In Dr. Zhu Shen’s Case Mother Really Does Know Best
Now that you’ve had the chance to meet 10 year-old award winning Film Critic Perry Chen, it’s time to meet the woman who has helped promote him and build his website, his mother Dr. Zhu Shen. A Biotech Consultant and Marketing Specialist with her own firm BioForesight, Zhu has put some of her own career aspirations on hold in order to guide her talented son’s development. I’m sure you’ll find what she has to say in this Filmmakers Notebook Q&A very interesting.
What were your first thoughts when you realized Perry had such a special gift?
My first thought was how I can support and nurture his talent. When he started writing his first movie reviews, I had him watch DVDs that we bought, such as “Charlotte’s Web”, “Finding Nemo”, and others. When I read his review of “Ratatouille,” I was blown away! He used expressive language and relayed his personal experiences of seeing rats in our own garden, and how watching “Ratatouille” changed his views on rats. I felt that review had quality that was worthy of publication, and started to take Perry to see current movies played at the cinema regularly, and we discussed about how to write a great review, and developed a movie review template together which proved to be extremely helpful for him to organize his thoughts and ideas about movies he just watched. Within two months, Perry’s first movie review was published on a local newspaper.
Was Perry’s age a concern for you when he began writing his reviews and receiving attention from the media?
Not really. When Perry’s movie reviews became better and better, I thought it would be great if he could write a column for a local newspaper. The publisher of We Chinese in America magazine and weekly newspaper loved Perry’s movie reviews and decided to create a column for Perry immediately after publishing his first review in Feb 2009. With the column, Perry became a credentialed film critic and was invited to all G/PG movie press screenings. Perry has always been a modest and humble child with a healthy sense of humor. After his national media coverage such as the CBS Evening News, he remained grounded and unfazed by the media attention and still is. I think his humility will serve him well in future endeavors.
What are your short and long term goals for Perry’s website and for your own career?
My mission is to help nurture Perry’s talents in whatever ways I can and to inspire other children (and parents) in the pursuit of their dreams. Perry had had amazing accomplishments in the past 2 years that we would never have imagined when he started writing movie reviews. He has become a role model and an authoritative spokesperson for his generation.
My short term goal for Perry is to help him finish his 1st animation short next year and have it shown at various film festivals. Perry is also involved in Bill Plympton’s Guard Dog Global Jam as one of 70 animators worldwide to animate and recreate Plympton’s Oscar-nominated “Guard Dog”. Perry is the youngest animator in this project.
There is a lot of interest about Perry’s art. We are in discussions with various partners and companies about creating gift items and merchandise using Perry’s art. It’s harder to pinpoint the long term goals for Perry because his talents are not limited to one area. It depends on what area(s) he chooses to forcus more of his energy on in the future: writing, movie reviews, art or animation. Regardless of how his talents evolve, I will continue to support and guide him.
Have you thought about doing any movie reviews or any other type of work in the field or do you prefer supporting and managing Perry’s projects?
I have written some sample movie reviews during Perry’s early days of writing to show him what I looked for, how I structure a review, and help him develop critical thinking skills. I have no plans to become a film critic myself, but will continue to discuss movies with Perry and support him.
Perry has been invited to children’s film festivals in the U.S. and China. I have been approached by film industry people in China and the U.S. about film distribution, especially family-friendly films outside of major studios. I think there are significant opportunities to promote and distribute films that have positive moral and educational value that are also fun and entertaining across the Pacific. The films I will be involved in distributing will be those that have been reviewed by Perry and receiving at least 4 out of 5 starfish! This is an area that intrigues me and I look forward to exploring opportunities with partners in the U.S. and China.
I would also like to be involved in non-profit and other organizations promoting education. I plan to write books about parenting and education, and would also be interested in speaking about these subjects, as well as sharing my expertise in connecting with people and organizations, and find great partners in businesses. I may also write articles for magazines and other publication about education and parenting.
Have you found any differences between children’s entertainment in China and the United States?
Yes, quite a lot of differences. Perry was a film judge for the Chinese children’s films featured at the San Diego International Children’s Film Festival this year, and we watched many Chinese children’s films in the past two years. The Chinese films tend to have more serious themes about people’s struggle, less fun and entertaining than American children’s films. They are marketed in an entirely different way: few prominent stars, small budget, modest revenue with few TV ads.
American children’s films, especially from major animation studios, have enormous appeal to both kids and adults that engage you and entertain you. The moral and lessons learned are more subtle. The creativity and production value are of high caliber. It will take years for Chinese children’s film to catch up, although we’re seeing Chinese films getting more sophisticated these days.
There are tremendous opportunities to bring U.S. films to China and vise versa so that people can enjoy and learn about other culture and lives. This is an area I am getting involved in as there is interest from both sides. The Chinese children’s entertainment market is huge because of the vast number of children, especially given the backdrop of the one-child policy in China in the past 3 decades. Parents and grandparents are eager to spend money on their kids’ education and entertainment.
What have you learned the most from attending all of the film festivals the two of you have been attending?
The best part of attending film festivals is to interact with filmmakers and learn about what inspired them to make the films and how they were able to make “magic” with the material. We also enjoyed making friends with directors, stars, fellow press, and attendees. The experience of attending red carpet premiere and participate in the exclusive Q&A in a packed theater is amazing! Everyone there loves movies and the enthusiasm is infectious.
What are your favorite children’s movies?
For children’s movies I saw in the U.S., my favorites are “How to Train Your Dragon”, “Up”, “Azur & Asmar” (by French animation master Michel Ocelot), “The Fan & the Flower” (by Bill Plympton, short animation), “Finding Nemo”, “Ratatouille”, “The Perfect Game”.
For movies I saw in China when I was growing up, some of my favorites are: “Three Monks” (animation), “Shining Red Star”.
Perry is currently involved in working on an animated short and doing his reviews. Do you have any other plans on the drawing board or do you prefer to limit the amount of projects you participate in?
We have been approached with lots of interesting opportunities in the past year. The challenge for me is to set priority and keep a balanced lifestyle for Perry and myself, given his school work and other obligations we have. My husband Changyou and I always tell Perry that school is his top priority. Perry’s first animation short “Beyond the Forest” is a very important project for him for which he is dedicating a lot of time. I’m a co-producer for the film. One can’t do everything and expect to do it well, so I’ll limit the number of projects Perry and I participate in.
To check out Perry’s incredible website visit www.perryspreviews.com or follow Zhu on Twitter @bioforsight and Perry @perryspreviews. You can also read the recent article about the young Film Critic in Variety at http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118026037.html?categoryid=4137&cs=1