Exclusive interview with Solax Zhu – Filmmaker
Solax is an independent filmmaker based in Beijing. He graduated from USC film school in 2016, spent a year in LA, and then came back to China for he found out that his motherland has the richest earth for his expression. His short films got into several film festivals both domestic and international. Except for fictions, he also directs commercials, music videos and documentaries.
His feature script The Sky Is Blue As An Orange got into 22nd Shanghai International Film Festival Script Competition. Due to the pandemic (the story happens in LA), he puts it on hold. Now he is preparing his second feature story Good times.
He likes working out and cooking, which are his secrets of meditation.
- NY Glam: How long have you been making films and videos?
After graduating collage in 2016, I have been wandering in the industry since. I went back to China in 2017, working in a production company for a while then came out and freelancing.
- NY Glam: What film was your directorial debut?
Technically speaking, it would be a short film made in my Junior year for a production class called Medium Rare. It’s a story about an elder sister seeking revenge in her younger sister when she came back to the house after a long break.
- NY Glam: What is your recent film about?
Happy Hour Karaoke tells a story of a young kid spending Chinese New Year in his father’s Karaoke. He fell in love with a hostess girl Fang Fang and spent a subjectively romantic time with her. Then he found out the secret affair between his father and her.
- NY Glam: How did you go about casting for the film?
The casting process went on for a week or two and we received lots of resumes from different individuals and agencies. I casted the kid online since he lived in another city. He behaved quite mature, telling his mother “don’t mind my business” when she tried to tell him what to say in front of the cam. It caught my eye immediately.
- NY Glam: What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?
During college, I’ve never tried to come close to my private feelings and memories. Before this short film, I had tried different genres of story, but I always tried to be rational. After I went back to China, things went here and there, I finally decided to write a feature based on my memories back in collage. I felt like walking on the edge of a cliff, but when I completed the whole script, the satisfaction was very real. I started to force myself to walk closer to what’s really inside of me. Happy Hour Karaoke was based on my childhood memories. I was a shy and introverted boy, and kept being thrown to an environment filled with lust, wasted people and occasional violence. I still couldn’t figure out how much that experience had shaped me, but I know it’s worth telling.
- NY Glam: Tell us a bit about the other films you’ve made and your other projects.
Actually, I made a very low-budget (about 100 bucks) short film just before this one. It’s called The Jokes of Sisyphus. It’s about a frustrated writer trying to create a killer character in his novel, but never made it because he is trapped in his mediocre, repetitive life. The killer becomes real and makes a decision for him. It was a really small crew (me, three actors), which was totally different from my other production experience. The scale gave me much time to try different things, and the result wasn’t bad. I’ve also made a commercial for Volvo, and some other commercials/music videos.
- NY Glam: What role have film festivals played in your life so far?
I remember back in sophomore year, Medium Rare got into a small film festival in California. It was my first film festival experience. Me and the producer Patrick wore our suits, drove an hour to a small theater with an unnoticeable entrance. It had a red carpet about 15 feet long. I walked very slowly on that carpet, thinking, “Oh, maybe I could really become a filmmaker”. Though I know real world is tough and cruel, and that festival won’t really take me anywhere, the 15-feet red carpet still warms me up (maybe just a little bit) and reminds me that perhaps, I still have a small chance to really make films and survive in the industry.
- NY Glam: Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?
I’m still struggling on the “get started” phase so definitely it was harder for me currently. Anxiety often attacks me because you never know when you will really be seen, yet time doesn’t awaits you. Also I have to learn how to sell myself in the market while balancing the passion to write and create. I hate selling myself (and really bad at). Living in mainland China also puts me in dillema because many rich stories are happening, but few can be told due to environmental and political reasons. So finding a hidden voice and learning to tell it in an obscure way will be my third lesson.
- NY Glam: How has your style evolved?
It was a very hard question for me. I think I’m still on the way of discovering my style and I try not to analyze myself too much. So my short film, to some extent, represents my style. I might tell my feature story in a colder, more objective way (if I have chance to make it).
- NY Glam: What has been your personal key to success?
I don’t think I have a strong relationship with the word success, yet. I know being honest is the key to start writing and creating. Success is something uncertain.
- NY Glam: What are you thinking about doing next?
I’m preparing my feature film. It’s also a karaoke story but focus more on a family instead of a little kid. Wild Life by Paul Dano is a good reference.
- NY Glam: Where does your studio want to go from here?
I’m working as a freelance director now. I do want my short film to be more exposed and see if anyone likes it. My feature film Good times (as mentioned upon) is currently looking for possible investments and funds. I would also like to find out if there’s any chance to sell the project.