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John Y.: Mastering the Art of Storytelling

FilmmakerLife Magazine Presents

Extraordinary Talent Interview with Award-Winning Filmmaker John Y

John Y., a true master of storytelling who has captivated audiences with his unique narratives and thought-provoking films. With a background in law, John Y. seamlessly transitioned into the world of cinema, leaving an indelible mark with his directorial debut, “My Dear Banquet,” in 2016. Since then, he has continued to showcase his versatility as a director, producer, and lead actor in films like “Million Loves in Me” (2018) and “The Unknown Mother” (2019), earning critical acclaim and numerous prestigious awards. Today, we delve into the mind of this brilliant artist to gain insight into his creative process, inspirations, and remarkable contributions to the world of cinema.

John Y.

Thank you, John Y., for granting this interview. Let’s start by discussing your journey from being a lawyer to becoming an award-winning filmmaker. What motivated you to make such a transition?

John is originally a litigation partner in the Hong Kong office of a United States law firm and practiced for 18 years before migrating to Canada. In 2015, John decided to leave his legal profession and began to pursue his long- dreamed career in acting and movie production. He and his partner originally produced two short films with the unconditional love of a mother as the main theme. Through the two shorts, John wants to praise motherhood and convey the message of cherishing the family. He also wants to make the audience realize the importance of loving and caring for others instead of focusing on money and benefits. Like other filmmakers, John would like to use movie productions to convey messages in particular the human nature to the audience. As such, money making is not the primary objective of his film making journey but rather the passion and mission of conveying important messages in life is more crucial.

Million Loves In Me

In your films, you tackle complex subjects and delve into the depths of the human experience. How do you select the themes or topics that you want to explore?

The feature film, Million Loves in Me is John’s debut feature film. The film is about the real life experience of John’s client when he acted as a lawyer in Hong Kong.  The film brought in different messages and feedback to the audience worldwide.  As such, I selected those topics which can have a great impact on the audience and usually these topics touch upon complex subjects and delve into the depths of human experience and only these subjects and topics will have a great impact on the audience.

As a filmmaker, you wear multiple hats, including director, producer, and lead actor. How do you manage these different roles, and how do they influence one another in the creative process?

It is a quite challenging experience for a newcomer in the film industry with no formal training and education in filmmaking to wear multiple hats including producer, screenplay writer and lead actor.  However, this is something which I enjoy. It is similar to conducting a court case in which a partner sometimes have to wear multiple hats as well by communicating with clients, managing their expectations, communicate with barristers about the legal arguments and clients’ objectives. The only difference is that as a litigator, we are bound by the legal rules and authorities whereas in filmmaking, it is a creative process in which there is no boundary.  There can be limitless endings of a movie.  In the creative process, one role will affect and influence the other.   As a person with multiple hats, it calls for myself how to adjust to the different elements in the creative process and I regard the experience in the making of Million Loves in Me is a very rewarding experience.  

Your film “Million Loves in Me” received critical acclaim and won numerous awards. What challenges did you face in bringing such a unique and thought-provoking story to life, and how did you overcome them?

I think many filmmakers will agree with me that there are challenges in bringing a unique and thought-provoking story to life in particular for those topics which delve into human experience heavily.   Some filmmakers will also have the concerns that this type of topic is difficult to attract the attention of audience to watch it.  I think this is one of the major reasons that my co-producer and I started with the film festival journey by showcasing the film to audience worldwide and garner the support and critics opinion.   We started our journey by having the world premiere of the film in the opening night of a film festival in Austria in 2017.   Fortunately, we received very positive comments from the audience and a reporter in a film magazine who attended the screening was able to grasp the gist of the movie which identifies the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder of the protagonists and the message of love between Katy, the main character, with her mother and the man she fell for.  Starting with the journey in Austria, the film was able to garner international worldwide recognitions in more major film festivals and able to obtain 216 awards worldwide over the years thereby generating international goodwill for the film as well as our filmmaking company.  

The characters in your films often face profound internal struggles. How do you approach character development, and what techniques do you use to bring depth and authenticity to your characters?

I personally did not have any formal acting training or devise any techniques in bringing internal struggles of character on screen.  I started to watch films since the age of 4 when my late mother brought me to cinemas watching both Asian and Hollywood productions.  I started to delve myself into those characters with complex internal struggles which I like such as Hannibal Lectar in The Silence of the Lambs and learn how the world renowned actors and actresses bring different layers of a complex character on screen.

Your films have resonated with audiences worldwide. What do you think it is about your storytelling style that connects with people on such a deep level?

Our storytelling style is to first of all arouse the interests of the audience by showing simple and interesting stuff such as shopping and eating.  You will find that not only in our debut feature film, Million Loves in Me, we have a number of restaurant scenes in the two short films as well.   Eating is a very crucial part in one’s life and most audience will find easily connected with restaurant scenes.   However, as the film goes on, audience will find that the film is not as simple as eating and shopping but having a complex roller coaster emotions inside when the message of “love” appears.

Congratulations on your recent success at the World Class Film Awards. How does it feel to receive recognition from such a prestigious platform, and how do you think it will impact your future projects?

We have gone through a number of international film festivals and obtained a number of international awards including 26 Best Actor awards before the World Class Film Awards.  Due to personal reasons of myself and the not so happy events of my manager and the lead actress of the short film, The Unknown Mother, it was with great regret that we could not join World Class Film Awards physically this time. However, it was with great surprise that our film received another great recognition and accolade from the World Class Film Awards.

Can you share your thoughts from your experience at the World Class Film Awards that stood out to you as a filmmaker?

Although I could not join the World Class Film Awards physically this time, I have been following the posts in the social media and shared the posts about our films which appear in the social media of World Class Film Awards.  As we have gone through this film festival journey for a number of years, we have made a number of filmmaker friends in other film festivals and some of these renowned filmmakers were also being nominated and participated in World Class Film Awards. As such, I am able to reconnect with them though not meeting on a personal level but still having the feeling and sense of participation in World Class Film Awards.

The film industry is constantly evolving. How do you stay creatively inspired and keep up with the changing landscape of filmmaking?

Since the age of 4, I have been watching thousands of productions. As such, I have been following the changing landscape of filmmaking.   In the filmmaking process, I have been reminding myself that it is not possible to go back to the filmmaking style of filmmaking in the 80s and 90s but still there are crucial and valuable elements to be extracted from the films made at different times.

Looking ahead, what can we expect from your upcoming projects? Are there any specific themes or genres that you are excited to explore in the future?

We have two major upcoming projects at hand, the Pride of Madame Fun and I am Now A Star.  These projects are mainly showing the dark side of human experience such as the character of Madame Fun but in comedy genre.  Hopefully upon successful completion of some legal matters relating to Million Loves in Me, our production company can bring these two upcoming projects on big screen and begin another film festival journey and can physically attend World Class Film Awards with the cast and crew in the near future.

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