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The “Lighter” Side of Drama and Fame with Junbai Zhou

Life is exciting as a Chief Lighting Technician. Okay, so you may not even know exactly what that means if you aren’t keenly aware of this position in film, television, and a variety of other platforms. A glimpse into the career of Junbai Zhou, the Chinese born professional who has worked across the planet engaging her talent for lighting to the benefit of many productions, proves that a successful career pursing one’s passion while being surrounded by the talented and famous is tremendously exciting. From world famous magazines to working with award-winning filmmakers and actors known for their roles in Oscar winning feature films, Junbai confirms that chasing her dreams has been a fulfilling experience that she might never have discovered if she hadn’t been brave enough to risk security for greatness. With her profession as with life, Junbai informs, “It’s essential to know who you truly are but you also need to form yourself as water; you have to shape yourself in any kind of situation. Flexibility is the key and creativity is the tool to tell a story though the lighting or any means. Somehow you need to blend your own vision to the director’s and DP’s to make the visual look better, technically and creatively. Open yourself to what each experience has to offer, wherever you are.”

Junbai has countless admirers within the industry, including award-winning director Gabriele Fabbro with whom she’s worked with on a number of projects in the last five years. Along with DP Brandon lattaman, the two collaborated to create the look and feel of Santa Fe for the film 8, currently streaming on Amazon Prime. As part of her research, Zhou travelled to the Mojave Desert to get firsthand experience of this enviornment. While the authentic tone of New Mexico is unquestionable throughout the film, there are moments unrelated which equally stand out as proof of the lighting’s emotional support of the film. In a penultimate scene between Jack and Thirteen as a game of pool prompts an intense argument, the shadow of a moving fan over the players magnifies the quiet intensity which has left everyone holding their breath and expanding time. In contrast, a montage in which Jack is honing his pool skills over time is validated by Junbai’s different lighting cues. These contributions are the essential aspect of establishing exactly what the filmmakers want the audience to comprehend while rebuking the notion that exposition is necessary to achieve it.

The common factor between the film 8 and the iconic woman’s magazine Harpar’s Bazaar is Junbai’s talent. Declaring that one of the most enjoyable aspects of her career is that it continually offers different scenarios for her to utilize her talent, Zhou worked with acclaimed photographer Dalong Yang on a Harpar’s Bazaar cover shoot featuring Nail Horan (formerly of UK supergroup One Direction). Shot at La Tuna Canyon Ranch with the singing superstar, multiple lighting setups were an inherent part of creating the different looks for these photos. Relating the importance, Junbai comments, “It is always good to work outside the movie and TV field as Chief Lighting Technician because it is an opportunity to open up your perspective and the way you look at things. Most people thinking Chief Lighting Technicians only solve and handle technical aspects for a DP or photographer. This couldn’t be further from the truth. We are very technical but also have the power and sense to create & design the look for movies, TV, or stills. Our eyes are trained to find the beauty of this world and discover the magic behind the colors. We love to dig out the lighting secrets behind paintings and understand the art of different cultures.”

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