Writer-Actor Ken Zheng might be more known for his feature films like the action based Brush with Danger or the action/sci-fi Insight but like most of the film industry, he’s delved into the arena of short films as well. The internet and streaming services have transformed the film industry along with nearly every other part of modern life, injecting massive interest by the viewing public in these briefer productions. Audiences are more willing to watch a film for its uniqueness and originality than ever before. As with documentaries, the demand for short films online has boomed to a point never before seen, allowing Zheng and those whom he works with to investigate the creative opportunities without the looming presence of a major studio who is concerned with marketing potential rather than creative expression.
When Ken came to the US as a writer/actor, it was his intention to immerse himself within the creative pool of the world’s unrivaled filmmaking capitol. Doing so afforded Zheng the opportunity to work with some of his favorite actors, such as John Savage (of quintuple Oscar Awarded film The Deer Hunter, seven time Oscar Nominated Thin Red Line, and Golden Globe Nominated Hair). While continuing the feature film facet of his career, Ken has created and collaborated on a number of short films with perhaps lesser known names but still achieving an exceptionally diverse and captivating body of work. Down by the River possesses the thrills and action of a blockbuster like The Fugitive. A scant three-minutes in duration, the film also offers no release from the tension that starts with the first seconds of the story. The audience follows a prison escapee who is being pursued by a killer along the Rio Grande river. The prisoner eventually resigns himself to the fact that the only way to freedom is by confronting the killer. A congruent tone of desperation but in a much lighter setting is that of The Last Supper, which Zheng also wrote and stars in. Happy in a romantic relationship with his girlfriend, the clumsiness of Ken’s character results in the untimely death of said girlfriend’s beloved pet. Frantically, he must decide how to break the news without causing a breakup.
Comedy, action, and drama; they’re not so different in the eyes of Ken Zheng. He clarifies, “Of course the emotion is different in these genres but what you’re looking for as a writer and as an actor is to create that connection with the audience. Even if they haven’t been in any of these situations, you want the audience to see some reflection of themselves in the characters on screen. You hope that they will find themselves in that moment of ‘I might act that way if I were him.’ This is the goal.” Zheng continues, “If you are truly seeking the path of an artist then you simply want to create; this is the compensation you receive. I love making films whether they are hours long or minutes long. Thankfully, there’s so much support within the film community and the film-watching public to allow myself and my peers to explore different subjects, formats, and lengths of productions.” Every artform is subject to evolution, as it should be. Art cannot be stagnant and this certainly applies to filmmaking. There’s no question that the younger generation has changed their viewing habits from those of previous ones. Preferring to watch on-the-go and on a variety of devices, the short film format may be the new standard of the future and filmmakers like Ken Zheng who create these productions will likely be the cornerstone of this burgeoning course.