Shengze Zhu is a documentary filmmaker and producer. She co-founded Burn The Film with Yang Zhengfan, and has served as producer for Yang’s films, including Distant in 2013 and Where Are You Going in 2016.
Zhu’s second feature Another Year premiered at the Visions du Réel in Switzerland where it won the best film award.
Present.Perfect. is Zhu’s third feature documentary and is about the live-streaming by real people phenomenon in China.
How did you get into filmmaking?
I came from a photojournalism background, and I started to question the possibility of telling an impartial story, or finding an universal, concrete truth. I became more and more interested in exploring the complex relationship between reality and its visual representation. That’s how I got into the field of creative documentaries.
What was your inspiration for this film?
As I dealt with live-streaming footage, with no professional cameraperson involved, and the main feature of this medium is real-time content and instant interaction, which is quite new… there is no direct inspiration for this specific film. But in general the films of Chantal Akerman, James Benning, Wang Bing, Agnès Verda, as well as the art work of Hollis Frampton, Francis Alÿs inspire me a lot.
What was the biggest challenge when working on the film?
There are hundreds of thousands of streaming anchors out there, and their shows won’t be stored on the streaming platforms, so it was really hard for me to decide whose show should I watch at the moment and whom should I follow in the long term. It’s also a big challenge to select and compile these 800 hours of footage and construct them into a film.
What are the key lessons you have learned from your film projects to date?
Don’t wait, just start filming! Be creative, take full advantage of all the resources and money you have, even it’s limited. Keep hard working and have fun.
What are you working on now?
My next project as a director is about the urban and natural landscape along a river in my hometown Wuhan, China and the interaction between such space and its residents. I am also producing a fiction feature which consists of 10 scenes that take place in 10 different hotel rooms in Beijing.