Yao Chen: An actress's "self-help"
During his days in Cannes, Yao Chen recorded his daily life on Weibo, visiting the morning market, watching movies, and taking photos of a pigeon stopping by the sea.
This time to Cannes, Yao Chen's identity is the producer of the film "Umbilical Cord", which was selected as a film in the "China Youth Film Promotion Program" sponsored by the China Film Foundation-Wu Tianming Youth Film Special Fund, and was screened during the Cannes International Film Festival.
The first time Poison Eye met Yao Chen in Cannes was at the Chinese Youth Film Night. This trip to Cannes is precious to Yao Chen, as a promoter of young directors' film works, she cherishes every opportunity to speak on behalf of Chinese filmmakers in Cannes. Until arriving at the venue, Yao Chen was still on the road refining her speech, considering what she wanted to express.
After the second day's "More Possibilities for Women Filmmakers" forum, we sat in the China Pavilion at the Cannes International Pavilion and chatted. The venue was improvised and soundproofed, with the sound of people and traffic coming from time to time, and the content of the conversation was not expected – more like a rambling, an unplanned clash of souls than a search for some answer.
Yao Chen shared with us her confusion and struggle as an actress, the process of starting again with new goals and expectations after becoming a mother of two children, and the new insights generated in her new role as an executive producer.
After the chat, Yao Chen set off non-stop to her next trip. Passing by the seaside square, she stopped and played with the pigeons in the square. The wind in Cannes is free, and the same is true of Yao Chen in Cannes.
The following is a transcript of the conversation:
From front of the stage to behind the scenes
Poison Eyes: From actor to producer, how did this transition happen?
Yao Chen: Every time I am asked this question, I will answer it very honestly, it is from an actress's "self-help". Because I had just had my second child, you could feel the so-called professional marginalization.
Although I will have a lot of scripts to choose from, because my life stage has changed, so has the thinking thing. When I felt that I had finally reached this point in my life, and finally had the ability to interpret some deeper and more interesting characters, and could do more in-depth exploration, I found that there was no such thing as ever. There is a shortage of scripts written for women my age.
"The History of Three Noble Loves"
In fact, when I look at the scripts of young male directors now, they often write about the roles of adult women, probably from their feelings about their mothers. Interestingly, the mother characters in their scripts are more painful, bitter and paranoid. I feel like it's full of incomprehension, even ignorance. So the female images they write are relatively single, which makes me quite confused.
It is useless to complain, expressing my feelings in the right place is certainly the right thing to do, but more important is how to do it. At that time, I thought, the industry is difficult to change, but I have to save myself first, so I formed "Bad Rabbit". Of course, I'm not without filming, but I still want to find myself some characters that are at the same frequency as my own heart.
The first film I produced was "Send Me to Qingyun", and that project was brought to me by our producer Don River at that time, and it was quickly decided. It was the first time for me and Don to try to participate in the production, and we were doing it with a black eye, with a lot of inexperience, but we tried our best. Until now, we still talk about "Qingyun" every time we have the opportunity, and everyone fights together like comrades-in-arms, which is a very unforgettable creative process.
"Send Me to Qingyun"
Poison Eyes: It's also an important and memorable experience for viewers, especially for female audiences.
Yao Chen: The entire production process of "Qingyun" also made me more deeply aware that creation is a process of completing the work as a whole, and this whole is not just the "work" part, from the early decision-making, screenwriting work, to the later editing, color grading, special effects, and then to publicity and distribution, it should be a whole.
I even think that there is a blank space in the movie, which is reserved for the audience. When it is shown in the cinema, the audience's reaction is the last piece of the puzzle of the movie, and this is when a movie is really completed, which is a particularly magical feeling that the work "Qingyun" brings me.
I used to say that "a work is the crystallization of collective intelligence", but it was not until after "Qingyun" that I realized how big this "collective" is.
Poison Eyes: So the life experience of giving birth to a second child is very different from being a mother for the first time?
Yao Chen: Sometimes I am not very willing to completely link children to my career, if my career starts to encounter some bottlenecks, I think it is the reason for having children, it is unfair to them, because they also give me a lot of new life experience, this is undeniable.
But the "damage" caused by fertility to women's physiology is also real. When I gave birth to a child, it was actually okay, and at that time, I could take care of all aspects of energy and physical strength. But when I quickly had my second child, the physical and psychological stress became greater.
I remember that after I gave birth to my second child, the employees of my studio, except for my agent, left. Of course, we still interact in the circle of friends, and I still feel very close to me occasionally. I fully understand them, they are all young people, they also need to grow, develop their careers, and need to experience the happiness that their profession brings them, but maybe in a "female artist who is always giving birth to children", even if there are feelings, it is inevitable to waver.
