by Adweek Staff -Adweek
Growing up in an immigrant family in Shanghai, Zhou never believed an artist’s life was a remote possibility for her future. Keeping her love of films a secret, Zhou watched movies when everyone was asleep, “making little Terrence Malick-style love-letter montages, animating Ping Pong balls on a pad of Post-its,” she says.
While studying economics in college, she had an existential crisis. A friend saw her videos and encouraged her to pursue filmmaking. And in quick order she worked as a gaffer, electrician and freelance cinematographer.
During the past two years, Zhou’s been at the helm of major campaigns, collaborating with top artists and brands such as Prada and PlayStation. Using slow-motion shots, she showcased the amazing vogue dancing of Leiomy Maldonado in Nike’s “Equality” campaign.
She directed a “Black History Is Happening Now” effort for Spotify featuring Janelle Monáe on Afrofuturism. Currently, she’s at work on two short films: a love story between a runaway bride and a female alien and a dance film exploring the “badass chick” archetype.
Zhou says the big question that she wrestles with in her work is distinguishing the border between authenticity and opportunism.
“How does one stay true to the world that you see as factual and real,” she says, “when the agenda is trying to convince you that equality, justice, queerness, femininity, otherness, vulnerability, actually looks like a logo, sounds like a slogan, tries to appeal to all people, all issues, all stats, but cannot conjure a single vulnerable voice.”