So Long: An Interview with Teng (Miracle) Ma



Tell us about yourself. What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

It’s my honor to be able to introduce myself to TISFF and those who might gonna read this in the near future. I’m Miracle Ma. A writer, Director and Producer based in US and China.


I remember I lived in a place that really close to a Theatre. And that Theatre was filled by variety of Arts. So I’ve got chance to watched a lot of stage plays, operas, etc. But the most attractive thing that happened to me out there was film. My very first film (or you can call it “Movie”) that I can recall was Titanic. I couldn’t take my mind of those pictures afterwards. I dreamt about them every single night. So went to the Theatre and watched those old time films became my daily routine… kinda. I did skip classes for it. Sorry. Then I figure out they make film by use films. So I bought some 35mm films without a camera. I was starting to make my own stories by touching them films. And imagination. I also like the smell of them. So if I have to choose one or the very first inspiration. I would say the smell of the films.


Talk about your last work. What are some of the challenges you faced during production?

Compromise.


Sometimes you have to compromise in order to moving things forward. I think this is normal for most of the filmmakers, especially those independent one. I have to compromised some of the ideas that with me from day one under some tough circumstances. You really don’t have too much of options to avoid them. Sorry I can’t remember a specific challenge that I faced during So Long. Cause there were too many of them and I have to keep them outta my mind before the shoot, on set and after the wrap. Yes, So Long can be better without compromise. Any filmmakers can say any films can be better without compromise. But I’m glad that I figure them all out on set and during the post production with some different and new ideas. I faced them challenges and I stepped on it.


Oh there’s a funny one. So I was just back to China from LA before the shoot. 30 days quarantine. I have to find all the crew members during the quarantine by calls. Lot of rejections and all that. Because I haven’t worked in China for two years. And lot of my old buds here in China were kinda changed or busy as heck. So I’ve only got one crew member after the 30 days quarantine. Long story short, finally I’ve got a producer and several members and we set up the plan and time. But two days before shooting, my producer quit. Because some family issues. So the schedule was postponed. But Luckily I met my current producer in coincidence. She was really really really helpful. Worked everything out in two days. So I can shoot on time. I should give my name to her. *smile awkwardly*


What makes you want to tell stories? In other words, what are the themes/issues you want to incorporate into your work?

The Universe. But not Sci-Fi.


Lot of people told me that: Yo Miracle, why can’t you just simply write a story about human kinds relationships, politics or third world issues and all that. Why always so complicated? Why choose a hard way?


I’ve always wanted to create a new world. Bring new rules, different ways to tell a story and perspectives to the world through my work. Or I should say, I don’t particularly want that intentionally. But I just can’t control myself every time when I started a new work. Think differently. So I think the themes of my work will never only be human kinds relationships and politics and third world issues and all that. Nothing wrong with them. I respect those themes and I like to watch them. Some films meant to mark up the history, memories. But I like those ones who sees the future. I’m just thinking that film is ART to me. Not something that you feel like you watched some news after you watch a film. I gotta be a Pioneer and try new things in that new ART world. Thank you FILM GOD.

So I think the main theme I want to incorporate into my work is that “I’ll show what I see to my human brothers who can’t see it.”



Please tell us about your vision and your method of approaching a new project?

A picture.


Whether in real life or an image. And sometimes I found my new project based on natural phenomenon.


For example: So Long’s idea was coming from fireworks. I saw fireworks and lightning during the driving. And suddenly I was like if I make a film about fireworks. But I won’t show the actual fireworks. Just the sound like thunder and the lightning reflection with earth in the sky. What that will be?


I’ve always thinking of the beginning and the ending of my new project in the first place. And I started to make pictures in my head. The camera movements, the actions, transitions, speeds, rhythms. And I wrote them down by hand. So it was always like when the time I finished my script was the time I “finished shooting”.


Who are your filmmaking influencers? What are the films that were influential for you?

Akira Kurosawa. Emir Kusturica. Edward Yang.

I will just name the most important masterpiece to me of each film Masters.

The Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa.

Underground by Emir Kusturica.

A one and A two by Edward Yang.



How do you think the industry is changing? How has COVID affected independent filmmaking/creation?

It’s pretty down nowadays. Most of the filmmakers are struggling. And the industry is also come across the difficulty. Cause in my country which is China, lot of movie Theatre were shutting down like forever. Production companies went bankruptcy and tons of projects were abandoned. No matter high or low budget. I feel like those regular movie audiences don’t care about watch movies anymore after the covid. Cause some of them are having much more difficulty to dealt with because of the covid.


Covid surely will give more ideas to some of those independent filmmakers. I know several independent projects based on covid. But they couldn’t found money yet. Like I said, it’s hard. To me, I feel like human kinds are already in pain. I don’t think I’ll do a project to remind them the pain and make them feel even more painful. I wanna show them the bright side of the world or different views to see this world besides talking about covid every single day and night. I wanna make them forget about the covid. Keep loving each other’s and Peace.


What advice would you give to aspiring artists? What are some of the things they must follow/avoid?

Trust your intuitions and follow your instincts.

Avoid watching too many films and movies. No need to follow those masterpieces. They are already there. Make your own. Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life. Make your own tomorrow and give this industry more possibilities.

But most importantly, be strong for those challenges you will face in this industry. Do not lose hope. Do not think too much. Keep moving with pure passion and toughness. New direction is ahead of you and Every direction is moving forward.

If there’s a wall in front of you, bash the wall.

Keep your head up.


Do you think films/stories can bring about a change in the world?

Absolutely. Better than those fake news.

At least it’ll make some people see things differently. If one person bring his/her new perspective inspired by a film or story into his/her real life. Then the world will have one more perspective. Hopefully it’ll spread out.

It’s a cycle.


The world will have a change here and there by humans. Films and stories are really important platform for humanity. Those who got inspired have the chance to bring a change to the world. And those change will inspire others, use the platform, got inspired again, new things, bring another change… etc. So that’s why I said, make new things and create the new world.

So If film is ART, then yes. Cause ART will somehow change the world. Foresight.


What do you think people like to watch these days? Has the pandemic changed people's taste?

I don’t think it has been changed that much in western country. Cause I don’t think the pandemic still an issue for them after they’ve got enough medical ventilators besides the economy. So to my knowledge, they still want to watch good “movie”. All kinds. But for sure they’d like to watch something that related to the pandemic. “Don’t look up” is a good example. Even though it’s metaphor.


But here in China. Well, hopefully we can have more variety of films first.


Please tell us about your upcoming projects.

My next project is a feature film called “Welcome to Forever”.

It’s a story about the parallel world and Transmigration.

It was written by hand in Chinese and English.

Last time I checked: Page 166/166 128999 Words…

And yes, I did type them all into my computer eventually.

I put basically everything I had into it. It’s my sanctuary.

It was supposed to start in the beginning of 2020. And you all know what happened. So it’s been postponed till now. But I’m still trying and I’ll try my best to give “Welcome to Forever” a birth in the world.

Make my own mark.