In filmmaking, the essence of a storyline simply cannot transpire to the big screen without an appropriate backdrop. Shooting in a studio which is both resourceful and charming helps to set a tone that builds the world around the characters, and in most cases, it’s the outcome of a sophisticated set design which creates a powerful atmosphere that is stunning to see.
Shanghai-bred award winning filmmaker Tom Edwards understands that the creativity in designing a film or photo set requires intricate detail and well-thought out planning. Fueled by passion and with a solid understanding for storytelling, his extensive on set experience across a diverse scope of industry majors include feature films, music videos and behind the scenes content for some of the world’s biggest stars.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work in a wide range of different mediums spanning across feature films, shorts, documentaries, corporate, educational, music videos and online content,” Edwards shares. “Although all very different in terms of style, all still evolve around the story.“
In fact, it was his profound on set know-how and brilliant appetite for business that led Edwards to discover an untapped market in Asian cinematic storytelling to develop Dao Zen Studios; LA’s minimal and zen themed creative studio offering filmmakers, creatives and models an authentic and traditional setting to shoot their next dream project.
“With independent themed studios on the rise, I noticed there weren’t any studios quite like Dao Zen, there weren’t many Asian themed studios,” Edwards explains. “I thought it was a good idea to enter the market with one, and at the same time share some of my culture and give a place for others creatives to shoot in.”
Inspired by Edwards’ upbringing in Shanghai, China, with a fascination for the charm and craftsmanship of Chinese temples and tea houses, Dao Zen features delicate hand carved panels and wooden features. Mimicking a more vintage aesthetic, traditional antique furnishings and wabi sabi props are featured to set an authentic tone for many Asian films and Asian themed photo shoots.
Launching in August 2022, Dao Zen also offers in-house services such as creative directors, set dressers and photographers, and includes various setting styles, photography backdrops, lighting, grip and all the essential equipment required for a creative production.
A strong perspective for behind the scenes production is one thing, but having first-hand experience in producing award winning Asian cinema has granted Edwards as a leading industry creative for deciphering Asian stories to the big screen.
His 2013 debut Chinese narrative “Ninety One: A Tainted Page,” which Edwards wrote, shot and directed took home multiple award wins at the Shanghai Student Film Festival in 2013, including Best Actor and Best Overall Film Award.
The rise of Asian cinema in Hollywood over the years has seen many Asian filmmakers and Asian-American actors take home critically acclaimed award-wins, and set groundbreaking records across film and television.
In 2020, South Korean film director Bong Joon-ho’s gasp-inducing masterpiece “Parasite” was the first non-English language film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, as well as Netflix record-breaker “Squid Games” (South Korea) remaining the #1 most streamed series of all time still to this day. Golden Globe winner Awkwafina (“The Farewell”) and fellow nominated actress Constance Wu (“Crazy Rich Asians”) are among the many influential Asian-American actors paving the way for diverse leading roles and storylines throughout Hollywood today.
“I believe there will be more Asian stories that will be told in Hollywood and abroad,” shares Edwards. “Having a space like Dao Zen can open the opportunity for these stories to be told, and allow Asian filmmakers a place to create their films, music videos, and even commercials.”
The announcement of Edwards’ new studio has caught the attention of many big screen names including award-winning actor Zakary Arthur, star of the Critics Choice Super Awards nominated television series “Chucky” (2021), and Chinese American influencer Lucia 宇坤; actress, martial artist and dancer, who have both secured the services of Dao Zen Studios to shoot their upcoming projects.
With an illustrious career spanning over a decade, Edwards has mastered the craft of depicting stories in an authentic and compelling way. His unprecedented talents has seen him collaborate with some of the world’s leading artists including Cardi B, Demi Lovato, Mandy Moore, Enrique Iglesias and Becky G, along with Fortune 500 companies Mcdonalds, Lamborghini, Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Sephora, Kraft Foods & General Motors.
Edwards is also slated to produce upcoming behind the scenes projects for Pink, Paul McCartney, and Rita Wilson.
“Over the years I have worked with many film professionals, creatives, directors, cinematographers and I’ve also had firsthand experience working like some of them,” says Edwards. “Having that sort of onset experience has allowed me to think realistically about logistics and know what my crew needs in terms of time and resources.”
Without spaces like Dao Zen Studios, which can be hard to replicate, it can be difficult for filmmakers to translate the power of a script without hefty production costs or travel expenses. Having a phenomenal storyteller, filmmaker, and studio owner much like Tom Edwards who’s breaking grounds in the way Asian cinema is made, is the right move forward in filmmaking today.