Today we’d like to introduce you to Zhixin Cheng.
Zhixin, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
Every city, and every country I lived in shaped who I am today. To start my story, I need to introduce my hometown first. “Hometown” is a strange word to me. In my short, limited life, I hardly consider anywhere my “hometown”. I spent my childhood in Lin’an, a rural town in Hangzhou, China. Rarely does anyone know this small town. The first freeway to Lin’an was built in my third grade. That is how rural Lin’an is. So whenever people ask me where I come from, I always say “a city near Shanghai” or “a town in Hangzhou.” I went to boarding middle school in another city. From that time, I only went home once a week. My “home” became the school. I was more familiar with the school. Then for my high school education, I went to Canada. I stayed there for three years. I love Toronto, and I miss everything there. Yet Toronto is not my home. My high school art teacher, Mr. Blackwell, was the first person in my life who inspired me to create. Art became my only way to relieve stress in redundant daily life. And that’s when I initially found my interest in telling stories through the form of art. The last summer of high school, I decided to apply to art majors in the States. Fortunately enough, I am currently a rising senior at the University of Southern California, studying in the Media Arts+ Practice program. During my college year, I gradually realized film might be the best form of art that could deliver the story I urge to tell since the film is such a collective art.
My whole life is moving around, and I’m always on the way somewhere. I thought it was fantastic. It made me think I am some brave, fearless character in a popcorn movie. However, my thought changed as I grew up, especially during these two years. Hangzhou, the city, is about to host the Asian Game in 2022. So the government decided to enhance every corner of this city. Lin’an is now experiencing a dramatic change. Almost every old street is demolished. They want to rebuild everything to make Lin’an clearer and newer. When I went back during the pandemic, I was shocked by how much it had changed. I felt urgent to document what was left in the town and my memories. I finished my debut short film, “The Good Day,” in my hometown. I see the film as an EVIDENCE, a piece of evidence that proves I was there; I was standing right in the middle of this street, and it was my hometown. It’s evidence to prove I have somewhere to miss when I say I am homesick.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
I consider myself a lucky person, especially regarding big decisions and life events. And I am fortunate enough always to have supportive family and friends. There are struggles. Yet compared to all the support and love I got from surrounding people, I would say I went on a pretty smooth road.
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
Zhixin Vanessa Cheng is a Chinese filmmaker and visual artist. Currently studying in the Media Arts+ Practice program at USC School of Cinematic Arts. Vanessa is committed to the art of narrative, how it is constructed, and how complex and often hidden histories, can be made accessible. Her experience spans directing, sound designing, and producing. She works as the Lead Curator for the 9th AFMA Film Festival of Young Cinema. Her debut short film The Good Day has been selected and screened by film festivals globally. To find more information, please visit her portfolio website: https://zhixinvcheng.com/
Can you talk to us about how you think about risk?
I would not call myself a risk-taker. I believe taking risks is for those who are already fully prepared for upcoming challenges. One must be capable of precisely examining their ability to take risks. And when it comes to leadership, a leader should read the team’s capacity to take risks confidently.