DP Chaochen Li Speaks to the Visual Gravitas of Remedial

Cinematographer Chaochen Li

All of us see the world but for Chaochen Li this is quite literally his passion and his vocation. An award-winning DP with Best Cinematography awards from many famed film festivals (Oniros Film Awards and the Florence Film Festival just to name two) as well as a nominee for the prestigious Heritage Award from the ASC [American Society of Cinematographers], Mr. Li epitomizes the modern day cinematographer who wields his own unique style and seeks to collaborate on stories which resonate globally. Originally from Beijing China, Chaochen’s work with other filmmakers in the US is no surprise as he grew up watching both American and Chinese films. The combination has resulted in an approach that offers the best of both these major film industries. He affirms, “I think a DP’s style is definitely determined by the film’s she/he grew up watching. The American film industry does have a worldwide influence and I watched a lot of American films as I grew up but there were also countless Chinese pictures, cartoons, TV shows, and movies that not many non-Chinese audiences have never ever heard of. The aesthetics of these artworks sometimes inspire me even more because they help me think outside of the norm.” Chaochen will be utilizing his unique style for the upcoming film Remedial, written and directed by Laurie Gardiner. The subject matter of the film is that which has long been kept silent but is becoming a topic of discussion more often in recent times; one which resonates on a personal level for Chaochen and indicates the film will greatly benefit from it.

Remedial is based on real live events and centers upon a young British boy named Will who has tragically lost his father. When the family relocates to Houston, Texas, the pain he is already dealing with is exacerbated by the social injustice that surrounds this young boy of color. Will’s behavior becomes erratic and he acts out. The film tackles many difficult topics ranging from mental illness to death and society’s overarching ills. Chaochen confirms that he plans on a gritty and stark approach to establish the emotional tone of the film. He states, “Making things look ‘good’ is not the standard of evaluation for a DP’s work. It’s most important to make the look work for the drama. I want the audience to forget that they are sitting in a theater. Nothing beats the feeling when you watch a film with an audience and witness them holding their breath or being surprised by what you’ve created. It’s magical.” The pain and violence in Laurie Gardiner’s script offers ample opportunity for a DP to interpret and display the misunderstood anguish of its central character. While affirming that the script for Remedial excited him, Mr. Li confesses that his own childhood bout with OCD instantly connected him to the plight of young Will in this story and convinced him that this was a serendipitous moment. Chaochen relates, “I knew this is going to be a meaningful project that I couldn’t let slip away. It resonates with my own personal experience a lot. The film discusses the misdiagnosis of ADHD among children who actually suffers from PTSD, while I experienced a period of OCD during my childhood, possibly caused by the alienation between my parents. I would even re-write a comma many times until I thought it was perfect, sometimes resulting in a hole on the paper. I never went to a therapist because I didn’t want to be diagnosed as a ‘freak.’ Now I know that mental illness is not exclusive to adults, and when it happened to kids, it’s even more detrimental because of its long-term impact. I firmly believe this short film will raise people’s awareness of such issues, and hopefully we will be able to make it into a feature to reach an even bigger audience.”

Remedial is set to begin filming this September.

An LA based writer with more than a decade as a staff writer for NYC based Drumhead magazine, Kelly is also a contributor to a number of outlets.