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Meet the Finalist: Yaqi Mao, "Starting Over"

What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

Movies not only helped me but also helped many people who needed help. I now own my own film and music production company, but when I was young, my family was not very wealthy. During my undergraduate period, I studied television program production. Despite my good grades, I still lacked some social practice and awards to secure a scholarship. So I made a short video with the theme of caring for the "left-behind elderly" and participated in a national competition as a public service advertisement. ("Left-behind elderly" people refer to disadvantaged groups where young people in their families go out to work and the elderly are left to live alone in rural areas.) Later, my work received national awards, which not only helped me to get a scholarship but also helped the left-behind elderly to receive more attention. I noticed that videos and movies are able to help people. So I decided to specialize in film during my master's degree and went to the United States to further my studies. I met my Oscar-winner mentor, Jana Sue Memel, and her guidance allowed me to go even further on this path. Later on, after graduation, I founded my own business and became a filmmaker and film musician.

What's is your all time favorite film? Why is it special to you?

I like "The Shape of Water (2017)" and I really like movies with fairy tale themes. My childhood was not particularly happy. I had a father who was drunk, lazy, violent, and failed in his career. Although my mother, who only had a junior high school degree, worked hard to earn money to support her family, her abilities were limited. When I was in elementary school, I knew that I had to have excellent academic performance, otherwise, I wouldn't be able to enter a good university, and I wouldn't be able to change the fate of my lower-class family without the power of knowledge and wisdom. I knew my family didn’t have the money to hire the best teachers, and I wouldn't have any competitive advantage in learning. Therefore, I studied very hard, and even when I was in elementary school, I woke up every morning at 5 o'clock to study, with almost no time for entertainment. It seems that this was also a kind of emotional compensation because I didn't have a light-hearted childhood when I was young, so I have a preference for beautiful fairy tales. So I like movies like "The Shape of Water (2017)" that have a romantic fairy tale color. In addition to movies, I also participate in music creation. The music of "The Shape of Water (2017)" is also my favorite style.

What tips would you give aspiring filmmakers who are just starting their careers?

Movies are an art and a business. Every investment requires a corresponding return. Young enthusiasm is sometimes like hot money pouring into certain investment traps, it may not necessarily yield good returns. So, excessive and inopportune enthusiasm may sometimes have a negative impact on this career, especially when you become a leader of a film project.

Tags: 7th Annual New York Film Awards 2023

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