The Compulsory Creativity of Filmmaker Robin Wang

Kelly King
5 min readMar 12, 2023
Robin Wang

A definition of a true artist is not the mastery of technical skills, though that is often found in their work. No, a real artist is someone who is driven by passion; compelled to create and deliver a message which they feel deep in their soul. That’s true for a great songwriter, a great painter, and a great filmmaker like Robin Wang. While still very young, Wang has proven himself defiantly committed to delivering films overflowing with heartache, inspiration, and humor. His voice is a loud and proud one, telling stories of those who are faced with cultural and sexual identity in a world that is redefining itself. He is the epitome of a storyteller for this emerging time. Similar to the work of Jordan Peele, the elements and genre of each film may differ but there is a common thread throughout these films; an undeniably powerful one. The numerous productions which he has undertaken are all imbued with a personal connection to Robin but equally possess an awareness of the potential for community that we can all share if we only choose to recognize the similarities between our own path and that of the characters in his films.

Diaspora is a recurring element in many of Robin’s films. As this becomes more prevalent on our planet, it is also a means for his films to explore other cultural elements. Through Graduation (an official selection of numerous Oscar qualifying film festivals such as Out on Film- Atlanta, Urbanworld Film Festival, and LGBTQ Film Festival LA Outfest), Robin presents the love of a young same sex couple and their emergence into adulthood. The perspective of these two men varies greatly from their more traditional Chinese parents but they still struggle against ideas deeply ingrained into the culture regarding their ability to choose their own path. Mr. Wang produced Echoes of Kef Time about an Armenian family whose ancestors fled genocide in their homeland and found success as musicians in the United States. This family also sees younger generations redefining themselves and attaining their own identity. Echoes of Kef Time was a semi-finalist at the Oscar-qualifying Rhode Island International Film Festival.

Two of Mr. Wang’s most recent projects use highly different means to depict tragic violent circumstances based on true events. Robin produced the film Backlog which is soon to premier at the 47th Cleveland International Film Festival (an Oscar-qualifying festival). This film depicts the drugging and rape of a female college student and her journey to champion a law that went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. Robin is currently directing Jack and Lou: A Gangster Story for Warner Bros. which stars Linda Hamilton (known globally for her work as Sarah Connor in the Oscar winning Terminator franchise films) and Sebastiano Pigazzi. Primarily a period piece set in the 1920s, this film follows the violence and romance of mafia enforcer Jack McGurn and his girlfriend Louise Rolfe. Musing on the demands and opportunities of this type of subject matter, Robin relates, “I feel the goal for creating a fictionalized work based on true events is really to get the heart out behind the story material and to make the most profoundly moving film possible. I think that films based on true stories are a very common and popular phenomenon in the contemporary filmmaking business. Many award-winning films are based on true stories. Spotlight is one example. Because of how common it is, it’s very easy to step into the moral dilemma of how much you should pay attention to what is historically accurate, and how much you could take on the creative liberty of doing fiction.”

Testifying to the spectrum of stories he feels compelled to create are Wei Lai and Heather’s Voice, two films which depict the heartache and joy of Asian families. Wei Lai is the name of an adolescent boy who is pulled into Westernization through his school and friends while his parents are still rooted in their sense of being Chinese. The cultural expanse between the two causes a major rift, offering moments of humor and deep sorrow. An official Staff Pick of the Chinese streaming service Xinpianchang with nearly a quarter of a million views and an official selection of multiple film festivals across the United States, Wei Lai finds itself at the union of two different cultures with overwhelming embrace. Wang has established a more contemplative tone for the film Heather’s Voice which presents the ethical dilemma of how far technology should go in dealing with loss. Set to make a US film festival run this Spring, Heather’s Voice was screened at China’s largest science fiction convention in Beijing last November.

It’s obvious when considering the work of filmmaker Robin Wang that he subscribes to the idea that growth comes through testing one’s self and abandon the comfort zone. Regardless of who you are, this is not an easy path to pursue. It does however, offer the greatest potential for surprising results. Robin reveals, “I’m always interested in exploring different kinds of genres like thriller, horror, heartfelt drama, and period pieces. In doing so, I grow as a filmmaker. Keep trying new genres and new subjects; to me, this is the way to keep myself excited as a creative individual. My goal is to always explore new frontiers and try something new. This is part of the reason I took on period pieces like ‘Jack and Lou’ and ‘Neither Donkey Nor Horse.’ I can only see myself continuing to expand my oeuvre down the line… and that is not only confined to the world of fiction. I also produced a documentary that I am very proud of and I have every intention to keep exploring longer-form non-fiction as well. My producing titles have included films that rely heavily on special effects, like ‘The Spirit Became Flesh’, and films with heavy visual effects like the future virtual reality world in ‘Heather’s Voice.’ I’m proud that my past work has encompassed many, many different kinds of challenges and many different genres. As a filmmaker, what always keeps me excited is to tackle the next unknown challenge spurred on by my love for the story, the themes, and the characters.”

--

--

Kelly King

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.