Cinematographer Teddy Jian on the Pursuit of Unique Adventure
For cinematographer Xiaojun “Teddy” Jian, the only life worth living is one in pursuit of adventure. This ethos doesn’t indicate that you’ll find Teddy cliff diving or swimming with sharks (though it’s not beyond the realm of possibilities) but rather that embracing opportunities for growth in his career is an aspect he feels expands his creative palette. Commonly travelling across continents and oceans, this DP relishes in existing outside the comfort zone. Forsaking the familiarity of his homeland in China and comforts of daily family interaction in deference to long hours and frequent flyer miles, Teddy is compelled like all committed artists to seeking creative enlightenment through the process or exposure to new stimuli. He concurs, “To me, every project represents a unique adventure, an opportunity to explore diverse human experiences that enrich my own life. Collaborating with directors from various cultural backgrounds has allowed me to learn and grow in ways I never could have imagined. One particularly memorable experience was working on a documentary about the Navajo Reservation. This project offered me the extraordinary opportunity to immerse myself in their community, living in their homes, meeting the people, and attending their events. The most unforgettable moment was capturing the first moon party of a new family member. Not only did we successfully document this heartfelt occasion, but we also forged lasting friendships with the people we met along the way. It’s experiences like these that make my work as a cinematographer truly fulfilling and rewarding.”
Teddy’s work on the Action film Strike garnered a great deal of praise among his peers in the industry including a number of Best Cinematography nominations from the New York International Film Awards, Sci-Fi & Horror International Awards, and others. A tale of engineered super-soldiers in hand-to-hand combat and car chases, the visual style of this film relies on real actors, locations, and stunt drivers rather than VFX. The lighting design and camera movements which Teddy utilized for this film offer a visceral quality dissimilar to the digital manipulation which is so prevalent these days. A drastically different tone of story and visual language is that of Cash Only, for which Teddy also served as DP. A deeply emotional look into the Chinese American experience during the Covid 19 pandemic, the aesthetic of this film communicates a sense of desperation and sadness which resonates with so many members of this cultural community of the US. In addition to the professional accolades he received such as Best Cinematography Awards from the Paris Film Awards, New York Movie Awards, and others, Teddy notes that the fact that this story illuminated the experience of the Asian community during Covid meant a great deal to him. The cinematographer also points to a proud moment for him as he was asked to be a part of creating the all-star music video “Now Until the Future” which is the theme for this year’s Hangzhou Asian Games. As a native of China, this project afforded Teddy the opportunity to work with many of the country’s biggest music stars including WeiWei, considered to be as iconic as Madonna in China.
Always striving to breach new emotional ground, Teddy Jian has just finished work on a new film. He communicates, “Throughout my career, I have worked on various projects, but one of the most fulfilling experiences was shooting a narrative film called End Of Summer. The story revolves around a young boy’s memories of his childhood, focusing on the period following his grandmother’s death and his mother’s grief. Intriguingly, the boy claims to see his grandmother’s soul, even though his mother and the audience cannot perceive it. The shoot was enjoyable, with an amazing crew, but it presented the significant challenge of capturing something that doesn’t appear on screen. The director and I engaged in extensive discussions on how to achieve this effect. We experimented with various techniques, hoping for the best outcome. Currently, the film is in post-production, and I eagerly await its release to see how the audience reacts to our creative approach.”
Writer: Mike Winston