By Lynn Venhaus
Feeling burnt out, Fu Yang took a real-life event, wrapped it inside a metaphorical tale about being consumed by an authority’s endless needs, being unappreciated and manipulated, and made an animated short, “Fortune Cookie.”
She is one of 22 female directors whose work was accepted into this year’s St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase. The nearly 4-minute stop-motion short is part of the Animation and Experimental Shorts line-up that will be shown at 1 p.m. on Sunday, July 30.
“The film speaks about where I was and how I saw a new path from the dead end,” she said..
Through personal projects, she shares pieces of herself and the culture she grew up in, she said. “I see every work as a journal to connect with people and share a message on subjects that matter in my heart.”
The short was created through a Voices With Impact production grant and premiered at Art With Impact ‘s Voices With Impact mental health film festival in June.
Yang, originally from Taiwan, came to San Francisco to study traditional animation in 2016. In 2022, she re-established an animation studio with her husband, Ben Ellerbracht, in St. Louis.
In her biography, she said being an alien in the US has made her more sensitive to other storytellers trying to express their roots through filmmaking as a way to bridge communication and understanding among different cultures. Having the experience as a foreign art student also brings her attention to how other immigrants follow their dreams and break through the barrier of language and limited resources they often have, she said.
The Whitaker St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase, an annual presentation of the nonprofit Cinema St. Louis, serves as the area’s primary venue for films made by local artists. The Showcase screens works that were written, directed, edited, or produced by St. Louis natives or films with strong local ties. Artistic Director Chris Clark said they chose to include 91 films.
The 17 film programs that screen at the Hi-Pointe Theatre from July 21-23 and 28-30 serve as the Showcase’s centerpiece. The Closing-Night Awards Party is at 7:30 p.m. at the Hi-Pointe Theatre.
The film programs range from full-length fiction and documentary features to multi-film compilations of fiction, documentary, and experimental shorts. The programs with feature films include post- screening Q&As with the filmmakers and/or subjects.
For a complete schedule and more information, visit: https://www.cinemastlouis.org/23rd-annual-st-louis-filmmakers-showcase
Take Ten Q&A with Fu Yang:
1. Why did you choose your profession/pursue the arts?
It feels more natural to me to open up and connect with people through crafts and animation. I believe films have the power of empathy and can broaden the viewers’ knowledge and strengthen their minds.
2. How would your friends describe you?
Composed and resilient workaholic.
3. How do you like to spend your spare time?
Snuggle with my hubby and puppy.
4. What is your current obsession?
5. What would people be surprised to find out about you?
I am a cheerful person who tends to create dark stories.
6. Can you share one of your most defining moments in life?
Every moment when I am physically animating a stop-motion scene.
7. Who do you admire most?
My Mom is a saint.
8. What is at the top of your bucket list?
Create reality competition shows about stop-motion animation to highlight the creators, storytelling and craftsmanship.
9. How were you affected by the pandemic years, and anything you would like to share about what got you through and any lesson learned during the isolation periods? Any reflections on how the arts were affected? And what it means to move forward?
When Black Lives Matter and Stop Asian Hate movements happened along with the pandemic, I transited more of my creative energy on my identity and seeking understanding among different cultures through my art and work content.
10. What is your favorite thing to do in St. Louis? (Or your hometown)
Typing preplans of film projects on my studio deck.
11. What’s next?
Write a truthful animated short about sibling rivalry reflecting Taiwanese 90s to present memories.
More on Fu Yang
Name: Fu Yang 楊馥
Current location: St. Louis
Education: Academy of Art University | San Francisco, CA 2016 – 2019
MFA Traditional and Stop Motion Animation
Day job: Freelance Content Creator
First job: Album Cover Design
First movie you were involved in or made: TellTale (2019)
Favorite jobs/roles/plays or work in your medium? Teaching and producing animation interview program, Nice Shorts.
Dream job/opportunity: Hold stop-motion workshop & animation festival in St. Louis
Awards/Honors/Achievements: Voices with Impact Production Grantee for Fortune Cookie Short Film
Favorite quote/words to live by: Love & Kind
A song that makes you happy: Religious Man ( I am I am )
Here is her director’s statement on this content, on why she focused on burnout:
“The original concept came out as a reflection of my working experience right after graduating from art school. I volunteered at non-profits believing in their missions. I trusted their false promises that they would consider hiring me in the future, and I dedicated all my time and efforts to proving my worth to the team
However, what I did seemed never good enough and never fit their qualifications of being “a true professional.” Those authorities told me it is normal for aspiring artists to compromise on their well-beings and payments as an exchange for their exposures and opportunities– this is how “everyone” starts in the beginning. I felt my face became their advertisement of embracing diversity, but my voice was undervalued. My projects related to servicing justice and supporting artists, but I was not the case to be noticed and considered.
I need an exit to put my mixed feeling of hopelessness, exhaustion and anxiety aside. Therefore, I want to transform the negativity into art to remind myself, other aspiring artists and young professionals the importance of knowing our limits and taking care of our well-beings while pursuing our dreams. People who are older than us, staying in the industry longer than us and having more resources than us do not mean they have the right to surpass and manipulate others. Be brave to say no and walk away. Believe in ourselves and find the right community to heal and to grow.” — Fu Yang
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.