Lights, camera, action!
Filmmaker shares a behind-the-scenes look at his own story
Yung Chang, documentary filmmaker and Upper Canada College alum, has worked on a number of well-received films, including Up the Yangtze (2008), China Heavyweight (2012) and The Fruit Hunter (2012).
The budding, young auteur is currently working on his first narrative feature film, Eggplant. A road trip film noir following a prewedding photographer (prewedding photography is popular in China).
Formerly a boarding student at UCC (from Grade 8 on), with the rest of his family out in Whitby, Chang became rather independent at a young age.
“I always felt quite isolated as a person, as a Chinese kid growing up in a Canadian world. Or to counter that, as a ChineseCanadian stepping into the Chinese culture,” says Chang. “What I really valued were some of the mentors I had at UCC, like Mr. de Pencier, who took a personal interest in helping and encouraging students.”
“I remember saying to Yung, ‘Don’t censor your thoughts. Every creative act is aggressive, and you can’t be afraid to elbow your way in,’ ” says Adam de Pencier, Chang’s former English teacher and current head of school at Trafalgar Castle School. “He took this to heart and really had quite a wide array of interests at Upper Canada.”
After spending his Grade 10 year, unhappily, at a public school, Chang returned to UCC and discovered a love for photography and then film.
“Those last three years were very important for me,” says Chang.
When asked for the most crucial piece of advice he could offer to young filmmakers, Chang responds, rather eloquently, “The key thing is to have perseverance. I think for every filmmaker there is this itch, that passion, that little nugget of inspiration that you can’t let go of. That’s what you need to cultivate and nurture. It’s something that can ebb and flow. My advice would be to never let go of that itch.”
“Filmmaking is a fickle business. You have to be of a certain ilk to want to make films, certainly documentary films,” Chang adds. “It’s not a Stephen Spielberg, James Cameron type of business of filmmaking — meaning you’re not necessarily going to be a billionaire. But, in saying that, I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve travelled the world, more so than anyone in my circle of friends. I’ve met unbelievable people from all walks of life.”
Yung Chang in China (2010) during the making of ‘China Heavyweight’