Interview with Filmmaker Oliver Li (STRIKE)

STRIKE, 5min., USA, Action/Thriller
Directed by Oliver Li

Get to know the filmmaker:

1. What motivated you to make this film?

Action is a genre that I have always wanted to try, but I rarely have the opportunity to do so. Fortunately, my cinematographer, Teddy, and I got a chance to experiment with action when we audited a directing course that focused on action in films. During the course, we were assigned to shoot a dance/fist fight/chasing scene. Initially, I had planned to shoot a car chase sequence. However, after some test shooting, Teddy convinced me that it was beyond our current capabilities. Consequently, we decided to only shoot a fist fight scene that included a chasing sequence. To give the fight a story setting, I came up with a Bourne Identity-style plot.

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

The production schedule for this film is very tight. Two weeks before shooting, my idea to include a car chase scene was banned. We had to turn to a fist fight scene instead. We promptly contacted our crew, wrote a story and shot an animatic. At the last minute, the actor who was slated to play the protagonist had to withdraw due to an accident during a stunt job. I had to scramble to find a replacement actor just one day before the shoot. Fortunately, we managed to secure a replacement and the shoot went smoothly. The garage was all empty on that Saturday and we were able to finish shooting in 12 hours.

The post-production process took longer than anticipated. As it was my first time editing an action sequence of this nature, I had to try again and again to find the right style and rhythm. Ultimately, it took us three months to lock in the final cut after the production.

It also took a while for my Teddy, my cinematographer, to work out a color grading style that tell the story best. After several months we finally locked a color version and finished the sound design with the help of Mengchen, a great sound designer from our school. Overall the post-production last for a year, although it’s just a 5-minute short.

It took a while for my cinematographer, Teddy, to work out a color grading style that tell the story best. We were also to have Mengchen, an exceptional sound designer from our school, to complete the sound design. Even though the final product was only a 5-minute short film, the post-production process took an entire year.

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

Dynamic, Visceral

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

After we completed the first cut of the film, we realized that the audience might not understand the motivations behind the two characters’ fight or the reason for the pain seizure. The sequence seemed like a disconnected fist fight rather than an engaging story. My editing professor, Paul Syedor, suggested that we needed a title insert or some other kind of opening to provide context. To address this, I asked a friend to do a voice-over, which turned out to be very effective. Once we had a strong opening, the editing process became much smoother.

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

It was the first time I see audience commenting on my film, so I was quite surprised. Watching them talking about it was quite an experience. I’m so happy to watch their reactions.

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

It was the first time I had ever received feedback from an audience on one of my films, so I was pleasantly surprised. It was a unique experience to watch people discussing my work and their reactions to it. I felt delighted to see how they responded to the film.

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

The Godfather: Part II

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

Having panels to discuss our work with other selected teams and producers would be extremely helpful for our future projects.

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

One thing I appreciate about FilmFreeway is its straightforward and organized interface. I can easily track the status of my submissions for multiple projects, which is very useful.

10. What is your favorite meal?

Sliced noodles.

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

I have recently completed a 15-minute drama short film that depicts the conflict between a Chinese young man and a pregnant Chinese woman during the Covid pandemic. Currently, I am submitting the two films to various film festivals. Additionally, I am in the process of writing scripts and planning to shoot another short film in the United States later this year.


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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