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The man behind the VFX of an empowering female film: Guangtao Pi
The VFX expert and supervisor used his talent to create the magical and surreal moments in the film "She is the Felon of Life" which depicts a female artist's journey in an abusive relationship.

We are in the midst of a major progression of the feminist movement in filmmaking. This is of course long overdue and is a justified balancing of the scales, granting deserved opportunities to talented female professionals in the industry. This situation does not exclude the inclusion of men in the industry, expertly displayed by Guangtao Pi's inclusion in the team which created the film She is the Felon of Life.

A story of female subjugation and subsequent empowerment created by an almost exclusively female team, Guangtao lent his talent and expertise to manifesting the production in regards to visual effects. As the supervisor of this facet of the film, the work of Guangtao and his team manifested the psychological state of mind of the main character into reality for the audience. Paired with the acting of the cast, the VFX is the linchpin which allows the audience to inhabit the mind of the main character and heroine of this story.

Guangtao has received accolades from Hollywood (such as his award for visual effects by the Hollywood international film festival for Family from Tang) resulting in attention from a wide variety of productions. Films with strong female characters and plots are finally getting their opportunity and She is the Felon of Life enlisted this VFX expert for theirs. The story centers on a gifted female painter name Lian. Her boyfriend/manager steers Lian towards creating dark paintings though her true desire is to create works of light and vibrant color. The story takes a dramatic turn when Lian splits into two personalities who compete for control of her reality and life. Domestic violence makes its presence known via a number of characters in the story. 

Central to the message and the telling of the story is a mirror. More than half of the film takes place as Lian and her other persona Gigi are discussing how they feel and what should be done. The appearance on each side of the mirror required an expert like Guangtao to manifest this onscreen seamlessly. As Lian paints, the appearance of the world inside the mirror changes; light colors turn it warm and shiny while dark colors result in frost or snow. 3D software was used in post to adjust the eye position of the actors in the mirror to give the proper line of sight and a bit of physics was employed to make sure the camera was positioned properly for the mirror (who says you'll never use that in the "real world"?).

One of Pi's favorite effects created for the film is the beautiful transformation of an injury. He describes, "Lian has physical scars which are the result of her abusive boyfriend. While these were created with makeup on the actress, I spoke with the director and convinced her to let me use VFX to make these into a flower. I knew that this is a story about a woman who is a victim of domestic violence but who also creates something new and beautiful for herself; a flower seemed to be a fitting representation of this because flowering symbolizes rebirth. We used the wound that the makeup artist had already put on Lian's body as the tracking point and added the flower in post. To make it look real, we created the flower and animated it in "Maya", lit and rendered it with "Houdini render engine", and used "Nuke" to composite it with the original frame. It was a beautiful and respectful addition to the story that I'm quite proud of."

Guangtao confirms that gender wasn't something that was touted or restrictive in the making of this film but admits that he doubts men could have written this type of film with such authenticity. There's a sizable amount of wisdom in this perspective, recognizing that we all have something to say and relating our own experiences is what we do honestly and best.

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