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Modern Filmmaking From Varying Roles with Rain Zheng

Rain Zheng is a modern filmmaker. She wears a number of hats in her career, most prominent of those being the roles of producer and director. There may have been an obvious delineation of these vocations in the past but the current day film industry reveals an intersection in the Venn diagram of them. From Rain’s perspective, it’s all about the team dynamic and getting the credit isn’t paramount to her. Still, many award-winning films have seen her serve in one or both of these roles and insight into Zheng’s process hints as to why this is so.

Rain concedes that when she is in the role of producer, her experience as a director helps her to gauge how closely she needs to oversee certain aspects of the process. She declares, “As a producer, I like a director who plans. And as a director, I am obsessed with planning. Everything that's on screen has a reason; and boy does that save a lot of money! The team is usually happier with a leader who has a clear direction.” In producing 2017’s Sci-Fi Offsprung, Zheng contended with child actors, CGI, animal actors, and a standard cast and crew. Keeping the “train on the tracks” for a film such as this required extensive planning and oversight. Offsprung received the Silver Remi Award at Worldfest Houston International Film Festival as well as the Gold Award at the Oregon International Film Festival, vetting Rain’s expertise and diligence.

As producer of the film Oblivion, depicting one man’s decision to commit suicide in a very intimate manner, Zheng is able to give insight. She relates, “I like movies as a medium of escapism. That's what movies have always been. I don't want to make or be a part of anything that will make people walk out of the theater feeling depressed. It's the entertainment business, not a shrink's office. With Oblivion, from the producer's perspective, one thing is very clear: the theme of the story does NOT have a negative turn. It's a story which examines the consequence of giving up. It's a story that warns you against giving up.” In addition to receiving the Platinum Award at the European Independent Film Awards, Oblivion appeared as an Official Selection at the Miami Independent Film Festival, Austin Spotlight Film Festival, Los Angeles Cinefest, and others.

Among the numerous upcoming projects she is developing is a full-length version of the short Esther which won Best Horror Short at both the 2018 Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards and Imagine This Women’s International Film Festival. Set in colonial America and based on true events, the story combines social sexual dynamics with the paranormal. Rain’s original short production was so well received that it was greenlit for a more complete version. While she loves a modern ghost story, Zheng reveals that she covets the idea of creating a musical. She concedes, “In no way do I think a musical would be easy to produce or direct…which is exactly why I want to do it! The challenge would be a remarkable experience. It's such an epic, happy, and complicated genre. People burst into songs as their dialogue which tends to give an over the top tone to these movies. A musical is very natural for the theater but not for film, which makes me both scared of doing it and excited.”

Filmmaking is about creativity. The audience doesn’t want to see the same story told in the same way. This is precisely what’s so endearing about Rain’s methods and perspective. Whether it’s as a producer or director, the inner monologue of a human being attempting suicide or a Sci-Fi film about a woman’s immaculate conception of a litter of rabbits, Zheng’s aspiration to communicate new ideas in unusual formats makes for provocative and entertaining tales.

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