Who’s That Girl: Chyna Lo

Who’s That Girl: Chyna Lo

The director discusses the role of gender in the creative space



Following your passion and creativity isn’t easy. It takes bravery and dedication to pursue the road less travelled—especially if the interest sneaks up on you. 


For director Chyna Lo, whose professional body of work includes collaborations with BPI, IKEA and PARADISE RISING, it started simple. “I used to write short stories for my friends to read and pass the time in high school,” she starts. “At some point, I got so excited and wondered if I would ever get to see something like those stories happen in real life…So I said, ‘What’s the closest [I can get] to making these a reality?’ Movies. So I decided to study and pursue filmmaking.”


Below, our exclusive with the 33-year-old director, where we talked about the importance and power of female creatives in storytelling. 


Who's That Girl: Chyna Lo


Wonder: What’s the best part about storytelling?

Chyna Lo: It can be done by different people, from different places, different experiences and cultures, and still resonate with those who come from a completely different background. You can tell one story in so many different ways, in so many different forms and still retain the core of it, the essence of it. Storytelling is the way by which we share old experiences and, at the same time, introduce new ways of thinking, new dreams. It’s limitless.


W: Is there a movie scene that stays in your head rent free?

CL: Zhang Zi Yi dancing the Beauty Dance in Zhang Yimou’s House of Flying Daggers. It’s such a captivating scene that depicts beauty and grace, and power and control at the same time. The colors and the movements, the music. They all create a synergy that draws you into the experience and at the same time artfully lays out everything you need to know about her character, Mei.


W: If you could localize any film of your choice, what would it be?

CL: Princess Mononoke. I think it would be interesting to tell that story with our own mythology. Another one is not a film, but Bridgerton. Just because I think it would be fun and interesting to create a story that revolves around how women navigated Filipino society back then, and also have the opportunity to create classical/traditional Filipino musical renditions of OPM songs from the 90s until now.


W: As a director, what would you say is your “signature?”

CL: I like putting my own spin on things so [that]  when there’s an opportunity for it, I try to style my visuals in ways that represent my sensibilities and taste as well. I grew up watching a lot of music videos and anime and I have a deep appreciation and pride in Asian culture, so these influence my work greatly.



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W: There’s been an interest in the “female gaze” recently. Do you think it’s important or relevant to audiences today?

CL: With more female filmmakers being able to create with a distinctly female perspective, everyone is able to see more and dive deeper into the female experience and see things—approach things—differently. It’s important to understand that the female gaze does not mean to objectify men or glorify women. It’s there to show you what it is women find compelling, interesting and inspiring. How do women experience or remember cooking? How do they experience lovemaking? How do they view certain situations and what do they feel? What part do they focus on? What’s the emotion? Why is desire depicted this way? 


I think having this interest in the female gaze is exciting because it opens up so many possibilities for discourse and change in many different aspects, not just of filmmaking but storytelling and content creation. 


In a world where there are so many assumptions about what women think and what women pay attention to, it’s great to actually see for ourselves what it is that women want us to take note of, straight from the source.


W: What is it about women taking control of storytelling that resonates with the general public?

CL: It gives women a stronger voice and it makes their experiences and their identities feel more understood, rather than merely perceived. Ownership of your story and your experience and being able to connect to others with it is something that I think the general public has always loved and resonated with.



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A post shared by Chyna Lo (@heliumblade)


Despite all this, Chyna makes it a point to say that the creative world has changed—and all for the better. “The experiences of men and women are not so exclusive to gender anymore,” she says, after sharing that she has seen her fair share of work from female directors who went for action and men who directed truly introspective films. 


“Fortunately, because people are so vocal about their observations and now that everything is shareable on social media, I think creatives and production have been taking notes,” she declares. “Most people in the industry have started to put more thought into the details.”


Chyna’s own attention to detail has been regarded by brands and collaborators alike. She admits putting her best to making sure that everything is done well, working closely with the crew to achieve the desired output. But more than her eye for detail, Chyna approaches storytelling with “sensitivity, sincerity and thorough understanding.” She says: “You have to learn why they do things [that] they do, and what it is that they—and you—want the audiences to learn or feel from their story.”


As a female in the director’s chair, Chyna Lo understands that she has something unique to offer that’s not limited to her natural attention to detail or the nostalgic music videos, anime and Asian culture she grew up surrounded by. It’s her ability to adapt any storyline into a genuine narrative that sets her apart.


Watch out for more from Chyna Lo with Secret Menu.



Art Alexandra Lara

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