We’re thrilled to feature award-winning filmmaker and Marvel’s “The Eternals” director Chloé Zhao on the podcast. Her feature debut “Songs My Brothers Taught Me” was produced by Forest Whitaker and her film premiered at Sundance Film Festival and Director’s Fortnight at Cannes Film Festival. Chloé was named one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film by Filmmaker Magazine and her film was nominated for Best First Film, Best Cinematography and Someone to Watch Award at the 2016 Independent Spirit Awards. In 2017, she directed “The Rider”, a contemporary western drama that follows a young cowboy’s journey to discover himself after a near-fatal accident ends his professional riding career. The film premiered at Cannes Film Festival as part of the Directors’ Fortnight selection and won the Art Cinema Award. The film earned her nominations for Best Feature and Best Director at the 33rd Independent Spirit Awards. After earning critical acclaim, she is set to direct “The Eternals” for Marvel, starring Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, and Richard Madden.
In this episode that was originally published and released on March 24, 2016, we discuss how her background shapes the work she creates today, the options for funding of films, the benefits and education that come with attending film labs, ideas and inspiration, the importance of letting go, advice for fellow filmmakers, and so much more. Screenwriters, directors, producers, storytellers- you don’t want to miss this one!
Chloe’s Recommended Books & Resources:
On Writing by Stephen King
“Happy Together” by Wong Kar-Wai
“Chungking Express” by Wong Kar-Wai
“Gummo” by Harmony Korine
“Julien Donkey-Boy” by Harmony Korine
“Days of Heaven” by Terrence Malick
“Tree of Life” by Terrence Malick
“The Beat that My Heart Skipped” by Jaques Audiard
Lars Von Trier
What You’ll Learn From This Episode:
- The various options on financing your film
- How to communicate with non-actors to deliver performances that serve the scene
- How Chloe builds strong relationships between characters
- We discuss film labs and how it benefits filmmakers
- How online fiction communities help in spreading your stories
“There is something about you that is in that story. Always.”
“Every decision we make, we are completely responsible. We control our destiny.”
Learn more about “Songs My Brothers Taught Me”
SONGS MY BROTHERS TAUGHT ME is a compelling and complex portrait of modern day life on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation that explores the bond between a brother (John Reddy) and his younger sister (Jashaun St. John), who find themselves on separate paths to rediscovering the meaning of home.
Learn More About Chloe Zhao
Chloé is a Beijing-born, US-based filmmaker. Her 2015 feature debut “Songs My Brothers Taught Me” premiered in US Dramatic Competition at Sundance Film Festival and Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes Film Festival, and was nominated for Best First Film, Best Cinematography and Someone to Watch Award at the 2016 Independent Spirit Awards. She was supported by organizations such as Sundance Institute, San Francisco Film Society, IFP, Film Independent, Cinereach and Time Warner Foundation and was named one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film by Filmmaker Magazine.
In 2017, she directed The Rider, a contemporary western drama which follows a young cowboy’s journey to discover himself after a near-fatal accident ends his professional riding career. Similar to her first feature, Zhao utilized a cast of non-actors who lived on the ranch where the film was shot. Zhao’s impetus for making the film came when Brady Jandreau – a cowboy whom she met and befriended on the reservation where she shot her first film – suffered a severe head injury when he was thrown off his horse during a rodeo competition. Jandreau later starred in the film playing a fictionalised version of himself as Brady Blackburn. The film premiered at Cannes Film Festival as part of the Directors’ Fortnight selection and won the Art Cinema Award. The film earned her nominations for Best Feature and Best Director at the 33rd Independent Spirit Awards. At the same ceremony, Zhao became the inaugural winner of the Bonnie Award, named after Bonnie Tiburzi, which recognizes a mid-career female director. The film was released on April 13, 2018 by Sony Pictures Classics and was critically acclaimed.
In April 2018, it was announced that Amazon Studios greenlit Zhao’s upcoming untitled Bass Reeves biopic, a historical Western about the first black U.S. Deputy Marshal. Zhao is set to direct the film and write the screenplay. In September 2018, Marvel Studios hired her to direct a film based on the Eternals.
Chloé received her BA in Politics from Mt Holyoke College and MFA in Film Production from NYU. She is making more films in the American heartland.