Then we rented a two-story building and decided to go all out. I was impressed that day, the sun was shining, there were still greenery outside, the sunlight shining through the greenery into the small room, and a few of us stood in the empty little building - everything was ready, only labor.
Poison Eyes: It must be to make you have a new experience, so you have to change the comfortable environment at the moment.
Yao Chen: Now I'm afraid that someone will ask, why hasn't this character in this script grown? I tell them every time that not everyone needs to grow. Characters need to change, but it doesn't mean everyone has to grow. Growth means some kind of compulsory, so-called change, what is good? Who defines it?
Now I am more honest and considerate of myself in my art. Therefore, the previous set of standards for the growth of characters at every turn has also been abandoned by me.
A believer in the performing arts
Poison Eyes: You seem to be very good at using the environment, weather, and scene of a given day to mark an important event. At that time, in "Thirteen Invitations", you also described your experience of going to the refugee camp to Xu Zhiyuan, which seems to be a way for you to mark the incident.
Yao Chen: It may also have something to do with my profession, and I will record these pictures in my head. I've been wondering for the past two years, what is the meaning of being alive? The meaning of living is to perceive, to perceive all this, good and bad, painful joy, sad and confused, all need to be perceived. The moment we leave this world, only some pictures of life flash in our minds, but in fact, nothing can be taken away. So these images are all imprinted in my mind like movie pictures.
Poison Eyes: Just now on the women's forum, you mentioned that many men don't actually care about a woman's spiritual world, but only about her physical changes.
Yao Chen: I don't mean to be sexist, and I respect very good men. But I have to admit that in my industry alone, there are indeed many cases where men and women in film and television are not equal enough. This lack of equality is a moment when your psychology is often unbalanced.
Women's Forum site
Change is not something that happens overnight, but a very long process. Now all our expressions are for those behind us, who don't have to go through all this, they can solve new problems. In fact, we are just a brick, everyone puts a brick, and the road can be paved all the way.
Poison Eyes: What is the way you found to "pad that brick" at this juncture?
Yao Chen: This question is also my own thought, and every time I return to the origin of my own heart. This is also what I talked to Xu Zhiyuan, on the first day I went to the Beijing Film Academy, after arriving at the dormitory, the classmates were talking about what their dreams were. I said softly that my dream is to be a great actor.
I remember that when I said this, I was also ridiculed by Xu Zhiyuan, and he smiled very contemptuously. Then he explained his reason, and I understood, and I am here to explain my reason.
In fact, in the professional field of actor, I have thought about giving up countless times. When I first entered film school, I liked this profession, and I found it easy to put the word love on my lips at that time, "I love my profession, I love acting." ”
"The Legend of Martial Arts"
But you find that you don't really love it at that time, because you can easily want to give up. Being an actor does suffer from a lot of lonely, painful moments that others can't see, and those moments will force you to doubt yourself.
I suspected that I might not have talent, and I may have chosen the wrong line again... Every once in a while, it comes and is constantly self-doubting and struggling. But there will be some small affirmations that support me to go a little further, and in the process of this iteration, I find myself unknowingly walking for more than twenty years.
I am 43 years old. When I found out that I had spent more than twenty years studying acting, I was qualified to say that I really love this profession and that I would spend decades on it.
I still have a lot of moments of vulnerability and fear, but I still want to move forward on this path. I still argue with my friends around me, saying that "acting is an art, acting is not what you think", because acting is the easiest to discuss, so many people also think that it is the least technical.
"Performance is an art, the threshold of performance is far higher than you think, not what everyone thinks will cry, will laugh, look beautiful, can say the words clearly, it is called performance." ——I still argue with people like this, just like a believer in the performing arts, I am still very religious about acting.
Poison Eyes: How do you re-establish your belief in performance in the process of repeatedly falling into self-doubt?
Yao Chen: I don't film much. After 20 years in the industry, there are only 8 starring TV series, and there are not many movies, which may be normal for many people in 8 years and 20. I can count for you, "The Legend of Martial Arts", "Lurking", "All Very Good", "Rock Crazy Flower", that's all.
Poison Eyes: I always feel like you shot a lot.
Yao Chen: You know all these plays. Some people also say that they think I am very good at choosing dramas, in fact, because I shoot less, I choose my next role according to my changes during this time.
