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  • Writer's pictureAmerican Dream Screen

A Candid Conversation on the Cinematic Marvel, 'Train Passes Carbondale with its director Hong Zhou

As the cinematic landscape reverberates with the intrigue surrounding 'Train Passes Carbondale,' we sit down with the visionary director, Hong Zhou. The film has become the talk of the town, sparking conversations and capturing imaginations with its narrative.

In this exclusive interview, Zhou provides an insightful peek behind the curtains, sharing the inspiration, challenges, and creative process that fueled the creation of this much-discussed film.

American Dream Screen : In the current landscape of independent cinema, what do you believe sets your film apart from the rest and makes it a unique and compelling addition to the medium?

Hong Zhou : In my film, I tried to experiment on the format of visual storytelling that seems to have a narra8ve but not necessarily a storyline. I think I was trying to create a string of visual texts around the central theme of memories that invites open interpreta8ons from viewers . The meaning of the film is undefined and could change depending on viewers’ personal feelings.

American Dream Screen : Independent filmmaking often encourages creative risk-taking. Can you share a specific instance where you had to make a bold creative decision during the production of your film, and how did it impact the final product?

Hong Zhou : The risk I took in making this film is the fact the film doesn’t seem to fit into any established type or genre in terms of common categories of narrative, experimental, documentary or essay films. As such, when submitting to festivals, it’s pretty hard to find a specific category to enter as most festivals require. But I feel it’s important to explore different ways for visual storytelling outside of established frames and concepts. I appreciate that American Dream Screen Festival supports diversity and innovation and provides an opportunity for films like mine.

American Dream Screen : Collaboration is a fundamental aspect of filmmaking. Could you elaborate on a particularly memorable or challenging collaboration experience with a member of your cast or crew and how it influenced the project?

Hong Zhou : A particular memorable collaboration experience is when my voice actor and I worked together to record the dialogue. In the film, the two voice-over characters are talking to one another, but each speaks in a different language that the other doesn’t know. It was challenging to perform the dialogue where one doesn’t know what the other was saying while still building an emotional connection between the two.

American Dream Screen : Can you discuss the artistic influences and choices that informed the film's visual aesthetics and how they complemented the narrative?

Hong Zhou : My main influences came from early surrealism arts that showed strings of dreams and consciousness without the presence of reason. One of the surrealism ar8sts that influenced me the most is Rene Magritte whose paintings visualize moments of thoughts in the absence of logic that ques8on our normal percep8ons. For my film, I try to use the train as a motif in a

distanced memory shared by two people connected in their emo8ons but may not know one another.

American Dream Screen : The post-production process is where a film truly takes shape. How did you approach the editing, sound design, and music composition in your film to enhance the storytelling and emotional impact?

Hong Zhou : It’s so true that the postproduction is where a film truly takes shape. I see it as a completely new creative process where new ideas and possibilities arise that may give a film different form and meaning than what I first envisioned. For Train Passes Carbondale, it was originally intended to have some kind of documentary feel, but during the editing, it took a turn toward more of an expressionism piece in color and style. The idea of using voice over dialogue between two characters speaking to each other in different languages also came during the edi8ng to add a layer of possibility for interpretation of the film.

American Dream Screen : Can you share a challenging moment during the production of your film and how you overcame it, ultimately making the project stronger or more meaningful?

Hong Zhou : Overall, the making of my film was pretty smooth and enjoyable. The challenging part was the filming of the train. I had to set up camera and wait for many hours to see a train and film one shot. I could only get 1 or 2 shots of a train the whole day. It was also tricky and hard to predict and frame the train in the shot. It took me weeks to wait, observe, and learn about train’s behavior and movement patterns in relation to my camera and lens. Eventually I learned how to capture it the way I wanted.

Zhou's candor and insights have provided a fascinating glimpse into the making of this much-talked-about film. As the credits roll on this cinematic marvel, Zhou leaves us with a lingering sense of wonder, reminding us that great films are not just watched; they are experienced and pondered upon.

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