From Working LA Chinese Film Festival & Producing own Movies, WenChun Cheng Approaches Filmmaking with Empathy
Whether she is writing, directing and/or producing, WenChun “Catherine” Cheng says the story is key because it’s the first thing that audiences focus on.
Indeed, her powerfully moving film Choice, which was an Official Selection at several Indie festivals along with earning best “Crime Short” award at the Indie Film Festival 2021, tells the story of very troubled Vincent, who has been accused of killing his pregnant wife Lavina, and of his lawyer Angela, who tries to uncover the truth behind the emotion-laid incident.
Cheng chose to focus on a man’s story of abuse, explaining, “I was motivated by the belief that it’s important to raise awareness of this issue. Our ultimate goal is to create a more equitable society where all individuals are treated with respect, regardless of their gender. And, storytelling is a powerful tool for achieving this storytelling goal. I want to continue to create impactful and meaningful films, whatever the form.”
Moreover, Catherine Cheng has also told meaningful stories in other films, which have also earned recognition on the indie festival circuit. For instance, her film Yao-Hua deals with the sweet sadness of aging and its emotional impact is reminiscent of the feature movie Still Alice which earned actress Julianne Moore an Oscar. Yao-Hua earned a Best Foreign-Language Short award at the Indie X Film Fest. Cheng talks of her touching film: “I made the film to discuss the elderly issues in Taiwan, inspired by the country’s super-aged society with around 14 percent being elderly. When the woman’s son says ‘it’s okay, I’ll remember you,’ it’s a bittersweet reminder of the impermanence of life and the importance of cherishing the moments we have with loved ones.”
Next, The Hare features the poignant question, “Why can’t we all win?” To which, Cheng answers, “This is about a mother who is fiercely competitive and puts pressure on her daughter to succeed. But the story challenges the notion that there can only be one winner in any given situation.” And, Cheng’s work on the rousing documentary, North Pipe, which earned honors at the NTHU Creative Short Film Competition, is about the passions and dedication of musicians: “It’s a powerful statement about the importance of finding meaning and community through our passions.”
But where did this Taipei, Taiwan-born filmmaker, who didn’t grow up in an artistic environment, get her inspiration? In a humorous turn of events, she quips, “My first dream was to become a pirate after watching many escapist movies, like Pirates of the Caribbean. However, my family didn’t approve of this idea. My second dream was to film lions in Africa after being inspired by the movie The Lion King. When I was considering what master department to choose, I discovered the film option and ran away to Los Angeles to join a film camp. This experience changed my life, and I realized that I wanted to become a film director because it would allow me to dream about my work as much as I wanted.”
Then, later, what did her education studies at Savannah College of Art and Design gain her? She explains, “I earned an MFA at SCAD, a place where I learned the practical skills needed to make films and connected with industry professionals. Some special advice that I received from my professor during my MFA was to trust my artistic vision.”
She engenders trust, and people find that one of her valuable assets.
“Catherine is built to hustle and think on her feet. She’s never afraid of the moment and that gives me confidence as a Director knowing that I have someone who I can trust wholeheartedly to run the set and put out fires.” —Benjamin To, director of Infinity
Along the way, Cheng has expanded her knowledge of the industry, for example working at the Los Angeles Chinese Film Festival, that led to her working as production coordinator (Melt Production Inc) and development coordinator (Humanity Media & Entertainment Group).
And, she also enthuses about producing/directing commercials for CrossBond brand consultant.Co Ltd including two EVO Phancie makeup advertisements. She adds, “I’m also open to more commercial work, such as big event commercials, like the Super Bowl, as I believe that any opportunity to create a compelling story and reach a wider audience is valuable.”
Most importantly, through her various commercial, narrative and documentary projects, Catherine Cheng has learned the value of collaboration. In fact, in her narrative short, The Hare, the mother who is pressurizing her daughter “ultimately learns the value of collaboration and empathy,” which are two of the most important words in Cheng’s life. She continues, “I believe in respecting the professionals I work with and being willing to listen to their ideas and suggestions. This collaborative approach has helped me to create a strong team and produce work that is greater than the sum of its parts.”
As for what’s upcoming, she’s been working on a number of exciting projects, including developing some gaming commercials, and working to produce a documentary on a K-Pop group
Overall, Catherine Cheng remains optimistic, saying, “I plan to continue creating impactful films, whether they are narrative or documentary. I believe that both have the power to bring important issues to light and inspire change. Ultimately, my goal is to continue to grow as a filmmaker and tell stories that resonate with people and make a positive impact on the world.”
Expect more powerful storytelling from this filmmaker.