Moments of self-doubt arise as I wait and change. You made a play, it was successful, everyone will want you to hurry up and take the next one, you should start quickly, don't wait all the time. I still hear that. Even if your play has already made others see another possibility of you, everyone will still hope that you will not wait and cannot be idle.
But now that sound doesn't affect me very much. Now it's more questionable what else will happen to me? Will I still change? The unknown is often exciting, at least exciting, but I also have fear. This state of affairs has always been paradoxically present in my life.
I also know that I have to keep creating, but I don't seem to be able to appear around me all the time, and I still can't shoot one after another, one after another.
Poison Eyes: After a successful play, many people will urge you to quickly move on to the next one. It seems that if not soon, it is a lying flat state. How can we maintain inner stability in the face of these voices around us?
"Rock 'n' Roll Flower"
Yao Chen: I think it's to listen to your own heart, this is very tacky, but it is true, you have to hear the voice in your own heart, that is very important. Everything you do against your instincts will eventually make you regret it.
We were taught to be honest children from a young age, and when I became an actor, I found that honesty is really very important, even the most critical. Because man is the best animal in the animal kingdom to deceive itself, why should anyone see a psychologist? People always feel shoulder pain, cervical pain, and sometimes it may be emotional problems.
The most common problem of modern people is that we overuse our brains without care. Smart people are really all over the place, but who is smarter than whom? It's nothing more than who reacts faster and who is slower. But there are very few people who do things with their hearts, and everyone is no longer used to doing things with their hearts.
The sound of rain in Cannes
Poison Eyes: From the perspective of industrial media, the Wu Tianming Foundation's promotion of Chinese young filmmakers this time is very meaningful, so from your point of view, what do you hope to do in the process of young filmmakers going international?
Yao Chen: I think what the foundation did was really a good act for the film. Because of the epidemic in the past three years, everyone has not come out for too long, although we can still understand the world through the Internet, but we have not really sat down and communicated face-to-face with film practitioners in other countries. This kind of communication is precious because it has emotional flow and emotional collision.
This time I came here with several films of different styles, also hoping to let everyone know more about China's young filmmakers. Because when we don't understand, everyone will definitely guess each other, but in fact, we are always changing and moving forward. It is a process that deepens mutual understanding, and understanding leads to understanding.
Poison Eyes: "The Umbilical Cord" was screened in Cannes and received good feedback. How was it like coming to Cannes?
Yao Chen: In fact, when we first decided to make the film "Umbilical Cord", we didn't realize that the epidemic would have such a big impact on our lives. Later, the epidemic separated us in different places, and there were many changes that made people unable to see the future. At that time, I was actually very scared and confused, and even had plans to abandon this project in the middle, and I didn't know what the point of doing this was.
Later, we saw that during the epidemic, many people around us had similar feelings, and at that time suddenly realized that this film has the value of shooting, maybe it can soothe more hearts, so we continued to promote this project.
When shooting, we stood on the prairie, where the wind, there the clouds, there the moon, there the lake... Nature gives us strength. At that time, we almost wanted what the weather was, if there was divine help. We didn't have a single special effects shot, it was all real shots, and these forces in turn made me realize the smallness of life.
Later, we also saw the feedback from many audiences who had seen the movie, which was very simple. I cried in the cinema, but after I came out, my heart was warm, very healing, and I also released the emotions I had suppressed for a long time; In the same way, we are also using creation to resist some force majeure of reality, and we also want our hearts not to be destroyed by pain and numbness, and not to sink into it.
These things are covered in the movie "The Umbilical Cord". Many films that come to Cannes this time are also like this, carrying the perception and imagination of these young creators in the past few years, so we must come out and go to the holy place of this film to communicate with these people who can be at the same frequency.
"The Umbilical Cord"
Poison Eyes: If you were to look back much later, what would be one of the scenes you left with from this trip to Cannes?
Yao Chen: After I arrived on my first day, I slept for seven hours, and I woke up at two o'clock in the morning, everyone else was still sleeping, and I woke up alone. I sat on the couch in the small apartment we rented, we lived in the attic, the roof was angled, the rain crackled on the roof, hit the windows.
I haven't heard such a dense rain in a long time, and I think it's wonderful. At that moment, I hope none of them wake up, just let me enjoy this moment alone. That sense of happiness is so cherished because I haven't experienced such a peaceful moment in a long time. When I was a child, Fujian often had such a continuous rain, constantly hitting the windows, and it was difficult to hear the sound of rain in the north.
Actually, I think that moment was a lot like when we walked into a movie theater. The moment you walk into a dream you love, you feel safe, a feeling that is private and cannot be shared by anyone.