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Q&A with Director/Actor Chen Daming

Actor/director/writer Chen Daming discusses seeing movies from different points of view:

When did you first want to get involved with making movies?

I was trained as a Chinese opera singer from age 11 to 17 until I was expelled. I always wanted to be actor, but when I was growing up being a film actor there weren't many parts available. Back then, almost every actor, no matter how small the part, was a star.

How did you make the jump from acting to directing?

When I studied acting at the Beijing Film Academy they didn't just train an actor to be an actor, they trained us to be directors in a way. Even now, they train actors to do a lot of sketching, to create a story with characters and a setting.

How did your years in the US affect your writing and filmmaking?

In the States, I discovered they train actors with a totally different method. They train people basically on how to do a line, to look at each other and try to guess what the other person is thinking about. In China they train you to create a story, to create a character, to create the environment.

What kind of movies do you like?

I believe there are two kinds of movies. Cinematic movies, where nothing needs to happen doesn't even need dialogue, but uses visual elements to create the atmosphere. Then there's character driven movies. I respect both kinds, but as an actor, I have to like character driven movies.

How does being a director impact your work as an actor?

I used to argue with directors all the time. After I became a director, I understood directors better and let them do their job. Now, when I set up the shot, I ask the question, why I am setting up the shot? Whose point of view is it from? I always try to find out why we set up the shot the way we do. What it is that we want to get? It makes everything simple and clear, because the shots become so psychological.

In the future, do you see yourself taking the acting route or directing?

I am going to do both. Doing both definitely makes you a better artist. I think whatever you do in art is related to your point of view. How do you see the arts? What information do you have? They definitely help each other.

What can we expect from you in 2005?

My first movie, Manhole, will be released and I'll start shooting my second film called One Foot On the Ground about three Chinese opera singers set in my hometown of Kaifeng.

(cityweekend.com January 14, 2005)

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