Award-Winning Film Editor Muyun Zhou Revels in Storytelling
In-demand Film/TV Editor Muyun Zhou, whose poignant short film To Be The Father won the Remi Gold Award at the 54th WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival, is motivated to make the “impossible possible” in all of her ongoing projects.
Inspired and supported by her parents growing up in China, Muyun remembers her father bringing home VCDs, and how viewing music videos opened her eyes to how we can consume music and visuals through our eyes. She explains how she came upon the magic of storytelling: “When I saw a Michael Jackson music video, even though I didn’t understand English, I could still comprehend the song’s meaning through his performance. It made me realize that the image also has the power to deliver the story, which planted a seed in me to become a filmmaker. And then, my father became a cinematographer, and he showed me a lot of great documentaries, which made me firmly want to get involved in the film industry.”
Most importantly, Muyun is now fully immersed in the entertainment world, having acquired along the way, an MFA in Filmmaking from the New York Film Academy and a Bachelor of Fine Art, Digital Media Art, Zhejiang A&F University in China. She’s also worked on an increasing number of short films that have rocked the film festival world. In the process, she’s worked closely with leading professionals in the field for the past few years while accumulating over 3000 work hours
As a result, she’s also come to understand the key connection in the storytelling process between director and editor. For example, from 1981 to 2016, nearly every Oscar Best Picture winner, was also nominated for Editing, emphasizing that connection. Having a father for a cinematographer, Muyun now sees an editor as another key element in the storytelling equation, explaining her responsibilities:
“A film needs a script, a director, and also demands an editor, who is the third creator. Our main job is to rearrange and combine hours of film footage and then form a complete story with structure, logic, a unique rhythm, and hopefully emotions that reach out to viewers.”
For example, she edited and also directed the short, To Be The Father, which was also officially selected at the Asian On Film Festival Of Shorts and Gimli Film Festival. She continues her explanation: “If the cinematographer is the director’s left hand, then the editor is the director’s right hand. The director creates the footage, while the editor makes the story, and creating the story is the heart of editing.”
Indeed, with her ever-expanding list of film, television, commercial and documentary credits, one of Muyun’s strengths is “film school gave me a good understanding of directing. So, when I work as an editor, I can emotionally stand with the director to think from their standpoint. But, I can also maintain my objectivity and professionalism, and continue to keep an open communication with the director, and convince the director with objective effects, if need be.”
Consequently, Muyun has been hired to work on numerous recent projects, including: being editor on two exciting short films, Corn and Dolly, that were both Academy Award Qualifying projects; editing Father, which was the Official Selection at both the Milan Gold Awards and Venice Film Awards; being editor on the short, Caroline, which was Award Winner at the LGBTQ Film, Hollywood Gold Award, and also an Award Winner/Narrative, at the International New York Film Festival; and, earning Best Editing for two additional shorts, The Hole and Jasmine, both at the Europe Film Festival in 2020.
Additionally, among other projects, she has worked as Editor/VFX Supervisor at Jiangsu TV Station on The Voice of Joy, and as a Colorist on the commercial, Decisive Battle for which she adds, “The evolution of color transforms the mood of a scene. It can be clear that the coloring is the same as editing and music to let the audience into the environment to assist the director in telling the story.”
Certainly, those awards have given Muyun an excellent platform to achieve her storytelling goals. But, she also learned about new media when she studied web design, animation design, and 3D modeling in University. Now, she has a full palette of skills including: Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe After Effects, Adobe Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, Avid Media Composer, Final Draft, Movie Magic, Microsoft Office, and DaVinci Resolve.
However, the art of storytelling was always on her agenda: “Growing up, watching videos and movies made me aware of the different aspects that go into telling a story. When I was 15, I watched that awesome sci-fi thriller, Independence Day, and I was so shocked by all the various special effects that were turning imagination into reality. So, I became obsessed with the fantastic special effects and spectacular scenes in science fiction films during college.”
As she devoured films, she discovered directors like Alfonso Cuaron and his movies like Children of Men and Gravity. She explains how he nspired her: “His Oscar-winning film, Roma, which earned him an Academy Award for Directing, changed my comprehension of cinema. With plenty of long shots to pave the way into the character’s inner world, I learned to better understand the characters’ behavior.”
Moreover, that ongoing fascination with directing made her choose that as her focus at NYFA, explaining, “I decided to major in directing, which allowed me to add a directorial mindset to my editing to make films and showed me how to communicate with directors better to create better images.” And, that has helped her working with the directors of Corn and Dolly, of whom she says, “They have a powerful personal style, designing all the shots very creatively. So, in the editing process, the directors and I focused more on selecting those performance shots that match the mood and combine to make a stronger story.”
Not keeping still, Muyun is working on editing some documentaries, while also signing on to edit two feature films. As for her longer-term goals, she enthusiastically offers, “My background has given me a chance to receive a rich Oriental education since my childhood. And now having been over here in the United States, my final goal is to use my unique perspective with an Oriental cultural background to show and communicate the world from different views to the West.”