FILMMAKER HAO DONG
Interview by Shailik Bhaumik
Filmmaker and Director Hao Dong (above)
Hao Dong is an international award-winning filmmaker based in New York City. He has been accepted into more than 25 international film festivals worldwide. His films are shown in America, Asia, Europe, Africa including USA, Canada, India, Ukraine, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Russia, Serbia, Kenya, etc. Cult Critic’s Shailik Bhaumik was on hand to interview Filmmaker Hao Dong, the director of the award winning film Going the Distance. Let’s get some insight on this filmmaker’s aesthetics and some personal feelings about his narrative, his view on Human Nature and independent filmmaking in general.
Cult Critic: Hao, first of all I would like to congratulate you for the huge success of your film “Going the Distance”. It has been screened almost every part of the world and received so many awards. What actually provoked you to select the subject Long Distance Relationship?
Hao Dong: Thank you for your kind words. Long distance relationships exist pretty much everywhere around us and the amount of people who have LDRs are a lot more than people thought. Living in New York City, people are busy with everything. There are so many things to do that people want to avoid responsibility of having a significant other because love requires a lot of effort and commitment. I find it interesting that most of my friends who are in LDRs commit to their relationships much more than non LDR couples. Despite the difficulties, many of them are still dating and some even got married. Such feel-good true stories are definitely worth telling. It reveals true love and pure human relationships in such a complicated city. I hope their stories could be heard.
Q: What do you think what are the merits and risks of long distance relationship?
A: Without seeing and physically being with your partner, sometimes lots of trouble happen. Your time zone is different from the other. Every day you have a lot of exciting or sad moments that you want to share with your partner, but he/she is sleep. After your partner gets up, you are not in that mood any more. Sometime, an attractive person shows up by your side, and any quarrel with your partner make you wonder whether you need to consider another person to be your soul mate. On the other hand, all of those risks and troubles make the precious relationship much stronger. What you guys go through it, nothing can stop you two in the future. At that time, you will be thankful for that tough time.
Q: In today’s world young generation is being engaged more and more in virtual relationship like Voice message, video calling etc. rather than practically meeting someone or spending times with someone. What do you think, how important is the physical presence to continue a relationship?
A: Like I mentioned above, I think the bigger and fancier the city is, the more distracted and unstable the relationships might become. Sometimes the other half is kind of a habit – you are afraid of missing the one you talk with everyday instead of losing true love. I would say physical presence is important. We are human beings and we do need physical touch, hugging, holding hands, etc. But virtual relationship is necessary as well when the two don’t have the chance to be physically together. As long as the virtual relationship is temporary and you two know when and where you guys need to go, it’s ok.
Q: Your film has been screened in so many international film festivals and it has bagged so many awards. What do you think is the strength of your film?
A: I think the theme might be the important reason? LDR is not a new topic, but because of that, people take it for granted. When you want to see and search these kinds of topics, very few films you could see. I like to dig out unnoticed but worthwhile stories. I think LDR is unnoticed. A great number of people don’t support LDR, but you could see how real and touching the couples are in my film. People might never think about LDR, but I noticed it, and made a film. Then you get a chance to see what if…, what if… In the final analysis, people are curious about others’ private lives especially when it comes to LOVE!! hahahaha.
Q: Cinematography in your documentary “Going the Distance” is amazing. You have captured the New York City excellently. Have you operated the camera yourself?
A: Thank you for your compliments. I appreciate it. Yes, I did. Many a time, before I make a film, how to frame a shot, scheme lighting, design camera movements, etc. are the key factors I need to think many times. I know what I want to capture especially with some challenging camera movements. I’m very fond of experimenting with new creative approaches to present visuals.
From “Going the Distance”
Q: The music of ‘Going the distance” is excellent. It creates an amazing romantic mood. What do you think, how important is the BGM for a documentary?
A: Because of my 10 years’ music background, I consider music is a very important tool to upgrade visuals. I have a kind of musical family. My father used to play violin and erhu; my uncle played dulcimer and timpani; my cousin is the first violinist in my hometown, etc. From a young age, I had a very solid music theory background. Beats, rhythm, tempo, tone and so on are crucial to me.
Q: The duration of your documentary “Going the Distance” is 30 minutes and I think it has got a captivating power to draw the attention of audience. What are the important parameters of storytelling?
A: The direction where I want to go is important. The rest is sticking to it and go for it. As the director of this film, I was pretty sure how I want to present the film. I enjoy spending couple months with talents to deeply dig out their stories, scouting location to make sure how the angle of the sun affects exposure, discussing with my team to best arrange shooting schedule and all that stuff.
Q: What is your next project?
A: Actually there are two projects I’m planning to do: Alzheimer and Sexual life of disabled people.
Q: What do you think in which direction film industry of New York is moving and what is the future of Independent film in NY market?
A: I think it might be more international collaboration. For independent filmmaker, it is tougher now as filmmaking is no longer “mystery” that much. In other words, ordinary people have a lot of access to filmmaking as well. On the other hand, resources sharing and technology will push the overall market to a new level. Filmmaking is not inaccessible as in the old days. It’s still tough, but independent filmmaker might spend less money than before to make a high quality film.
Q: What are the challenges that you have faced while making and releasing this film?
A: Finding the talents was a challenge. Since I needed both cross-national and long distance couples, I spent a lot of time in order to find proper talents and getting to know their stories deeply.
Q: What is the most important quality a filmmaker needs to accomplish his or her work?
A: In my point of view, sense of social responsibility is a very important quality that any filmmaker should possess. Visuals are powerful tool to reveal social issues directly or indirectly. We need to take advantage of filmmaking to raise, highlight, or even solve some social issues. Once again, pay attention to unnoticed but worth telling stories.
Cult Critic: One more question please if you would, before we say good-bye: What message would you impart to young filmmakers?
Hao Dong: Oh man! Please! If you get any chance to shift to computer science, finance, banking, etc. please do it and don’t involve in any filmmaking! I’m kidding, but that’s the reality. Filmmaking is never easy. From pre-production, production, post-production to distribution, there’s so much things to do, not to mention when you physically in the process of making a film. Nevertheless, all of those difficulties and obstacles make a film so precious! When the going gets tough the tough get going! Keep going!
Shailik Bhaumik is an award-winning filmmaker and entrepreneur. Known for his feature film “Dasein”, Shailik is the founder and Chairman of Human Lab Corporation, a Multinational Film Company whose mission it is to help Independent Filmmakers survive and thrive in this highly competitive industry. Shailik oversees worldwide operations including production, distribution, and marketing for HLC’s live-action films, as well as films released under the HLC banner.