Zhibin's Thesis- Part one

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Thesis Part one


Part one: My previous film projects
Chapter one: Introduction of my previous films and decisions I made between each one
I1.2| Chapter two: Evaluation of my previous works


In the first year of Piet Zwart Institute, I have been making films by learning photography, editing skill, effect design and narrative approaches etc, I made different types of film to understand the value of each aspect in filmmaking. In the second year, my plan is to strength those skills and develop a cinematic language of my own.
In this thesis, I will address one question: what steps have I taken over the past two years to make a more personal film? To answer this question I will consider films influenced my work and focus on the personal experience based topic in my works.
In the first part of my thesis, I will analyze my previous works from the narrative approach, style, motivations and the movie form, how they connected to each other and what guided me to make the graduation film. In the second part, I will talk about my interest in camera language, the metaphoric approach, the structural film, a selection of structural filmmakers, particularly, Hollis Frampton and Michael Snow and how their works affected mine. The last part will be a reflection on my works and an evaluation of my research during the graduation year.

Chapter one: Introduction of my previous films and decisions I made between each one

Project one: Air Addiction

Air Addiction is a video-based project shows the transformation of my life during the air pollution disaster from 2016 to 2017 in China. The project includes Holding Breath, Protection and Illusion. Each of them shows my attitude towards smog at different time of living on days the smog is particularly thick. Through this project, I wanted to send my voice to the public that If there is no sufficient way to govern the environment immediately, our life will be eroded by this smog and no one will be able to avoid this disaster.

The first video is called Holding Breath, it tells my panic and nervous condition after I realized the danger of inhaling the particulate matter for the first time, I have strong desire to survive, I locked myself at home and practiced holding my breath, the longer duration of holding my breath means there is bigger chance to go outside for food. The second one is named Protection, it shows how my life changed while using different kinds of protective mask. I gradually become numb and speechless because I did not see a hopeful future in this environment, I was confused about whether the mask or the smog was the shackles in my life. The last video, Illusion, describes an imaginary future. When breathing easily will be a luxury, like taking drugs. With the smog blanketing the whole country, the fresh air may create hallucination , which people may get addicted to it. Eventually we will fall asleep beside a pile of empty fresh air containers and green environment will only exist in our dreams. The three films were shot in heavy smoggy days in Hubei and Hunan provinces in China during October and November in 2016.

First of all, I started collecting material for the script, I wrote about my experience of living in different cities like Shanghai, Tianjin, Wuhan and my hometown. Then, I had interviews with people who are also living in those places, for example, the actor from the first video, Jie Ming, she lives in Beijing where is one of the most polluted cities in China, she witnessed the thick layer of brown smog rolling into Beijing and turning skyscrapers into big shadows, her description inspired me on the script writing, I invited her to be the storyteller in the film and we discussed the project together. Secondary, I decided to create the image from two angels, the image of the smog should be real and objective and the image of my reactions could be exaggerated and subjective. For example, on one side, on the cloudy day, I went to the sightseeing platform where I can see the whole city and set up the camera to record the view, I showed the real living conditions by the scenes without any added effect. On another side, I went to the food market to observe and shoot animals struggling to breathe while they were slaughtered by the butcher and I also joined the local dance group, tried to experience the difficulties of dancing with a mask on, footages from this angle will be edited in a more critical and artistic way. Last but not the least, this is my first video-based project, I learned how to shoot with different cameras, like DSLR and Phone, how to record sound and how to edit them in the software. ( evaluation: I have pushed too far on the image making, to combine the emotion I had, and it worked differently than I excepted, even too violent, or should I say too straight) In many cities across China, people are suffering from polluted air, the increasing severe lung disease patients are mostly children and elders, they are more susceptible than adults to the PM 2.5. I am depressed and angry especially when I see my own family members suffer from it as well, my initial motivation of making this project is to share my fear and get responses from the public. In my hometown, local government has restricted driving in an effort to staunch air pollution from cars and the number of coal factory under construction has tapered off. Meanwhile, the building of new coal factories was approved, the ambiguous relationship between governing environment and developing economy is very complicated. I wanted to get attention from people in charge from the government and show them how terrible the life in the future could be. Personally, I had been working as a commercial designer in the team for a long time, this is my first video-based project which is relatively honest and independent, the transformation of focusing on the commercial case to social problems proves the desire of me being a critical artist and a good filmmaker.

Short Conclusion : xxx

Decisions I made before making film INTERSECTION:

Intersection is a short film made for the union exhibition between universities in Nederland at the EYE FILM MUSEUM Amsterdam in February 2017. The theme of the exhibition is utopia/dystopia.

