Emmy Nominated Animation to Cultural Exceptionalism with Cinematographer Hao Yu
Hao Yu is passionate about his career as a cinematographer. Since he was a young boy, Hao was fascinated by how a particular visual perspective and style could elicit such grand emotions. Like most of us, the pandemic demanded an altering of normal life for Hao. An unexpected turn became positive when he joined the team of the Emmy Award Winning Robot Chicken. Being a relative novice to the stop-animation style that this show utilizes, Hao’s embrace of the possibilities has resulted in his inclusion in this season’s status as a 2022 Emmy Nominee for the show. This production was quite different than his work as a DP on films such as Fair Games (Gold Remi Award Winner at Worldfest Houston International Film Festival), Last Night in Town, LA Fadeaway, and others but it also offered the chance to explore new territory with a familiar skill set. Hao Yu is a dreamer who believes deeply in the possibilities that the adventurous path offers. Working behind the camera on Asian Inspiration, a docu-series available on ODK (OnDemandKorea), a huge part of what made Hao so effective is his ability to recognize concentrated moments of emotion and cultivate their transfer to an audience. An international artist who has achieved his dream in his homeland as well as the film capital of Hollywood, Hao Yu exemplifies the benefits of stepping outside one’s own comfort zone.
From the outset, season eleven of Robot Chicken took things up to a much larger scale and an increased pace. Considering that this was during a time when most of the industry was restricted from work and only a select portion were allowed to do so under hyper-strict protocols, Hao’s inclusion into the production at precisely this time was a testimony to the belief collaborators like twice Daytime Emmy Award Winner (for Tumble Leaf) Jeff Garnder had in his abilities. Gardner refers to Mr. Yu as “an expert in the craft.” Hao communicates, “As production went along, Jeff and I, with the team, kind of created our own way of lighting and developed a unique approach to understand each scene. This is not something that we built together over the times. I think there’s a balance for creativity and discipline.” He adds, “The animators are certainly the real heroes of Robot Chicken. I saw my role as supporting their work in the best way. I was constantly thinking to myself, ‘How can I make the animators have better access to the set? What could I do to light it in way that minimum changes are needed for the next couple shots, but still make it look good?’ I really thrive on the team based environment that is so important to a show like Robot Chicken.”
Not as well-known as Robot Chicken but certainly remarkable in its own regard is the docu-drama Asian Inspiration, for which Mr. Yu took part in as the DP of this series. Through the lives of three different Asian Americans, each episode seeks to inspire by telling the stories of those who have sought to make both their lives and the lives of their communities more enriched. Director Zheyu Liang’s documentary style tone is greatly complemented by the cinematic look that Hao achieved for this production. The various interviews featured in Asian Inspiration shows the detailed attention Mr. Yu took in crafting the look of this production but he professes that any cinematographer worth their weight is attentive for those special moments which happen on their own. Regarding one of his favorite moments in Asian Inspiration, Hao recalls, “There’s one scene in Dr.Chu’s story where you see them prepping for food and snacks. Those food and snacks are actually for all the crews and no one from production actually expected to have the couple prepare food at all. When I saw this happening, I asked the crew to quiet down and we secretly brought up the cameras and shot their entire lunch prep conversation. Although it’s in Korean and I don’t understand most of it, I think this is indicative of some valuable moments in the story that really sells what these people are like in a normal daily life. I really value these moments where we really stayed low and witnessed the real life instead of any pre-setups.”