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Issue 1754
The student newspaper of Imperial College London

Keep the Cat Free

New Movie From An Imperial Filmmaker

Degenerate (RenJianJi'E)

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in Issue 1754

My suspenseful short film “Degenerate (RenJian- JiE)” tells the story of the butterfly effect— which links a pyramid selling gang leader, a film director, and a director of a mental hospital. It took around 4 months to create, and comes out at around 34 minutes. It is available via the QR code, I hope that you enjoy it!

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My name is Yanlin Chen—although people normally call me Philip—and I am a 4th student at Imperial on the Msci Physics course. Directing short films, as well as screenwriting them, is a major hobby of mine. Although I do not get to film regularly, I have kept up the tradition of returning to China each year to make my yearly film. This year, because of the COVID-19 situation, I returned home earlier than in previous years. The inspiration for this film came to me just after my final exam on Plasma Physics in late May. The idea was to combine the ‘film within a film’ technique with a twoline plot—this technique is novel as far as I know, although these techniques have been used separately in movies like Memento. The main line of the movie is the positive order, following the positive time axis, and the s e c o n d a r y line is the f l a s h b a c k . These two lines intersect at the end of the plot. To make a plot one must first have a structural frame, then one can fill in the content and double-check the story’s logic and character’s motivations. It took about half a month to conceive, as well as write a finalized 10,000 word script, for Degenerate. However, all of that was only preliminary work. We encountered many hurdles while filming, from venue coordination to the deployment of temporary personnel. This film is longer than any of my previous works; as such, the difficulties encountered in the filmmaking process increased exponentially, confirming the old saying that “film is the art of execution”.


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Fortunately, we were able to release this film just before the start of term. It is a suspenseful story with an almost perfect murder plan (except for Wen Jiang, the mental patient with a cross-mask). What I am most proud of is the storyline and the fact that the behaviours and motives of the characters have no bugs as far as I’m aware. The film received some negative feedback at first, but most feedback was based on the audience’s perception of the film as a regular-length film rather than a micro-movie—this made me pleased in a way as it showed they were still drawn into the story. As you can imagine, making a movie is costly. In my first few works, except from advertising fees and bonuses for award wins, I have not thoroughly considered the issue of fund flow. Thus, our focus for the next film is to consider profitability and to include a professional production stage.

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