Interview with Filmmaker Yalan Hu (DOLL IT UP)

DOLL IT UP played to rave reviews at the August 2019 Female FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Yalan Hu: Doll It Up was one of the projects I directed when I was in film school. I’m always fascinated by human relations, especially what people become in romantic relationships. The need to possess, conquer and destroy is what I like to discuss. The dolls in the film symbolize how a large population of women have been treated in unhealthy relationships, where they were seen as properties, don’t have a voice in the house. Of course, this problem goes both ways, but to this day, on a global scale, women still haven’t been given the same account of respect as their male partners. Victimizing women is not the message for this film, objectification of one’s partner is.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

It was a 5-page script, from version one to final version 12 it took me about three months to finalize, on and off. I had one full week for pre-production and two days to shoot. Post-production took about 10 days.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Realistic, poignant.

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

The search for the perfect lead actor and “actresses”, the dolls, was pretty challenging, but the biggest obstacle was coming up with a shooting plan to fit in the extremely tight schedule. As simple as this film may look, it had about 10 light builds which was very difficult to implement in two days for a crew consisted of film students, some of which had only one year of experience in filmmaking. Thus, as a director, I didn’t have the luxury to try multiple coverage for my scenes, but had to really calculate the exact and most needed shots and stick to them.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

My heart was beating so fast even before I hit play. I was nervous about how the audience would interpret it, whether they had doubts about the world I created. Amazingly, their comments were exactly what I try to say with this film, – about isolation, objectification of your partner, and how instant modern relationships are. It was truly rewarding to see my film connect with people from different parts of the world, which is exactly the reason I chose to become a writer/director.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

The story idea of Doll It Up came to me when I was taking a shower one day. I live by myself, the isolation of urban dwellers got me thinking, would human beings develop companionships with non-living objects? Would it be perfect, or as problematic as normal human relations? Ultimately, it transforms to a satire about relationship issues between the two sexes.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

La Grande Vadrouille (1966)

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are your feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

I found it user friendly, very easy to navigate.

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

Hotel California

10. What is next for you? A new film?

In the past August, I finished another short film, A Separation, as writer and director. It’s a 15-minute short drama about a Chinese couple in the 90s reunited in the states after a four-year separation, only to find their marriage going through a dramatic change. Meanwhile, another drama short I wrote and directed, produced in Sri Lanka, is in post-production. Both films will be entering festivals this year. Right now, I’m producing a documentary in Florida, U.S., while writing my first feature script on off days.

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