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GS: What was the inspiration for your film?
ZL: I like to challenge viewers with my work in a way that inspires them to act on the message.
We all have passions in life. We’re always pursuing something. But I think that it’s too easy to blame others when we DON’T receive those things that we’re after, and that’s really the moral of the story. For Dismal, he sought color in his black and white world. It wasn’t until he finally found it that he realized it was Himself that was keeping himself from it the whole time. We can’t always change the world or even the injustices that the world forces on us, but we can always choose to do the right thing, to be a good person. That’s when real change happens.
I personally am a Christian and so a lot of my ideas are inspired by Bible passages. I was intrigued by James 3:16, which reads “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” I’ve made a lot of mistakes and I know my own selfish ambitions have gotten in the way of things before. So, in a sense, this film is like a message to me. I need to learn from this and I hope others can as well.
GS: When did you conceive the idea for your film and how long did it take before it was realized?
ZL: The whole process from conception to completion was about two years. It was a slow process because we had to balance school and work on top of production. I remember when I first got the idea and Camron was the first person I told about it. He was immediately interested in the idea but it wasn’t until about a year after that when it was finally written. I sent the script to Camron the day it was finished and he was on board to play the part within hours. We shot it over two days in September of 2019 and then for the next year it was editing and marketing before the premiere in August 2020.
GS: What was the most challenging aspect of working in a short film format?
ZL: I think the most challenging aspect of working in a short film format is that you can’t market it the same way you can market a feature film. It’s not like you can profit monetarily off of a short film the same way you can with a feature film at the box office. That just goes to show how committed filmmakers are to their work. Most of the time, if not all the time, to produce a short film (especially if you’re a first-time filmmaker) you have to fund everything yourself and accept that you probably won’t make that money back. But I know I’m speaking for more filmmakers than myself when I say that it’s worth it when you consider the impact you can have on an audience with the stories you tell.
GS: What was the most challenging aspect of your production?
ZL: I think the most challenging aspect of producing Dismal & Himself was the constant fear that it wasn’t going to work. There were so many times during both production and post-production where it just felt like we weren’t going to finish. Whether it was the sun going down on the last day of shooting before we were finished–which was a miracle in and of itself that we finished on time, but that’s another story–or if it was the many revisions of the animations in post that held us back, there was always this burden of feeling like I was failing. But I thank God that we were able to push through and get it done.
GS: Do you have any advice for first-time filmmakers?
ZL: The best advice I can give to first-time filmmakers is to decide and commit. If you really want to be a filmmaker, do it. But expect a lot of work and a lot of failure. If you are willing to invest your time and effort into telling a story that can impact others for good, then the world needs you. Just remember to check your motives and make sure you’re doing it for more than yourself.
…and be sure to share your work with Global Shorts when you do.