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Shuyao Chen, Established Female Filmmaker: Narratives That Bind Her Journey from Wenzhou to Hollywood

Shuyao Chen infuses her craft with rich perspectives and captivating stories as a young, emerging queer female writer and director. A visionary filmmaker, Chen’s passion and hard work have propelled her on an extraordinary journey. With a background in journalism and a childhood in the small traditional Chinese city of Wenzhou, Chen has undertaken the ambitious goal of bringing visibility to China’s LGBTQ community and shining a spotlight on their underrepresented narratives. Her journey has produced significant successes, reflecting her ability to leave an indelible mark on the film industry.

Hailing from Wenzhou, China, Chen relocated to the US in 2013 and earned a degree in photojournalism from Penn State. She then pursued NYU’s respected graduate film program, leveraging her journalism background to tell raw and unique stories. Her gift for exploring real-life narratives shone in her short film Winter by the River, which centers on her father’s adolescent struggles and self-discovery while growing up in China during the ‘70s and ‘80s. The short film garnered attention at several esteemed film festivals, including receiving the Best Actor Award at the Oscar-Qualifying festival Short Shorts 2022 and Best Short Film at Berlin Film Week.

Chen’s short film Manting delves into themes of love and equality, inspired by a true story from her own experience during a Syracuse journalism workshop. Manting also gained significant festival recognition, being selected by the oldest and largest queer festival in Germany, the Hamburg International Queer Film Festival, and becoming a finalist for the 2021 Cary Fukunaga Production Award.

Chen possesses the ability to craft stories that resonate with cultural narratives while maintaining universal impact and relatability. As a queer Chinese filmmaker bridging cultures, Chen draws on her understanding of identity to tell authentic stories that advance conversations about life, love, and acceptance, particularly within China’s LGBTQ+ community. Committed to fostering dialogues that extend beyond the screen, Chen’s cross-cultural narratives elevate filmmaking so it has a tangible, real-world impact. Her projects effectively highlight the underrepresented and unite a wider audience by stirring genuine emotion and fostering understanding.

Chen has embraced the crucial importance of shedding ego and pride throughout her journey. The authenticity in her work springs from her realization that her stories should be fueled not by vanity or ego but by the purpose of creating passionate, genuine, and impactful work that is seen, heard, and understood. Chen’s unique perspective encourages audiences to adopt new viewpoints and embrace authenticity. 

As a member of the BAFTA Newcomers program, Chen’s future in the industry shines bright. The BAFTA Newcomers program is a prestigious initiative to support talent in the film, television, and gaming industries. Being a member of this program is highly impressive as it offers valuable resources and opportunities to advance one’s career. It is a distinguished accomplishment and a significant stepping stone for anyone seeking to establish themselves in the entertainment industry.

With aspirations of feature filmmaking, Chen envisions writing and directing a film inspired by her own road-trip experience with her mother. Inspired by exceptional East Asian narratives like Oscar-winning films Everything Everywhere All At Once and Parasite, Chen aims to contribute more culturally resonant and universally moving East Asian stories to the big screen.

From the small city of Wenzhou to esteemed film festivals, Shuyao Chen’s unwavering commitment continues to leave a mark with meaningful tales that embody fresh, genuine, and personal perspectives.

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