#FemaleFilmmakerFriday: Zoe Yi

#FemaleFilmmakerFriday: Zoe Yi

Razieme Iborra

We are consistently inspired by the amazing females working around us every day. And we want to share their success with all of you!

Starting from this very post, Rebel Motion will offer a Q&A style blog post featuring a guest female artist every other Friday in part with #femalefilmmakerfriday. We're so pleased to kick things off with Director of Photography, Zoë Yi!

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REBEL: Welcome to the Rebellion, Zoë! We’re so excited to celebrate the release of your latest cinematography achievement, the music video for “Temptation” by Raveena. The video is stunning and we have so many questions!

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REBEL: What led you to take on this specific project? And why is this project important to you as a filmmaker?

Jackson is one of my closest collaborators and a good friend, so when he approached me I was already inclined to do it, but after I saw the moodboard that Raveena sent us I was sold. It seemed like just such a fun, creative challenge to create the world that she and Jackson had envisioned.

I see every project I commit to as important as a reflection of my work and also as a commitment to bring the director’s vision to life the best I can, but I also wanted to contribute to something that would portray queer love between women of color.

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REBEL: What inspired the visual style for this video? It’s quite stylized, employing the use of lens filters and kaleidoscope effects. How did you arrive at these aesthetic choices, and how did you pull them off (with cam, lens choice, etc)?

Actually, Raveena herself was instrumental in the look of the video. She was very specific about the type of references that she wanted to inform the look — mostly retro Bollywood album covers, films, and period pieces set or shot in 1960’s India. Jackson Tisi, Raveena’s co-director, and I then spoke more about the less constrained aspects, which is when we came up with the idea of using prisms and crystals. Honestly it was more having to do with the fact that we both wanted to experiment with them than a specific reason and that the colorful, stylized look of this video was the perfect chance to. Ideally we would have shot the whole piece on film, but since we couldn't afford that luxury we went with ARRI Alexa Mini and vintage glass.

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REBEL: What was your decision process behind the use of lighting and color here? We especially love the dramatic changes in lighting when the protagonist meets her love interest!

My gaffer, Omar Nasr, is probably the person I can thank the most for the look of this video. We worked together extensively beforehand to create a detailed set-up for a very naturalistic (in terms of tone and motivation) but also highly romantic, look. We settled on a sun drenched, early evening look through the garden that would spill into Raveena’s bedroom and a very on-the-nose light gag when Miss Temptation is revealed finally. Jackson was actually the one who pushed for the light gag the most; he wanted a strong visual climax because the song doesn’t have a very obvious crescendo.

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REBEL: Did you have any references at play behind the visuals of this video? If so, what?

We had some general Bollywood references, but “The Little Princess,” shot by Emmanuel Lubezki was the biggest cue for the look.

REBEL: Between the production design, lighting, color, and stylist’s choices, the video as a whole exemplifies a sense of exoticism. What did you want this sense of exoticism to convey?

I would say it’s more of a celebration of Raveena’s background as an Indian American woman, and an attempt to show the beauty in the attraction between the two women. Miss Temptation is supposed to represent Raveena’s queerness versus a real person, and therefore is meant to be a bit more stylized than real life.

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REBEL: As a female cinematographer, what did this music video, which showcases a celebration of women of color and queer love interests, mean to you?

I love being able to collaborate in a supportive but also serious and professional setting with other women of color, especially towards something that is representing the sum of its parts. Too often do I see a really inspiring and beautiful piece of work that is focused on marginalized people or progressive issues only to discover that, while the subject of the work is about POC or women or any other less visible kind of person, the filmmakers involved were almost or just entirely made up of white men. So it felt great to be part of a team that actually reflected the intent of the piece.

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REBEL: What do you hope to see music videos and filmmaking as a whole evolve into?

There are a ton of things I hope to see filmmaking evolve into, but at the moment I mostly just want it to be less about owning an expensive camera package, or who you are behind the camera giving you a leg up (or holding you back) and for it to just be about the work.

REBEL: How do you hope to see your career as a female filmmaker progress?

I hope that soon there won’t even be a distinction between a female filmmaker and our male counterparts and that we’ll all have the same opportunities!

Thank you, Zoe, for your time! Check out her work at: www.zoe-yi.com

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Want to be a better storyteller?

Want to be a better storyteller?