Xiangyu Chen’s approach to filmmaking is a seamless blend of art and science. And he’s got back-to-back Mosaic Mobile awards to prove it.
Xiangyu, a senior at East Grand Rapids High School, took home first place in this year’s Mosaic Mobile film competition. His short film “Possibility of Success” won him: $1,000 from MFE, mentoring sessions with Adobe pros during winter 2020–21 with the possibility of his work being screened at the 2021 Adobe Max conference, and 100 percent tuition coverage to attend one of Interlochen Center for the Arts’ three-week summer 2021 Film & New Media programs.
Mosaic Mobile is the Mosaic Film Festival’s annual filmmaking contest in which high school students shoot and edit a short film entirely on their mobile devices. Last year, Xiangyu’s submission “A Second Story” explored his experiences overcoming stereotypes as an immigrant from China. The film won him the popular vote, earning the Mosaic Mobile Rick Wilson Award and a $500 prize.
This year, Xiangyu’s film beat out a total of 64 films submitted in the 2020 competition. He can now call himself a multi-award-winning filmmaker. Xiangyu’s win was announced at the 2020 Mosaic Event, which, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was done entirely digital this year. The event was broadcast globally on November 4 from Celebration Cinema in Grand Rapids.“I was really excited. I didn’t think I was going to win this year. There were a lot of other films that I really liked in the finals,” he said. “Winning the competition still means a lot to me, not just because of the prizes, but also I’m able to spread my message further and communicate to more people, and I hope that will inspire people.”
“Possibility of Success” explores Xiangyu’s reflections on his love for both film and math. He’s been making small films since 7th grade, but his parents always encouraged him to pursue his math talents, considering it the safer career option.
At the end of the day, he’s good at both, and couldn’t do one without the other. His filmmaking imagination helps his mind tackle mathematical challenges, and his analytical skills help him put a film together.
“In terms of math and engineering, that especially helps me putting my shots all together, planning it out,” he said. “Engineering-wise, I construct something piece-by-piece. That’s the STEM process and it’s also the editing process in film. I put shots piece-by-piece together and I figure out how to use smaller pieces to build toward that bigger vision.”
The film also explores Xiangyu’s uncertainty about the future. As a high school senior, he’s about to head into a future shaped by the chaos 2020 has brought. But like he said in his film, there’s any number of possibilities for success.
“In many ways, filmmaking is like my voice. I kind of speak through filmmaking,” he said. “I’m still going to be majoring in STEM-fields, probably engineering, but I see myself possibly minoring in film. Most certainly, I’ll be doing it as a hobby. It’s become part of my life.”