My motivation is to construct a perfect world where people are free of sexual desire from human body, cut off the root of sexual desire so it can end sexual violence. At the early stage of this project, the news of Sexual abuse in a kindergarten in Beijing and the sexual assault in Nederland were a big impact on this film. My interest and focus are developed from Air Addiction project , since then I have realized the importance of speaking for people I caring and giving my opinion to the government on the social event, I feel more responsible for my work and my life, this positive energy is growing, which is why I immediately respond to the sexual abuse in the graduation project.

Similar to the Air Addiction, I believed that the narration can be successfully processed without any dialogue or voice-over in the film. I trusted the image and focus on the transition between each scene. I decide to tell the story in flashback since I have no more than three minutes to open the story, so I wanted the film quickly jump to climax, get audience’s attention and describe the rest information in the end. I prefer to describe my utopia as a future world where people are no longer interested to the sexual experience of bodily contact. There is a magic fruit which brings more joy than we can ever obtain from “ traditional sex”. It is a big challenge to visualize this idea and I decided to first list out the key information from the film , for example, the magic fruit; the man comes from future; having sex without bodily contact; and the atmosphere.
To construct a mysterious atmosphere, I decided to shoot one a raining day, I wanted to emphasize the sound of rain drops, the thunder and walking steps on the wet floor.

how did I find actors and how did I driect them

Project two : Intersection

In Intersection, there is a man comes from the future, he has the power to let people enjoy the best sex without any body contact and only by eating the magic fruit created by himself, a young girl from present, who is fascinated by his charming outfit, becomes his target. The first scene: They get into a house, the girl wants to have sex with him and she takes the initiative. On the other side, the man running away. In second scene: They sit on the sofa, the magic fruit comes out of his mouth, the woman takes it and eats it, suddenly there is a horn sound in her brain, her body becomes hot and she sees a fantasy space occupied with colorful fruits, they dance and shaping into flowers and strange holes, with the power goes stronger, she feels more intense, the dancing fruit becomes faster, the rhythm gets shorter, eventually her body reaches the climax with another horn sound resounds in her mind. In last scene: they stand on two sides of a long and colorful tunnel, they run to each other, in the middle of the tunnel, they get very close but no bodily contact, their eyes are full of appreciation and love, with the slight smile on their face, we know that this new sexual approach is successfully introduced from the future to the present. First thing I did is to visualize the concept about the magic item which can bring sexual pleasure and it should be easily carried in the pocket or mouth. I came across Stephanie Sarley who is a prolific multimedia artist, she plays with the food, especially fruit and vegetables in her works, she uses humor and absurdity to boldly challenge how art and sexuality is perceived and defined. Inspired by her work, I started working on the food sex idea and did test shooting on different food. Secondary, I started looking for a space in Rotterdam and Utrecht, similar to James Turrell, he is an American artist who has worked with light and space to create artworks that engage viewers with the limits and wonder of human perception. He says "I’m interested in the sense of presence of space; that is space where you feel a presence, almost an entity — that physical feeling and power that space can give.” So an empty space with beautiful color light became the priority choice. I found few locations and did test shooting. At the early stage of script writing, the news of sexual abuse in a kindergarten in Beijing strongly affected me, it became the major reason why I want to describe a utopia world where human beings has developed a new way of having sex, as long as we do not interest in human body, the violence caused by sexual desire may disappear.

Decisions made before making film Slow in Firenze:

I decided to make my next film in a “script-free” state, I want to know how a film looks like if I only focus on camera skill, image design, cinematic color tone and transition effect, leave the script to be made on the way while I was travelling at somewhere. I pick up my camera, pack some clothes, booked one-way ticket to Italy, it was my first time traveling to this country, I want to surprise myself by seeing her beauty from the lens.

I decided to let the trip itself to tell the story, the film will be narrated with the travel timeline, compare to the Intersection, I want to put even more attention on image, it is great when I can combine my personal feeling in them, I consider they are stronger than any other language I can use in the film.

Before I decided to make a film on the trip, I was interested in a platform named Beautiful destination, they are specialized in travel theme filmmaking, the way they design the film opened a whole new area for me, they stick with the local culture meanwhile wisely add so much creativity and individual understanding in the film, for the first time I have realized that how amazing a filmmaker can define a country, a city and a small place, I was excited to tell my own story on the trip. Motivation:

On one hand, I want to focus more on personal emotion and wondering how I can visualize them in the film, instead of responding on something obviously negative or positive in our life, this project is more like dancing with my mood, give it a lot of space to taste the world where I am not familiar with, that is something I am curious and it makes me very exciting. On another hand, I want to explore the technical aspect in filmmaking, curious about how many possibilities I can create by playing with image, sound and transition effect.

