The Future of Cinematography: The Vision of Jonathan Zhao
In the dynamic world of film, a rising star illuminates the landscape: Jonathan Zhao, the trailblazing Chinese-Canadian director of photography. Growing up in a traditional Chinese immigrant household, Jonathan’s path to the arts defies the expectations of his cultural background, proving that passion can triumph over convention.
The seeds of Jonathan‘s love for filmmaking were planted during his formative years in middle and high school. Driven by curiosity and a desire to create, he and his team entered the local British Columbia film festival scene, transforming their inexperience into a string of victories at the Zoom Festival and the British Columbia Student Film Festival. These accolades sparked a fire within Jonathan, inspiring him to hone his craft at the esteemed NYU Tisch Film & TV.
As the reel of his career unfurled, Jonathan found himself immersed in a kaleidoscope of projects, working as a staff cinematographer at Drive Marketing Group. In this role, he captured the essence of brands like Toyota Canada, Audi Vancouver, Jaguar Vancouver, Land Rover Vancouver, and Mercedes Benz Vancouver while weaving the narratives of the Vancouver Canucks Hockey Team and Olympic Gold Medalist Cassie Sharpe into stunning visual tapestries.
Over the past year, Jonathan’s creative lens has focused on over eight films, each vying for a spotlight at renowned festivals such as Tribeca, Cannes, SXSW, and First Run. His repertoire also boasts his role as the key grip for the 2023 South X South West Film Festival Jury Award Winner, “Grown,” and gaffer for the mesmerizing Genshin Impact’s 2022 Online World Concert by Hoyoverse Mihoyo, which dazzled over 3 million viewers. Zhao has also shot internationally in Barcelona and Brussels, with the Kickstarter commercial he shot in Belgium for the app Fluyo successfully crowdfunding over one million dollars, becoming the most funded app in Kickstarter history.
But even the brightest stars face challenges, and Jonathan’s journey was no exception. The COVID-19 pandemic cast a shadow over his career, causing the loss of multiple productions and forcing him to leave the vibrant city of New York and the connections he had forged there. Upon returning to Vancouver, he found solace and opportunity at Drive Marketing Group, thanks to a serendipitous recommendation from an old friend.
Jonathan’s odyssey is a masterclass in resilience and unwavering self-belief, echoing the wisdom imparted to him by industry luminaries: never allow obstacles to derail the pursuit of your dreams.
As the future unfolds, Jonathan’s aspirations burn brightly. He envisions completing his first feature film (currently in early pre-production) and joining the prestigious ranks of AFI’s Cinematography Masters Program. Along this journey, he aims to collaborate with visionary filmmakers, crafting visually evocative narratives that transport audiences into the heart of each story.
With an eye toward inspiring the next generation, Jonathan seeks to share his wisdom and passion with emerging filmmakers from underrepresented backgrounds. By offering guidance and mentorship, he hopes to ignite their own creative fires and embolden them to explore the infinite possibilities of visual storytelling through cinematography.
Jonathan Zhao’s unwavering dedication, fierce determination, and love for his craft have shattered conventions and illuminated a path to success that transcends the traditional. As he continues to push the boundaries of cinematography and breathe life into captivating stories, his vision and ambitions promise to leave an indelible mark on the cinematic world.