LA based actress and producer Amy Shi joins us on Close-up Culture to chat about her exciting upcoming projects and her upbringing in China’s Hunan Province.
Q: ‘The Lawst Inn’, a horror film you produced, is set for release this fall. What stood out to you about this script by Bill Jones and Catherine Lewis?
A: The Lawst Inn came to my desk earlier this year. It is based on the popular spirit-summoning game in Asia called Bi Xian (pronounces as “Bi Shian”). There are 10 films about Bi Xian made in China and South Korea and they are well-received and loved by horror fans, with box office grossed $70 Million and 600 Million just online viewership.
On top of the intriguing horror theme The Lawst Inn also has a very touching love story. The goal is to make another successful remake as the Ring and Grudge. I was excited to take challenge. Working in this international project as producer, my cross-cultural background and diverse professional background from finance to business to acting to producing are where I draw experience from.
Q: What did director David Kuan bring to this project? What was his vision for ‘The Lawst Inn’?
A: The director David Kuan is a well-known director in China, specifically in the horror genre. What I like about working with him is that, despite his accomplishments and tons of knowledge in filmmaking, he is humble and easy to work with.
His vision for the Lawst Inn is to make this Asian classic horror entertaining to an international audience. The film was shot both in China and US with an all American cast and international crew. The post-production is world class.
Q: How did you select the actors for the film?
A: The cast of the film was selected out of thousands submissions. Most are new talent.
We believed in our director’s ability to realise their potential and direct the best performances out of them. We gave these new talent an opportunity and they all worked very hard to deliver the performances we wanted. On the other hand, we were also able to keep the cost down by not going for the name actors.
Q: You were recently a finalist in the French Riviera Film Festival for ‘Zalla’, a sci-fi short which you wrote, starred in and produced. Can you tell us more about the project and the character of Zalla?
A: Zalla was created to explore the topic of how future technology evolvement will change humans, and how humans can fight to preserve the humanity.
I played the title character, Zalla, in her journey to save her young child. As a mother myself, this is dear to my heart as I know how strong the mother-child connection is and how powerful that love can be. It is not going to be diminished by anything.
Q: Do you have any plans to turn ‘Zalla’ into a feature?
A: Yes, the feature version of Zalla is in the making. It is going to be a heart-warming film that can be enjoyed by the entire family. My 6 year old had seen Zalla once by coincidence, he loved it and had asked to watch it repeatedly. That tells me there is great potential.
Q: How has your upbringing in China’s Hunan Province shaped you and the way you approach the film industry?
A: I was raised by my grandma in a small village in the mountains till I was five. That experience has given me invaluable gift of being a pure soul with good values, as well as a free spirit of embracing challenges.
As my family always taught me to be genuine, to be hardworking, to keep my feet on the ground, that is how I approach Hollywood. And in return I have made friends with the same values and will continue make more. Together we support each other to reach our dreams.
Q: You have established yourself in the industry as a writer, actress and producer. What gives you the most fulfilment in your work?
A: As I always address myself: I’m an actress first, then a producer. Not so much of a writer. Acting is the most exciting and fulfilling to me on a personal level, as it has helped me to find who I am and given me such profound understanding of human beings and the world we live in.
Producing comes naturally as it helps to realise dreams. I don’t want to but from time to time I find myself needing to write to help my collaborators understand my idea.
Q: What is next for you? Any ambitions or plans to share with us?
A: As I mentioned I’m producing the feature version of Zalla, titled as Love in 2775. I’m also producing a few other projects. As an actress, I recently got accepted to the professional program at UCLA. I’m excited to bring my skills to the next level through this program.