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Videographer Kai-Yan Lai on Camille Munn, His Short Film, and The Young Creative Awards

1 February 22 interview: Lizzy O'Riordan
photos: Kai-Yan Lai

After winning a Young Creative Award in 2016, Kai-Yan Lai has gone from strength to strength in the film industry. We catch up with the young videographer about his work on Camille Munn's new music video, his short film Bedbugs, and why you should enter the Young Creative Awards...

You entered the Young Creative Awards in 2016...

I entered the Young Creative Awards back in 2016 with a short Star Wars fan-film. I filmed it with a couple of childhood friends and I taught myself animation on the software Blender to create the CGI lightsabers. Shooting that was my first introduction to the whole filmmaking process and I loved it! My mother told me about the Young Creative Awards and I was really interested in entering.

The YCA led to some work experience with Skeleton Productions and LeftLion. How did you find your first taste of industry experience?

If it hadn’t have been for the YCA I don’t think I would be where I am now. My parents encouraged me to use the YCA as a great networking event. There I met Jonathan English, managing director of Skeleton, who gave me a weeks long work experience in their office. After that, I started working with LeftLion as a freelance videographer filming events like Hockley Hustle, Beat the Streets and having a small camera operating role in their feature documentary: Lord of Milan. Meanwhile, a Rushcliffe based company called YouNG saw a video I filmed while at their market and they flew me out to Rome and Slovakia with some local young entrepreneurs and there I filmed their journey selling product goods at international markets. 

You’re now busy building your portfolio. What have you been up to recently? 

I’m now focusing on cinematography with the aspirations of becoming a Director of Photography. I’ve been building up my portfolio by shooting as much content as I can, which includes short films and music videos. I'll also be shooting a commercial for a Kodak competition next week!

I’ve been working in the film industry as a camera trainee. Some recent work includes: The Crown S5, ITV’s Our House, Dave and Stormzy: Clash, and a day on Vicky McClure’s Without Sin.

If it hadn’t have been for the YCA I don’t think I would be where I am now. My parents encouraged me to use the YCA as a great networking event.

And you're currently working towards your degree at Middlesex University. How's that going? 

It’s going well. I’m now in my final year with a short film on the horizon that I’ll be the Director of Photography on. The film is British comedy called Bedbugs, which will be directed by a frequent collaborator and friend of mine, Joe Hearsey. Our crowdfund will be live in a matter of days.

Most recently you’ve been the director of photography for Camille Munn’s music video Sippin.’ It looks amazing! 

Thank you! It’s definitely my favourite piece of work yet. I’m proud of the outcome, the incredible team behind it, and thankful for Camille approaching me with this visually ambitious project. Each scene is a whole new vibe and Camille wanted to go all out with that! It was honestly a blast! I shot that on a Canon C300 with Canon CN-E primes, using diffusion filters black pro mist and stars rented from a lovely rental company Direct Digital. My amazing mentor Richard Mott presented me with the opportunity as Camille was looking for a cinematographer and from there I brought on Joe Hearsey to direct and Aiden Tobin to grade it. It was a really enjoyable process. 

Since winning your 2016 YCA prize, you’ve developed as an artist. What are the things inspiring you at the moment?

I find the work of other cinematographers and friends really inspiring, seeing how they work and the quality of content they produce really motivates me. Also being on film sets gives me a lot of inspiration as I’m able to learn how seasoned professionals work in different environments.

A recent film I watched that really inspired me was Spencer (2021), a recent album that inspired me was Dave’s We’re All Alone in This Together (2021) and a photography book I find inspiring is Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs

 

It’s definitely my favourite piece of work yet. I’m proud of the outcome, the incredible team behind it and thankful for Camille approaching me with this visually ambitious project.

Any future projects we should be looking out for?

I’m working on a few! A music video for Notts artist JEDyer, a commercial for ‘HUN’ (shot on 16mm as part of a Kodak competition), and most importantly my graduation film: Bedbugs.

After university I’ll continue working in the film industry as a camera trainee to learn as much as I can while also shooting as many projects that interest me. 

And finally, the Young Creative Awards 2022 are now open. What would you say to anyone considering entering? 

It’s a fantastic opportunity that can open many doors for young creatives. It was a great experience, shooting a film, submitting it and attending the event with friends and family. Even if you don’t win, you will take something from it that you won’t forget. 

You can keep up to date with Kai-Yan Lai's new film on Instagram here

 

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