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Weilun Feng on breaking “rules” of cinematography

From the time he was just a child, growing up in Taipei, Taiwan, Weilun Feng was always enchanted by the idea of becoming a cinematographer. He was only four when he realized his passion for looking through the lens of a camera and making movies and has spent every day since working toward reaching that dream.

Feng has now achieved his dream and is an internationally sought-after cinematographer, working behind the camera on major projects around the world, including award-winning films like Love You Can Buy and The Power of Talk Show, as well as the documentary series Chengdu Hunters, chronically telling the stories of one of China’s top esports teams.

“I am extremely passionate about my role as a cinematographer. I understand directing, production design, and post-production all very well. I can easily communicate with the director and help them get exactly what they are looking for. Also, as a younger generation cinematographer, I’m not afraid to break traditional rules and try new approaches to the craft,” says Feng.

Feng aims to make a difference through his chosen artform, and enjoys working on PSAs as a direct way to positively impact society. One example of this is Antidepressant, a 30 second public service advertisement by the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health and produced by Sino TV LA Production Department.

The purpose of this PSA was to send out a message to people that have or might have depressive disorder and let them know depression can be manageable if they seek the proper resources. The Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health is ready to help 24/7.

“I think Director Fuyin (Leon) Wang, who has more than 20 years of filmmaking experience, was smart, using actors to show the real state of the depressive disorder patients, reminding patients to contact the Department of Mental Health. Also, the director applied a narrator to introduce the symptoms of depressive disorder, so that people can clearly assess whether they have a mental illness or not,” says Feng.

Sino TV is a long-term client of Feng’s, and have worked together on many shows, documentaries, and commercials. They trust Feng as a cinematographer and invited him to come on board for the PSA.

When he first saw the script, Feng was immediately interested, not only because of the important message they were delivering, but also because of the potential for the cinematography. There was no plan that would complicate production design in the studio, and the actors had to portray the symptoms of depression without any dialogue, so the cinematography played an even more vital role in the storytelling, using the composition, lighting and color tone of the set to create the tone for the commercial that would normally also be set by voice lines and production design.

“In most cases, many cinematographers would choose low-key lighting styles for a spot about depression, but I thought in an ad that was trying to encourage patients to see the doctor, you don’t want to make the patients look horrible, because when the patients see it, they may be turned off. Therefore, I broke the rule and used a high-key lighting style to make the scene warm. I also added some warm color background light to make the scene even warmer, to show that the Los Angeles Department of Mental Health cares about people and they want patients to know that being sick is not scary,” Feng describes.

In the end, the management of Sino TV were thrilled with Feng’s unique approach and the final result of the PSA. Antidepressant first aired on Sino TV LA, ETTV America and CTI USA. Most of these networks still play the PSA on their channels to this day. Sino TV even picked this commercial as a showcase to represent the TV station, and the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health was happy as well. The PSA can still be found on their website.

“I'm glad the client liked it. This gives me a great sense of achievement. I also learned a lot about depression disorder from this commercial. Most importantly, I think I made the right choice in cinematography, so in the future, I will be braver when it comes to breaking the ‘rules’ that have been so instilled in my years in the field,” concludes Feng.

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