Chloé Zhao was raised in Beijing and England and is currently a MFA thesis student at New York University’s graduate film program. She was selected as a fellow at the 2012 Sundance Directors and Screenwriters Lab, as well as the 2011 Film Independent Screenwriters Lab with her first feature “Songs My Brothers Taught Me.” (Adrienne Shelly Foundation)
W&H: Please give us your description of the film playing
CZ: A complex portrait of modern-day life on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation explores the bond between a brother and his younger sister who find themselves on separate paths to rediscovering the meaning of home.
W&H: What drew you to this story?
CZ: I wanted to understand what Pine Ridge means to its residents and the complex relationship they have with their homes.
W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?
CZ: The biggest creative challenge was in the editing room. I didn’t have a script — only an outline. 100 hours of footage. There was a lot of rewriting and rediscovering in the editing room.
W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theatre?
CZ: I want people to feel that they’ve gotten to know the people in the film a little bit, gotten to see Pine Ridge in ways they haven’t seen before. I think that’s a good start.
W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?
CZ: It’s important to make time for yourself.
W&H: What’s the biggest misconception about you and your work?
CZ: This is my first feature, so I guess I will find out soon.
W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.
CZ: We got our money from everywhere we could — grants, crowdsource and private equity. We made the film fairly cheaply. At the end of the day, it was the overwhelming amount of community support that made it possible.
W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.
CZ: “Meek’s Cutoff” by Kelly Reichardt. It’s beautifully shot. It’s a complex story. The filmmaker gave a very patient and feminine touch to a story that takes place during a period of history that’s very masculine, without losing any of the unforgiving harshness of the reality where the characters found themselves in.