Rosanna Peng has “got the eye”, as they say. Her approach to film and photography is always unique, always from a perspective that feels familiar yet just beyond your own grasp. Here, she gives us insight on standing out as a woman in a male-dominated field and what’s it’s like making art in The Six (hint: it def involves Drake).
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a videographer/director/editor trifecta. I make videos.
What was more challenging – moving from British Columbia to Toronto or from Toronto to LA?
Moving from BC to Toronto was definitely more challenging. I was young and naive and had a lot of expectations for my first move. There was a lot of growing up to do, and really quickly. I definitely mentally reminded myself to have less expectations in my second move. I still have goals moving to LA, but I constantly remind myself that it’s important to leave room for unpredictability in a new city.
What’s your take on the art community in LA vs Toronto?
Toronto feels very competitive. Everyone feels like they’re fighting to stand out creatively. It’s a great environment to be in though, it forces you to identify what you can offer that others don’t. This has allowed me to learn a lot of other skills than just shooting / editing. The biggest difference with LA is that creatives are a lot more relaxed. Not lazy, relaxed. Maybe it’s the flawless weather here or the many outdoor adventures to escape to on the weekend, but that would be my first impression of the two art communities.
Since we’ve both made the move from Toronto to LA, I feel like we belong to a secret club. Entry into this club requires you to H U S T L E, in that, It is a lot harder than it looks. What is your best advice to someone looking to make a move to a new city?
My advice would be to stay balanced. Hustling too hard can drain you out and you quickly realize you have no close friends in the city for support. Hanging out/networking too much can also drain you when you realize you haven’t created anything you’re proud of in a while. It’s all a big juggling act, in a new city or not.
Break it down for us, what is involved in being a director?
It depends project to project, but in an ideal situation the director comes up with a vision to a film project. They rally and build a team to execute the idea/vision. On the shoot day, they’re responsible for directing all the moving parts of the production. After the shoot, they work with the editor in bringing the project back to the original idea/vision. In my case, I edit mostly all of my own work.
Film/Video is still quite a male-dominated medium, how do you navigate that energy when you’re on a set or among your film peers?
I’ve always felt a sense of inferiority in the film/video world. I’m not your traditional director or videographer. I went to school for graphic design and bought a camera and taught myself how to shoot/edit. I know I’m good at what I do, but I still have a lot to learn. This feeling paired with being in a male-dominated field honestly makes me insecure a lot of times. This fear was one of the driving forces to why I wanted to step into directing. There’s no room for insecurity as a director. I’m still navigating the balance between being my goofy true-self on set, while still being focused on pushing the vision forward. I learn something new about myself every time I’m on set. By deciding to focus more on directing, I wanted to grab my fears by the collar and shake things up a bit.
Your aesthetic is SO FRESH, how did you cultivate it? What or who inspires you visually?
I’m currently inspired by fashion photography. I’m drawn to beautifully art-directed sets and locations as well as raw and grimy portraits on a simple backdrop. Photographer, Paolo Azarraga, always kills this. With everything I make, I try to (low key) mess with the viewers and how they view/perceive the work. 2 seconds in, they think they’re getting a knock-off Wes Anderson video, then you hit them with some grime and realness.
One of my favorite pieces you’ve done is a feature on Karolina Kuras, what was that experience like?
Thank you! That was definitely one of my favourite projects as well. I admire Karolina’s work a lot, so I was stoked to pick her brain and dissect why she does what she does. It’s always interesting doing feature videos because on one hand, you want to honestly represent the artist, and on the other hand, you’re directing them in situations on how you see them. It always feels like a dance (*dad pun).
Since you work for a beauty brand, what’s your beauty regimen, what have you learned and what can you teach me?
My secret beauty weapon is snail cream (shoutouts to Korea). It’s never too thick or light. I love putting it on in the morning and night. One thing I’ve learned at my job is the power of contouring/highlighting. It’s like lighting a film set.
What are some exciting projects that you’re currently working on?
I’m currently working on a video promoting a new sneaker release coming soon.
Do you love Drake or do you LOVE Drake.
I think I do love Drake. Hometown pride, through and through. Even though I’m from Vancouver (lol).