Editor Mengyao Mia Zhang and the Magic Behind 7 Lbs 8 Oz

Mengyao Mia Zhang (photo courtesy of Terry Hou)

Anthony, the main character in 7 Lb 8 Oz is a likeable jerk. There’s no other truthful way to describe him. Like Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm or Rose Byrne as Helen in Bridesmaids, there’s a complexity and honesty that makes Anthony’s actions both off-putting and endearing at times. This blend is finely crafted by filmmakers director/writer Yoo Lee and editor Mengyao Mia Zhang who chose to offer this production via stop-motion animation. 7 Lbs 8 Oz has received enthusiastic praise from audiences at the Cleveland International Film Festival, Athens International Film and Video Festival, RiverRun International Film Festival, in addition to awards from the Florida Film Festival (Grand Jury Award Winner) and others. A strong display of how filmmakers can safely and skillfully create entertaining productions during this Covid effected era, this animated film prominently displays the immense talent of Lee and Zhang in manifesting a world that relies solely on their abilities rather than the physicality of actors. Featuring the voice talents of Robin Daniels as Alba, Michelle Sohn (of People’s Choice Award Nominated The King of Staten Island, BET Awards and Image Awards Nominated Series The Last O.G.) as Yujin, and Frank Thon as Anthony, 7 Lbs 8 Oz is as much about the diverse complexity of community as it is about belly laughs.

Every film is a result of a team of skilled professionals but there’s no denying that the lion’s share of the responsibility on an animated film such as this rests on the shoulders of the director and editor who worked in tandem to shape the tone of 7 Lbs 8 Oz. The personality of the characters in this story are prominent and overt, far exceeding the literal puppets who represent them tangibly. The story revolves around the experiences of a mother (Yujin) and her newborn who move into a New Jersey neighborhood. Yujin finds that making quick assessments of those in her community are often based in misdirection. The ability to make this believable is rooted in the choices made by Lee and Zhang. Regarding her approach, the editor relates, “One important thing that Yoo Lee wanted me to bring was comedic beats. I was brutal in ‘trimming the fat’ from the takes to really get this across. We would meet twice a week to discuss the shots that had been completed as well as those upcoming. This really helped in the post production process. There were more than a few times that I got calls in the middle of the shoot/production when there was a disagreement about a shot and I had to make an in-the-moment call. That’s part of being a good editor; there’s emotional support that you contribute in being a good collaborator, you can lend confidence to the director you are working with.

Ms. Zhang admits that the response to 7 Lbs 8 Oz has been so positive that it appears the film will be made into a television series sometime soon. Titled Welcome to 8th Street, the story of Yujin and her family will continue in this HBO supported sequel which includes animator Misha Klein of the Oscar Nominated Animation Film Caroline. Mia will also collaborate with Xin Li (producer of 7 Lbs 8 Oz & Welcome to 8th Street) on the Feature Film B-Side: For Taylor. Doubtless the same masterful technique she applied to 7 Lbs 8 Oz will infuse a powerful element to these productions. Editors of Mia’s caliber are powerful in the way that they raise a film to a realm that becomes transcendent, particularly with animation. In such films, the animation becomes not a substitute but rather a unique and beneficial means for the audience to lose themselves in the message the characters and the story want to impart.

Writer: Arlen Gann

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