Yilei Zhou is an accomplished writer, cinematographer and film director who was born in Shanghai, China. She’s been watching (and loving) classic movies since she was a little girl and really got the movie bug when her mother worked at Shanghai Movie Studio and would take her to the sets of famous Chinese movie directors such as Lou Ye and Guan Hu. That kind of childhood activity could really hook someone into wanting to be in the middle of movie making for the rest of his or her life. And that’s what happened to Yilei.
Although her movie life paused when her mother got a job in another industry, Yilei’s yearning to be a storyteller via the silver screen never waned. She did have to take the path that most Chinese kids are expected to take, however, that of a first rate serious student in the exam-oriented educational system of her country. She did very well in school but studying Communication Engineering at one of the best schools in Shanghai, Tongji University, was a bit dry when compared to her vivid imagination, which was constantly visualizing stories and mentally figuring out how to script and shoot them.
Yilei’s thirst for learning how to really make movies pushed her into sitting in on university film courses that were exclusively for film major students. Once the teachers saw her passion for the medium, instead of telling her to leave, they invited her to participate and she made her first short film in the third year at university. It was called One Two, and she wrote, produced, edited and directed it. One Two vibrantly tells the story of five students in a band who must make life-changing artistic decisions when faced with a huge opportunity to move forward professionally with the band.
Yilei shot the film on a shoestring budget with no professional equipment and no professional actors. She got a lot of help and support from friends and the film was received with much high praise and she used it as a portfolio piece to gain admission into The Art Center college of Design in Los Angeles, California. While in L.A. Yilei learned even more about filmmaking and has become a prolific movie maker. She’s made several award-winning films such as The Greatest Gift, He And Rock & Roll along with several music videos. He And Rock & Roll was an official selection at some highly prestigious international films festivals: Savannah Film Festival, Oceanside International Film Festival, Independent Filmmakers Showcase and the California International Shorts Festival. The Greatest Gift was selected to be in the New York Los Angeles Film Festival and The California Women’s Film Festival.