Videographer Kai-Yan Lai talks about Camille Munn, her short film and the Young Creative Awards
You took part in the Young Creative Awards in 2016…
I participated in the Young Creative Awards in 2016 with a short Star Wars fan-film. I filmed it with a couple of childhood friends and learned animation on Blender software to create the CGI lightsabers. Shooting 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 participating.
The YCA led to experience working with Skeleton Productions and LeftLion. How did you find your first experience in the industry?
If it weren’t 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 offered me a week-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 role as a camera operator in their feature documentary: Lord of Milan. Meanwhile a company based in Rushcliffe called YouNG saw a video that I filmed on their market and they took me to Rome and Slovakia with young local entrepreneurs and there I filmed their journey selling products in international markets.
You are now busy building your portfolio. What have you been up to lately?
I am now concentrating on cinematography with the aspiration of becoming a cinematographer. I built my portfolio by filming as much content as possible, including short films and music videos. I’m also going to shoot a commercial for a Kodak contest next week!
I worked in the film industry as a camera trainee. Some recent works include: The crown S5, ITV Our house, Dave and Stormzy: Clash, and a day at Vicky McClure Without sin.
If it weren’t 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 are currently preparing your degree at Middlesex University. How’s it going?
Things are going well. I am now in my final year with a short film on the horizon for which I will be the director of photography. The film is a British comedy called Drawing pins, which will be directed by a frequent collaborator and friend of mine, Joe Hearsey. Our crowdfund will be online in a few days.
More recently, you were director of photography for Camille Munn’s music video Sip.’ He looks amazing!
Thank you! This is definitely my favorite job to date. I’m proud of the result, of the incredible team behind it, and grateful that Camille approached me with this visually ambitious project. Every scene is a whole new vibe and Camille wanted to pull it all off! It was honestly awesome! I shot this on a Canon C300 with Canon CN-E primes, using black pro haze and star diffusion filters rented from a nice Direct Digital rental company. My amazing mentor Richard Mott presented me with the opportunity when Camille was looking for a cinematographer and from there I brought in Joe Hearsey to direct and Aiden Tobin to score it. It was a really nice process.
Since winning your 2016 YCA award, you have evolved as an artist. What are the things that inspire you right now?
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 am able to learn how seasoned professionals work in different environments.
A recent movie I watched that really inspired me was spencer (2021), a recent album that inspired me was that of Dave We’re all alone together (2021) and a photography book that I find inspiring is Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs.
This is definitely my favorite job to date. I’m proud of the result, of the incredible team behind it and grateful that Camille approached me with this visually ambitious project.
Are there any future projects we should watch out for?
I’m working on a few! A clip for the artist Notts JEDyer, an advertisement for ‘HUN’ (shot in 16mm as part of a Kodak competition), and above all my graduation film: Drawing pins.
After college, I will continue to work in the film industry as a trainee cameraman to learn as much as possible while filming 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 to shoot a film, submit it and attend the event with friends and family. Even if you don’t win, you’ll get something out of it that you won’t forget.
You can follow the news of Kai-Yan Lai’s new film on Instagram here