Skill is a requirement for a filmmaker but it’s not necessarily an indicator of success. There’s an ability the greats have which allows them to bring us into their vantage point in terms of emotions and a visual language. In particular, the art of filmmaking relies heavily on the cinematographer’s connection with the story and the understanding of how specific choices will connect emotionally with the audience. An Shu is this type of DP, one whom is able to bring us into her (and/or the director’s) own personal world to comprehend the events within a context that is multilayered. The productions which populate An Shu’s resume testify to her ability to achieve such a connection whether the story is based in fact or fiction, narrative or documentary style. In fact, her work seems to indicate that An is committed to not repeating herself and thereby force her own creative growth. Regardless of the reason, it’s fascinating to see what this talented cinematographer has achieved thus far.
Dark Side of the Moon was directed by An Shu. A deeply touching and heart wrenching story about an elderly man who gets the chance to reconnect with his wife who has already passed away, the visual signature of this film is infused with many of the traits of An’s other work. Dedicated to her own grandmother who passed away, audiences across the planet found this film insightful and resonant. Dark Side of the Moon was an Official Selection of the Oscar and BAFTA qualifying Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival, the Cannes World Film Festival, the Vancouver Independent Film Festival, and garnered wins at the New York Movie Awards.
Nostalgia, the 2020 film which An Shu also directed and DP’d, was about loss during a time when much of the world was keenly aware of this; namely, during the Covid pandemic. The first film she’d been a part of since Covid forced an industry-wide shutdown, Nostalgia is a documentary which tells the story of An’s close friend who was a musician in the process of relocating to Germany. In a much more gentile way, this film presented the loss of a loved one in a non-life threatening manner but still a life altering one. As her friend Yuhan prepared to move thousands of miles away, it was clear to An Shu that capturing this bittersweet moment in both their lives would be relatable and cathartic for so many others. Usually working in Narrative formats, An stipulates that the documentary style of this film demanded hyper focused attention for her from behind the camera. She divulges, “Unlike narrative films where you can run as many takes as necessary, most of the time in a documentary you have to capture the moments as they unfold; if you miss it, you may never get it. So much of documentary filmmaking is spontaneous. There isn’t really a chance for us to do shotlists or heavily design on the environment, plus there isn’t a script so when I’m with the subject, I shoot what I see. I’m using both my director brain and my DP brain.”
As the cinematographer of Influencers (directed by Raeshon Morris), An adopted a much different approach, one which matches the tense and somewhat deceptive motivations of the main characters. Starring Briana Belser as Kendall Grams (of the Netflix series Ginny & Georgia) and Philip Lubin as Kyle Grams (of HBO’s Primetime Emmy Winning Series Insecure and Why Women Kill on Paramount +), this tale of a couple tethered to the world of social media utilizes Go Pros to correlate to the visual style of this phenomenon. Vacillating between the social media recordings and “real life” behind-the-scenes, the deception and truth of what the couple’s lives are really like is easily discernable thanks to An’s choices with these styles. Influencers is set to become a feature length film which plans to begin principal photography in 2022. Additionally, An Shu has completed cinematography of the documentary Bless Her Heart (directed by Patrick Michael) which tells the stories of one family though three generations of women. In the nearest future, An will be the DP for the feature film Trauma 4 Life (directed by Roy Berkeley) about two southern teenage sisters who decide to take revenge on their abusers and murder the younger sister’s school bullies with their parents’ guns, as well as the feature length film entitled Black Silk. All of the filmmakers who have enlisted An Shu to be the cinematographer on these productions have sought her out due to their admiration of her prior work. She is the visual exponent who magnifies the emotional impact of every film she works upon.
Writer: Winston King