"What We Talk About When We Talk About Lights, Camera, and Action" is a satire of ourselves as young filmmakers. It is a story about a young aspiring filmmaker who comes back to China to direct his first feature. He struggles against the rest of the cast and crew, trying to pitch his new screenplay as the production starts to fall apart.
A Satire of Ourselves
"Lights, Camera, and Action" stands for filmmaking. I was inspired while perplexed by the title of Raymond Carver's book "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love:" What is love and why we love? However, the book doesn't offer an answer. Likewise, I directed the film with no intent to answer what filmmaking is and why we make films. I purposefully end the film before Fan Li Wen, the director and protagonist, answers the host's question after a successful premiere. "Were you all confident that the production was going to succeed?" For me, the question is never meant to be answered but instead to be "talked about." The entire film is dedicated to showing how the five main characters "talk about" filmmaking through a series of disputes during pre-production, through which I try to capture an inexplicable beauty of filmmaking. Despite risk and unpredictability, we make films because, as filmmakers, the things we do is the reason we do it. The film was premiered on NewFilmmakers Los Angeles.
I directed the film with a highly theatrical style because of the dramatic nature of the screenplay, heavy in conversation, and minimized in the number of scenes. Therefore, I designed series of dolly shots to treat the set as a stage.
With a nonlinear structure in mind, I decided to begin and end the film with the interview scene. Although there is a trade off that at the beginning the audience would know the production is successful eventually, the structure highlights the story's irony: While the five characters are relishing the film's success, in the first place they are reluctant to give it a shot and almost give up on each other.