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She has filmed Justin Bieber and Fan Bing Bing (China’s most famous actress) for commercials for Adidas (produced by the agency Neocha), Mastercard, music video for Subpop Records, music festivals for VANS, Modern Sky Festival and Tuborg, promotion videos for World Economic Forum, Thirst Global Water Awareness, CLE Chinese Language Education, San Francisco World Music Festival and other clients. She has worked with Visible Panda and coordinated shoots for SOHO China. She is now focusing on documentary directing and producing. Her current project is Stars Made in China.
Li-Lian's artistic touch in her multitude of projects inspired the author of this interview to quote Leonard Cohen's song Suzanne in the tittle, as a special soundtrack for MUNPlanet readers.
Li-Lian: There are many different opinions on China’s developing economy and who is the winner and loser in this. Yes, China’s developing economy has lead to enormous income gaps and that is a huge problem. On the positive side though, almost the whole population, even the farmers, has gained at least a little from the economic boost. But - it has lead to more cars, more consuming, more waste, more pollution. The Chinese middle class cares little about sustainability and a lot about revenue. What I see as the greatest challenge is to encourage and motivate young people to think about sustainability in addition to revenue - to corporate “green thinking”. There is plenty of room for entrepreneurship in China, but the big players have shown little interest in taking a green approach into their business plans. Coming from the west, we can urge as much as we want, but to achieve a greater change the interest must come from the Chinese people themselves.
Li-Lian: Through working together for better understanding of each other’s situations. Having worked a lot in collaborations between China and western countries, our biggest issues are always beyond linguistic misunderstandings - through not understanding each other’s culture, history, education and upbringing, we make assumptions or disregard important details. China is already a major country in global economy and politics, but I believe we would avoid at least half of the problems if we just took the time to truly understand the reason behind each others motives.
Li-Lian: I love working in China, because so much is happening all the time. The pace is completely different from Europe. The Beijing I moved to four years ago changed massively only over these few years. In today’s vastly changing media environment, there is no time to set strict rules for what one should or should not do, creatively. Micro blogging has become a huge tool for spreading information all across China, and netizens are constantly finding creative ways to spread banned news. Other ways are through conveying your message in a story - video, photography, writing or interactive that may concern a sensitive topic, but it is not stating clearly what is wrong or right - just telling the story the event and leaving the judgement to the reader/users.
In my job as a videographer, I work together with NGO’s, social entrepreneurs and organisations to find creative ways to tell their stories through online videos. I’ve worked with Thirst Global Water Awareness, who educate children on the usage of water and how to avoid a future water scarcity in China, on telling their story to different age groups online and convey this message in ways that would be easy to understand and not boring to watch for children. With World Economic Forum, we incorporated celebrities in explaining the message and causes they were involved in to help inspire. In a video campaign I did for Janet Cheung's fundraising for Penny Brohn Cancer Care, we spread an online video on people shaving their heads to show support and create an understanding for those diagnosed with cancer.
Li-Lian: It’s always hard to tell how many viewers an online video will have and impossible to monitor when and how these hits will come. I try to measure it not only through how many clicks something has had, but from where the personal response. When I was told “the article you wrote made me cry” about an article on Russian mothers who were trying not to give up the hope on their sons who had most likely been beaten to death in the army, by a reader who did not have any connection to Russia, let alone the Russian military, I know I have managed to tell their story just the way they told it to me. It is not as easy as it sounds. When people remember something I’ve done that they’ve seen I know that it has had at least a little impact. But before something is out there, I never know. I just reckon if I like it, and feel touched by it, other people will as well. I believe creating meaningful content is all about story telling. I want to relate to a person, to understand them and their feelings and get to know them, otherwise I can’t connect to the cause.
Li-Lian: Being half-Chinese, I have a strong connection to China and here lie also my most pressing issues. I want to create a better understanding for China in the west - otherwise we can’t solve these problems together. I want to contribute to achieve better education for those on the countryside, who cannot benefit from the greater economic developments in the big cities. Maybe foremost, I want to create a greater interest in our world and how to sustain it in Chinese young people. The lack of interest is where the problem starts, and it needs to be changed. I hope I can be an inspiration and a driving force to change these attitudes.
Images: private archive