Xi Ren -“I always believe films and media are ways to gain empathy for people who don’t have a voice…”

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Exclusive Interview with Xi Ren – Writer, director

Xi Ren was born and raised in Beijing, China, in 1995 and has pursued education in English as a second language in the USA since she was 15. She is a hard-working and talented writer rooted in her unique and challenging life experience.

Making short films and writing screenplays have been essential to Xi Ren’s life. She has been writing since she was a little girl. It all started with her young obsession with the book series, “Goosebumps,” which inspired her to write her own story in elementary school. It was total luck and destiny that she pursued this interest as a career and a life. Her high school had a film class that allowed her to make short films, and two of her works were shown in the two school talent shows.

College was a place that taught Xi more than directing and screenwriting, and she used most of her time to help other filmmakers with their sets. She participated in filming projects as a directing assistant, set designer, sound mixer, script supervisor, and stage manager. For school, She wrote and directed multiple short films. Those experiences made her responsible and passionate about film.

At graduate school, Xi could express her views and messages through screenplays. She wrote pretty much every day, and loved spreading awareness and love through the stories and characters she molded. A belief is engraved in her brain that a film should not be a voice solely of one but should be about other people who do not have a voice. Many misconceptions and injustices lack attention and, more importantly, change. She wrote about things that are political and sensitive topics, and Xi will not stop no matter what.

Recently, within less than a year before and after graduating from graduate school, from March 2023 to January 2024, Xi Ren won 8 major awards for 4 screenplays at several internationally renowned film festivals:Assassination of President Duke – ①International Screenwriting Competition, Winner for Best Feature Script, January 2024. ②Los Angeles Film Awards, Winner for Best Thriller Screenplay, December 2023. ③International Film & Script Festival New Lotus, Winner for Best Historical Script, January 2024. ④Toronto International Women Film Festival, Nominee for Best Unproduced Script, January 2024. 2020 – ⑤New York International Film Awards, Grand Jury Award for Best Pilot Script, May 2023. ⑥International Film & Script Festival New Lotus, Winner for Best Pilot Script, January 2024. David Duke and the AAA – ⑦Beyond the Curve International Film Festival, Winner for Best Pilot Script, December 2023. Stranger Things: The Wise, the Loner, and the Monster – ⑧Urban Mediamakers Film Festival, 2nd Place Winner for Best Spec Script, October 2023.

It is clear that she has outstanding ability in screenwriting, and her screenplays and awards are a testament to that.

NY Glam: What projects are you currently working on?

I’m writing a feature script. The working title is Superhuman. It is an action and suspense movie and will be finished in a week. Superhuman is one of my most exciting works because it has many twists and turns. It’s a plane hijack story that includes a lot of interesting, complicated, and suspicious characters, and the viewers have to guess who the perpetrator is and their motive. Once it’s finished, I will also submit it to film festivals, hoping for more significant wins.

NY Glam: Can you tell us about your approach to crafting compelling characters in your screenwriting?

Characters and their development are the most essential part of a script. If the characters are not three-dimensional, the script won’t be vivid. When I develop the characters, I always write down a character sheet including those questions: Who do my characters love? What do my characters hate? What do my characters want? What are my characters most afraid of? What do my characters regret the most? What troubles my characters? What would make my characters willing to do anything? All those questions help me to write real, down-to-earth, logical, and believable characters. I use much time to craft the plot and roles before I start writing a script, which is a perfect way to avoid plot holes and contradictions and create a unique world. The last strategy for screenwriting is to be objective and meticulous about every plot and ensure there are no logic bumps.

NY Glam: What elements do you prioritize when developing the storyline for your short films?

As the two key elements driving the development of the plot, conflict and suspense are often intertwined and influenced by each other, together constructing an engaging story. Overall, conflict is to the story what an engine is to a car, responsible for driving the plot. Suspense is the product of conflict and the secret to building the story. I use conflict and suspense as the dual concepts that provide meanings and specials to the story, immersing readers or viewers who expect what happens next in my script.

NY Glam: As a screenwriter and filmmaker, how do you balance between creative vision and practical constraints?

There are a lot of practical constraints, such as Hollywood formatting and structure, but nothing can limit one’s imagination or creativity. Instead of letting it restrain me, I follow the rules of what a good script should be and make my script clearer and easier to read formatting and structure-wise, and I build my creative vision on top of them, so both aspects benefit me and improve my writing.

NY Glam: What inspired you to pursue screenwriting and filmmaking?

I have been writing since I was a little girl. It all started with my young obsession with the book series, “Goosebumps,” which inspired me to write my own story in elementary school. It was total luck and destiny that I pursued this interest as a career and a life. When I watched Inception in the theater, I was going to middle school. Christopher Nolan’s creativity encouraged me to write unique and important stories. As I entered my graduate studies, I gradually began writing cultural and political pieces to bring people together. I always believe films and media are ways to gain empathy for people who don’t have a voice, and my goal is to speak up for them.

NY Glam: Could you share any memorable challenges you’ve faced during the production of your short films?

It was an experience when I went to San Diego to direct a film during spring break. Before I visited there, I wrote a script and storyboard and purchased a camera and heavy equipment for filming pan and establishment shots. The film was filmed in California because the view was gorgeous and suitable for the film, and my actor friends lived there. However, the time was limited, and I only had a week, so I made a specific and tight schedule. Because the time was ticking, I rehearsed with the actors whenever we could. I was unfamiliar with the area, so I asked their parents to help me find the best and most beautiful locations to film. The result was terrific, and the actors did so well. I got a good grade and received a Best Director award at the Pepperdine University Student Film Festival.

NY Glam: How do you see the landscape of short filmmaking evolving in the coming years?

Short films will be taken more seriously. Many movie lovers want to try making or participating in them right now, and the amount of shorts will increase. The current social media trend is another form of it and has gained more and more attention and audience. It takes a lot of crafting and planning to make a good one. Short films can be just as immersive, meaningful, social, and political as feature films; more people will appreciate and learn from them.

NY Glam: Besides screenwriting, are there any other aspects of filmmaking that particularly interest you?

My dream is to direct my own movies and TV shows. Directing is very hard and complicated because it requires working with all different kinds of people from different departments. Directing was my concentration in college, and I learned a lot of skills to be a good director. I believe my dream will come true.

NY Glam: Can you highlight any upcoming collaborations or projects you’re excited about?

I’m currently writing a feature script. The working title is Don’t Make Autumn Fall. It’s a script exposing the struggle and loss of the Chinese American community. Chinese American community suffers from discrimination uniquely and quietly, and I want the audience to empathize and understand our immigration pain. There are very few movies that talk about this issue, and there are very few people who know about this issue either. Many of us lose ourselves, values, and identities when trying to fit in or blend in with American society. America is a giant melting pot, but our happiness and pride sometimes are the things that get burned. Hopefully, this script can win awards.

NY Glam: Where can audiences view your past short films and stay updated on your latest work? (Social media links/website)

https://m.imdb.com/name/nm15675166/?language=es-mx

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