8. Wei Han Finds ‘Home’ in New York
By Global Art Daily Editorial Board
Published on February 20, 2021
Wei Han is a NYC-based cinematographer and director, and recent graduate of NYU Tisch. He recently directed, shot, and edited a new music video, Home by The Saint in New York City. The video portrays the stage in-between friendship and love with a logline titled A Warmth That's Greater Than Love. Capturing this fragile yet pure stage of ambiguity, the video focuses on the birth of a relationship between two main protagonists. “Even when things are gone and become too late, when we look back, those are still very beautiful memories,” reads the video description. We caught up with Wei and asked him about his inspirations, from movies such as Lost in Translation by Sofia Coppola and Japanese anime films such as Weathering With You and Your Name by Makoto Shinkai.
Global Art Daily: Please describe how you got started as a cinematographer and director. Could you share a little bit about your journey in the film/fashion industry in New York City and the challenges you overcame to get to where you are now?
Wei Han: I actually started as an architecture student first in college but the experience was not satisfying. It’s just not as creative as I thought. I later took a semester-long film program as a visiting student at NYU Tisch. I was like maybe after studying some basic film courses, I can shoot vlogs myself, but I really fell in love with it, so I transferred to NYU and finished my film degree there. Since then, I’ve been living and working in NYC.
It’s not easy to make it in NYC as a cinematographer or director because the industry is oversaturated and the competition is fierce. If you just want to be an assistant camera or a lighting guy, positions that have much less creative control, then that’s not hard because you just need to go on other people’s sets. However, if you want to make a living as a director or cinematographer, then that’s a different story. The U.S. market is not as big as many people think, at least in the short-form world and Covid makes it worse. There is a decent amount of music videos out there, but music videos normally don’t have good budgets and you don’t make much money. People do it for portfolio. Commercials have much better budgets but there aren’t many commercials out there. And NYC is very expensive to live in, that’s why it’s not easy to make it as a cinematographer or director here.
market is not as big as many people think.
GAD: How did you get attracted to the music scene? Is this your first time directing a music video, and do you foresee directing more?
W.H.: I’ve always loved music since I was a kid. It’s just very natural for me to start doing music videos after I became a filmmaker. I’ve done a decent amount of music videos since I moved to NYC. I'm more of a cinematographer honestly but I can direct. And when opportunities show up, I wouldn’t want to say no so I just direct and DP [Director of Photography] at the same time.
GAD: About A Warmth That's Greater Than Love: you describe a feeling that surpasses love - a stage of true intimacy - how did you feel shooting this video during times of social distancing? The couple gives us glimpses of young love and fresh beginnings that have been deeply lacking during these times.
W.H.: We wanted to portray the ambiguous romance between friendship and love because we’ve seen a lot of movies or music videos about two people either in love or breaking up. Less common to see is this premature stage where you feel like you’re in love but things aren’t necessarily clear yet. Shooting the music video during Covid was definitely very hard. That’s why we kept the concept simple and the crew minimal. Instead, we tried to elevate the music video through other approaches such as cinematography and editing. I think the result is satisfying and hopefully this music video gives people hope during those hard times.
Shooting the music video during Covid was definitely very hard.
GAD: You also mentioned that you were inspired by Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation and Makoto Shinkai's animated films. Could you tell us what specific moods you tried to recreate and how these films set in Japanese society inspired you to see NYC from a new angle?
W.H.: Those are films I loved and I always like to draw inspirations from things I like. For example, Lost in Translation by Sofia Coppola is also about the ambiguous romance between two people so that just naturally inspired this music video. And I’ve travelled in Japan a few times and love Japanese culture. It always has a sense of subtlety regarding emotions and concentration on details. I often apply those things to my own works.
I’ve travelled in Japan a few times and love
Japanese culture. It always has a sense of subtlety regarding emotions and concentration on
details. I often apply those things to my own works.
GAD: Why shoot in 35mm? Could you share with us some challenges that come along with that?
W.H.: 35mm is my favorite format. The colors are very pretty, and the textures feel very clean and subtle. The main challenge of shooting on film is that you are not able to see what you just shot on set. You’ll have to send the exposed film to the lab later after the shoot and wait for some time until you see the footage. It could be kind of scary when someone first starts shooting on film, but it’s also very exciting because you don’t know what you will get exactly and a lot of times, there are good surprises.
GAD: "Is NYC dead?" is a question that is on everyone's mind - what's your take on the future of the creative scenes in NYC? With rent prices going down and the massive exodus out of the city, do you think NYC will regain its creative edge? Do you have any advice to give to young filmmakers trying to move to the city in 2021?
W.H.: The Big Apple never dies. I mean for the first few months when the Covid hit, yes, a lot of projects got cancelled and many people were out of work, but since September last year, a lot of projects resumed, and many people got actually very busy including me. I think people started learning that okay this monster is not going to go away magically after one night, so we might as well adapt to the situation and do the best we can. It’s true that some people left the city due to financial burden but more people stayed. It’s like a big test. If you can make it in NYC during Covid, you can make it at anywhere at any time. With a new president and all the vaccines, I think 2021 will be very promising for NYC. My advice for those trying to move in this year is that things are getting better and don’t be afraid. Just do as many projects as you can and stay creative.
If you can make it in NYC during Covid,
you can make it anywhere at any time.
Wei Han is a director and cinematographer based in New York City.
Follow Wei Han on Vimeo.
Watch The Saint - Home (2020).