• Like Taiwanese director Ang Lee, she has won a Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival, attended New York University and balances blockbusters with artier fare
  • Her dad managed a Beijing steel factory and her stepmother is a famous comedian/actress, Song Dandan, often seen on the CCTV Spring Festival Gala

March began on a sweet note for Chloé Zhao when her movie Nomadland won the top prizes of both best drama film and best directorat the 2021 Golden Globes Awards – making the Chinese filmmaker the second woman and first Asian woman to win the latter category. And more success seems likely to follow, with Nomadland already tipped as a front-runner for next month’s Oscars.

Zhao was already known for being the first Asian female director of a movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), with Eternals. Her Chinese background and journey to becoming an acclaimed independent film director makes the 38 year-old an inspiration to aspiring talents everywhere, so how did she do it?

She’s the stepdaughter of a famed Chinese comedian

Zhao was born in Beijing and her father, manager of a steel company, remarried after divorcing her mother who is a hospital employee. Her stepmother is a famous comedian and actress, Song Dandan, a household name in China and a repeat performer on the CCTV Spring Festival Gala – the most watched TV show in the world.

After Zhao received her Golden Globes awards, Song congratulated her on her Weibo account. This is not the first time Song has done so, using social media to show how proud she was when Zhao received a Golden Lion award during the Venice Film Festival in 2020. 

She plotted her own path to success

Before getting her first work as a director, Zhao did odd jobs including bartending, an experience which helped her connect with people and develop her approach to working with actors. “Your tip is all you’ve got,” she said, recounting those days to the Hollywood Reporter. “So you want to make your customers feel comfortable that they can talk to you. A lot of times it’s a bit like that when you go out there and meet people while making a film.” 

Zhao had to rely on student loans when she enrolled in New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. But she received a filming grant of US$155,000 from the Kenneth Rainin Foundation during her graduate programme and used it to make her first debut film, Songs My Brothers Taught Me in 2015. 

Zhao managed to pay off her student loans only after signing the contract with Marvel for the filming of Eternals in 2018.

source: SCMP https://www.scmp.com/magazines/style/celebrity/article/3125034/nomadlands-chloe-zhao-beijing-golden-globes-meet-chinese?fbclid=IwAR1adh3ZeIE9D7m2w5sDXcN7A0o55g5yZNtGAeVbNvqGd0zqn02amcu2_E0

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