her esteemed career.
“I worked as a spectator, and I have a deep understanding of the development of the story. During the process of script creation, I often discussed with the director how to design each scene, and the film finally got a good harvest. I was very excited at the moment of the cinema screening,” she said.
The film follows master cellist, Ansel Evans, who was diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis). Seeing his body slowly shutting down, he is not going to allow ALS take over his life and music, instead he starts to plan for his farewell concert and his final exit called “Death with Dignity”. However, this decision is hard to grasp for his beloved family, especially for his 8-year old granddaughter, Olivia, who barely knows about life and death.
“I was first attracted to the theme of this movie. The story is developed around a grandfather and granddaughter. I can resonate, because my relationship with my grandfather is also very good, I can imagine what I would do in the story which helped me to build the storyboards,” said Yu. “This film is based on the director's own true story, focusing on a story of ALS illness. I think it is rare in the subject matter. The story tells us how the true life of this particular group is. I really like our story to be associated with music, making me think it is a beautiful story and not a sad story.”
Cello went on to see great success at many international film festivals, connecting with audiences and receiving critical acclaim. It also won the Award of Excellence at the Los Angeles Global Shorts Competition 2017, and Best Music at the Rome Film Awards.
“The success of this film is a shining point in my career, and I am very grateful to the team working together. I have an even greater passion for my work after working on this, something I didn’t think was possible,” said Yu.
Yu worked on Cello for over two years, ensuring it was a perfect motion picture from beginning to end. In the initial stages, she worked closely with the Director, Angie Su, discussing the script. They made a shots list and figured out how best to visualize each scene. One in particular, the concert, the climax of the film, Yu proposed drawing multiple angles to reflect the emotional changes of the characters and the background. This also clearly showed the time changes between past and present. Her idea ended up becoming a key moment in the film.
From the script to filming, because of the changes in multiple scenes and the changes in the emotional expression of the characters, Yu’s storyboard designs were the specific display of the picture, drawing the main scenes, and expressing the trends of the story. Her work was a point of reference for every single department, and she knew to make sure to execute it flawlessly.
Cello holds a special place in Yu’s heart. Not only because she worked with a great team, and because the film saw extraordinary success, but mostly because of the message they were conveying.
“Our team hoped that the film will let more people pay attention to the ALS community, and the success of the film has attracted everyone to pay attention to this group. I am very happy that my works are part of this,” Yu concluded.