With the proliferation of Chinese and American coproductions taking place across the U.S. film industry, the need for talented individuals within the industry who understand both cultures and languages is also on the rise.
Chinese directors such as Academy Award winner Ang Lee (“Life of Pi”), Zhang Yimou (“The Great Wall,” “House of Flying Daggers”), John Woo (“Face/Off”) and many more have all made a huge impact in Hollywood; but it is often said that a director is only as a good as his or her team. One of the most critical figures in that team, one that can make or break the flow of the story, is undoubtedly the film’s editor. Chinese film editor Fei Zheng is one of those brilliant creatives who is being tapped by film productions across Hollywood to what she does best-- assemble an incredible story.
Zheng was the editor on several of Chinese director Yuxin Zhang’s recent multi-award winning films, such as “Red,” “She” and Broken.”
“Fei Zheng is one of the most uniquely talented editors I’ve met. She knows how to use her editing and color correction skills to help the director create a better story on film, and she can quickly solve practically any problem through editing,” says Director Yuxin Zhang, the founder of Outside Studio.
“Her Chinese background allows her to easily understand stories developed by Chinese filmmakers, as well as communicate with a Chinese crew. Beyond this, her knowledge of the filmmaking process in the U.S. has been a huge asset because she is able to create a bridge between the American and Chinese film crews and ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to the developing story.” ?She said looks good!:))
Despite the demand for expert Chinese film editors like Fei Zheng in Hollywood, making the transition from China to Hollywood is no easy task. For those who do aspire to make that transition though, taking a closer look at how Zheng got to where she is today is an excellent place to start.
Originally from Hangzhou, China, Fei Zheng was led into the world of digital media at a young age by her father who was a professor of computer studies at Hangzhou Dianzi University. In the early ‘90s when few Chinese families had access to computers, Zheng was one of the lucky ones who did, and she dove in full force.
“When a Win 98 arrived at my house, this mysterious machine amazed me by what it was capable of doing. Upon graduation from high school, I could already use Adobe Photoshop to retouch photos and Dreamweaver to make website,” explains Zheng.
While she quickly became an expert in using digital software, a necessity for any successful film editor, it was Zheng’s early experiences going to the cinema with her family back home in China that really put her on the path to creating a career for herself in film.
Zheng notes the work of directors James Cameron and Ang Lee, and their films “Titanic,” “Avatar,” “Brokeback Mountain” and “Life of Pi” as having a highly influential impact on the her career.
“After I watched their films, I became very interested in the motion picture and television industry,” explains Zheng. “The emotion of the stories, the way the pacing and arrangements perfectly propel the plots in their films and the clear and vivid features of the characters inspired me to try different editing strategies to create the emotion in my own films.”
Driven to turn her passion for using film editing as a storytelling method into a reality, Fei Zheng obtained her undergraduate degree in digital media arts from Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China. She immediately landed a job as an editor and director at Maya Village Culture Communications Company where she was the lead editor on the popular series “Ye You Shen” and “Xiao Yaer,” which aired on Hangzhou Television.
After rising to the top as a leading editor in China, it was time for Zheng to take things a step further. She moved to the U.S. where she completed her MFA in Motion Pictures and Television Editing from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, CA.
Since moving to the U.S. several years ago, Fei Zheng has carved out a prominent position for herself in the film industry as an editor who easily turns hundreds of hours of footage into a seamless narrative story.
Last year Fei Zheng was the lead editor on Yuxin Zhang’s heart-wrenching romantic drama film “Red.” The film revolves around Moyan (played by Shaowei Zhang), a Chinese immigrant who unexpectedly encounters his long lost love 14 years later in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
The film was recognized by film festivals across the country, being chosen as an Official Selection to screen at the Sun and Sand Festival in Biloxi, Mississippi, the LA Spotlight Film Festival where it was nominated for an award, the Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles and more. “Red” was also specially selected to screen during the SFAI Showcase in San Francisco, CA and the Annual NewFilmmakers New York event at the Anthology Film Archives theatre in Manhattan, NY.
One of the elements of Zheng’s craft that makes her such a rare and artistically superior editor is her command over color correction. Since we often don’t realize that there has been a massive correction undertaking while watching the footage play out onscreen, it’s easy to miss-- but when we know what to look for, it’s easy to see how Zheng’s skill set the initial mood in “Red.”
As the film opens up on a San Francisco trolley in the main frame with the hustle and bustle of the passengers and passersby, the overall color of the image brings a sense of nostalgia, as if it were a series of polaroids from the past playing out on the screen. The device Zheng employs through her editing and color correction in this instance is subtle, but it undeniably sets the tone for the heartache and melancholia the main characters Moyan and Roushi feel towards one another; how they feel towards their past together.
Through her artistry as an editor, Fei Zheng effectively gives us deepening insight into the characters within the film. When Moyan sees Ruoshui (played by Wei Jung Tsai) in the streets, the tension and heartache from both characters is palpable, with the near pauses on the frames letting us see into the characters’ innermost feelings.
“I enjoyed creating the mood for this movie. The film ‘In The Mood For Love’ by Kar-Wai Wong was one of my main influences when editing this movie... I also enjoyed doing the color correction for the film. After I put the color and music together, it became a work of art,” explains Zheng about her work on the film “Red.”
From editing television series back home in China, to powerful narrative films in the U.S. Fei Zheng has clearly proven herself to be one diversely talented film editor who is in hot demand on an international scale.
Up next for Zheng in terms of editing is the upcoming series “We fall in love in New York,” which is being produced by Mango Television Culture Co., Ltd, the music-centered series “The Brightest Star In The Night Sky” directed by Zhou Lin Hao, and “The Decoding Game” from executive producer Han Sanping (“Mission Impossible: III,” “The Karate Kid,” “The Warlords”).