Jun Li: Accessing Amy’s Gift Through the Camera
The goal of a story as powerful as the one depicted in the award-winning film Amy’s Gift is to place the audience within the emotional state of the characters, specifically that of the protagonist. Director Drew Ann Rosenberg, like so many other filmmakers, chose Steadicam operator Jun Li to help manifest this deeply personal climate. Jun and Rosenberg have worked together on a number of films prior to Amy’s Gift and it was this professional history which convinced the director that Jun is one of the greatest in his field. A major asset to any production which he lends his talent and skill to, Jun Li is adamant that the power of a highly skilled Steadicam operator is profound in allowing a director to arrive at the tone they intend for their art. Those within the industry can confirm this but it takes a peek inside the day-to-day of someone like Jun for the rest of us to truly appreciate how immensely inspiring someone like Jun is to his collaborators.
Amy’s Gift has received many industry awards and recognitions in screenings at various film festivals such as the LA Shorts Film Festival, LA Femme Film Festival, Awareness Festival, and Valley Film Festival. The film deals with immense sadness and one woman’s battle to overcome it. It was essential for the film to communicate the depths of despair which Amy, the central character, found herself in. To achieve this, Jun Li was contacted to take on the duties of Steadicam operator. Jun has worked with Oscar nominees, Grammy Award Winners, and some of the most famous talent in the mediums of film and music; all due to his extraordinary ability to bring the camera into the most emotional moments as they evolve. Simply stated, there are few like Jun who comprehend the timing and spatial intimacy the camera offers at such a high level. Amy’s Gift follows a woman who has lost her husband and child in a tragic car accident. Numb, she has become a ghost in a world where people avoid any opportunity to connect and share her burden. It’s only when the non-English speaking daughter of an immigrant senses Amy’s pain that she can begin to reconnect to the world around her. The scene in which Amy enters the studio of a man named Snake, this is where a director can truly appreciate how Jun Li moves like one with the actors. The camera leads Amy into the studio while Snake is ahead of her. Cut to another angle from Amy’s back and the camera slowly pushes into her with an (OTS) over-the-shoulder shot while she keeps walking into the studio. Then when she looks up, the camera follows the direction of her head and keeps moving across her shoulder and up to her natural eye-line point of view. The camera flows to review the entire space to show as many details until Snake walks into the frame again, finally pulling back and landing on Amy’s shoulder to another OTS. The gracefulness of this scene cannot be properly communicated with words; it must be witnessed to truly appreciate how Jun Li has placed the audience within the very mind and body of Amy. A party scene later in the film serves to deepen the appreciation for how Jun nimbly navigates the crowd to follow the characters and leave the emotional tone intact throughout the chaos.
Jun Li is quick to heap praise on Amy’s Gift director Drew Ann Rosenberg (known for her work on numerous Oscar Award Winning Films including LA Confidential, Philadelphia, Misery, Reversal of Fortune, Running on Empty, and Trevor) for the magnificence of the film. That’s not surprising coming from the ever humble Jun who does not lean into attention. He imparts, “Camera operator is a very appealing position which always makes me feel accomplished. My job is to turn written content into moving images; the whole creative process makes me satisfied. To help my directors achieve their visions with my knowledge and operating techniques makes my job a critical position in any film productions…and it makes me very happy. We call our ourselves storytellers, as well as problem shooters.”