Slow in Florence
Slow in Florence is a film shows my memory of Florence in the winter of 2017. Florence is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, this city is noted for its culture, art, architecture and monuments. As a place with a high level of awareness, it is not easy to break the stereotype impression of it. I am trying to show my first impression of Florence In this film. On a raining and snowing day, the temperature drops to minus 2 degrees, people are waiting to get inside of the Florence Cathedral, the fog blanket the whole town which reduces the visibility. Visitors struggle to stay dry and to sightsee, they climb to the top of the church but there is nothing to see. On the iced street, People walk very carefully. It feels extremely quiet and cold. Some people say the atmosphere and the view in this film remind them the Florence during the Second World War. There are two kinds of fire in the film, one is from the oven and another is from the paint painter, they provide a little contrast to the coldness and wetness of the film overall. I went to Italy alone and booked the tickets the day before leaving, I did not decide the length of this trip and did not check the weather, the sight spot and the hotel. The reason why being unprepared is for the fresh memory I can receive from this trip. I try to capture the moment which I think is private. The sound of this film is specially designed. From the raindrops to human footsteps are all generated on the computer, I highlighted these sound based on religious music as the background. Meanwhile, I designed some dramatic transition sound on the connecting frame between two scenes. The image is rendered to a cinematic style which has a high contrast effect on objects and a gloomy atmosphere. The sequence of the film is arranged by the travel schedule. I want to guide people into a nervous atmosphere and an uncertain situation which perfectly pictures my memory of Florence. I lack good narrative approach in filmmaking, so I want to make up with good images. The reason why I went to Italy to do this experiment is the curiosity about few questions I came across: what is the power of image? how to visualize my personal feeling? how to make people feel what I felt without saying a word? I put a lot of effort in this film, especially the rendering, sound design, effect design and sequences, the well-designed details in the film are made for personal reasons, they contain my comprehension for this trip, in the film a suddenly transition or an enhanced sound are definitely hiding some important information.

Decisions I made before making film Walk slowly

Walk slowly is an experimental film based on the feedback from tutors of PZI in the second assessment, they pointed out the necessity of me focusing on the narrative approach, story structure and clarify the main purpose of the film I want to make.

After a journey of making “cool” films, I decided to slow down and focus on the story-telling, especially with more personal experience involved and more honest expression in it.

Project four: walk slowly
It is a short film shows the mountain view in a heavy foggy day, with the low visibility, everything looks extremely mysterious and beautiful, my family and I are walking in the mountain. However, the truth behind this peaceful scene is the terribly polluted air and a worried normal family. I ask my mother to walk slowly to avoid too much-polluted oxygen to be inhaled, somehow it reminds me her concerned words of walking carefully when I need to go to school alone. A sweet reminder changed into a strict order because the reason behind It transformed dramatically. This is an experimental film of using the metaphoric narrative approach, from a personal life’s angle to point out a bigger phenomenon. The script is developed from the conversations from my mother and I from two different periods. I read the script with the native language and used the sound as the voice-over. The image of this film comes from the previous project, The Air Addiction, I picked up few scenes and edited them in slow motion. This film is a sub-project of The Air Addiction, it responds to the feedback from the tutors of PZI about the narrative approach and focus point of The Air Addiction. Instead of spoil the audience by giving them the result of the story, I could try to leave more space for them to imagine, meanwhile with the beautiful image I have and the first impression it may give to people, I can take a good use of that and design a really strong reverse point, hide the truth in it. It is a good parabolic way to learn to.

Decisions I made before making film After living in Holland for one year




After living in Holland for one year

It is a short film shows my impression of one year living in the Nederlands. As the main role in the film, I set the camera on the first person perspective, I sit on the stairs and look at the view from the small windows on the door, I have a long cable in my hand, which connect to the locker of the door, I pull the cable carefully, feeling nervous but also excited to open the door. After a few tries, the door opened, I walk to the door and hide behind it, observing the view on the street. Later on, I closed the door and go back to where I was sitting, have the cable in my hand again and made one more pull in the end. The film accompanied by my voice-over, reading a simple self-introduction in Dutch, the fluence of speed and pronunciation of reading is getting better after few times repeating.

This film shows my anxious and curiosity while studying and living in this country for a year, I did not know the position of myself in this society. when in Rome, do as the Romans do, so I tried to live like a local.