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Shining the light As Ye Sow
Cinematographer Nan Li describes his approach on the acclaimed film As Ye Sow.

How we choose to judge others and their actions of depends on the light in which we see them. In the case of the film As Ye Sow this is quite literal. Cinematographer Nan Li designed the look and in particular, the lighting of this film to greatly effect and steer the audiences' perception of a man in a dire situation. How we choose to tell our own story or how we choose to tell that of others is a combination of facts and perspective. There's an ample amount of psychology inherent in this equation and Nan used his talent to frame (no pun intended) the story of a gambler named Billy who begins to see himself through the eyes of others, most particularly his loving and impaired mother. Nan employs a variety of techniques to gradually evolve the story and our perception of Billy's catharsis in a threatening series of events.

Ted Harvey (of Heat starring Robert Deniro and Al Pacino) stars as Billy, a gambler whose bookie (Peter Fitzsimmons of award-winning film Blindspotting and Oscar-nominated The Pursuit of Happyness by Columbia Pictures starring Will Smith) is hot on his heels. Billy is willing to do almost anything to avoid his responsibilities, including steal jewellery from his mother (played by actress and SAG-AFTRA San Francisco-Northern California Local President Kathryn Howell). It's the mother's Alzheimer's which serves as a catalyst for Billy to reassess what his life's direction. The lighting design and camera movements are essential to conveying the proper mood of this story. Nan communicates, "When I discussed the script with the director, he said he didn't want Billy punished at the end. Liu [director] said he wanted everything quiet and white. I decided to barely move the camera. I also tried to avoid using tungsten light so that the look could be kept white. Even for the fight scene using handheld, we just started with a shaking frame then chilled down everything right away. When we did the color grade, we de-saturated the color so that the WHITE can be noticed by audience and make them feel the white feeling is intended by the director. To make the WHITE pop up, I reduced the contrast, which is different from typical shooting. Usually cinematographers like the image contrasting but in this film, I tried to light everything up so the images looked flat. This enhanced the white feeling." This specific approach contributes greatly by drawing attention to one scene. When Billy steals from his mother, this is the only scene when mixed colors are obvious. The unspoken emotional torment of his actions and the love he feels for his mother are stark set against the almost numbing white apathy of the rest of the scenes and their lighting. Through this we understand that his mother is Billy's hope to reconnect emotionally and perhaps save his own decency.

As Ye Sow is not simply a tale about a gambler; it's a story about finding one's self. Billy is a proxy for anyone who has needed to embrace a better path. As Ye Sow has received international accolades from the Canada International Film Festival, Five Continents International Film Festival, Worldfest-Houston international Film & Video Festival (culminating in a Remi award win for Cinematography for Nan), NewFilmmakers Los Angeles, and many more. Nan Li has created a look for this story which is relatable regardless of one's background or culture. As a cinematographer, he serves the director and the story but his personal acclaim as a master in the international film community continues to bring attention to him as well.

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