Plymouth Mega Ride Tue, 09 Nov 2021 23:24:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Plymouth Mega Ride 32 32 Chloé Zhao on directing Marvel’s “Eternals” and her passion for the genre Tue, 09 Nov 2021 19:51:43 +0000

Academy award-winner Chloé Zhao is the director of Marvel’s much-anticipated Eternals. In an exclusive Interview, we talk to the Chinese director about the movie and her passion for the genre.

At the 2021 Oscars, Beijing-born director Chloé Zhao became the second woman and the first woman of colour in history to win the coveted Best Director award, for her film Nomadland. Moreover, the neo-Western drama that Zhao also wrote, produced and edited, took home the most prestigious statuette of the night, that for Best Picture.

After capturing global audiences with an in-depth and poetic character study that explores the effects of the Great Recession in the US, in her latest project, Marvel’s superhero film Eternals, Zhao directs a stellar ensemble cast, which includes Gemma Chan, Kit Harington, Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek, in an epic story that spans 7,000 years.

One of Marvel Studio’s most ambitious movies to date, the story, which is also co-written by Zhao, is based on the 1976 Eternals Marvel comic books and follows a group of diverse superheroes who defend humanity. We recently talked to Zhao about the movie, the challenges that came with such a big project and her passion for the superhero universe.

In Conversation with Chloé Zhao

In Eternals you’re bringing together different cultures in a multifaceted story. What do you like about this aspect?

When I came into the process, there was a treatment. And in the treatment [a document that presents the story idea of a film], there were stories taking place in Mumbai where Kingo [one of the characters] was a Bollywood star in the present day. I thought that it was so interesting, because we knew Kingo – played by Kumail Nanjiani – was going to be a character who embraces the side of humanity that loves pop culture, storytelling and showmanship. It was interesting to see that the writers and the Marvel team didn’t just make him a Hollywood star but a Bollywood one.

It’s also great that the movie includes a beautiful Bollywood dance sequence. I thought it was incredible to include it in a big Marvel production.

Don Lee, Richard Madden and director Chloé Zhao behind the scenes of Marvel Studios’ Eternals

Your resumé doesn’t necessarily scream “superhero movie”, but here you are. What did you think when you were first approached?

I wanted to work with the team at Marvel so badly, because I love their movies. But I also felt as if I had something to offer for this particular story. It’s a story that addresses questions that I have as a human being and I knew the making of it would allow me to grow.

You’re a fan of manga and fantasy movies. How important was the use of your imagination for this project?

I’m not just a fan, you know. I’m a proper fan-girl of the genre. When I was hired, I was able to sit down with the creative team and pull a lot of references. It was a mixed bag of movies that have nothing to do with each other. I think in this film you can see there’s a lot of different types of genres and references. Those conversations really seeped. We showed everything, from The Tree of Life to YuYu Hakusho, and the Harry Potter movies. We just looked at everything — and having a team at Marvel so open to trying crazy things was how we got here today.

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Makkari, played by Lauren Ridloff

What were the main challenges of directing such a big movie?

The lack of sleep. And to be able to prioritise. There are just so many important things, you know, there’s my cast, the camera, there’s building a world, there’s the script and all these things I have to make sure that I give an equal amount of attention to, but also sometimes you do have to prioritise one or another. That balance isn’t easy.

Most of your works are about finding a sense of belonging. Why are you particularly interested in this topic?

Lately I’ve been thinking about us as a species, as humanity. As a species, we’re always trying to leave home and search for something else: gold, opportunities, whatever it is. And then in the end, when we get older, we always end up wanting to go home. I think that that’s such a trend. As I’m getting older, I think about these themes quite a lot. Belonging and home.

What do you like about Marvel’s previous ensemble superhero movies?

I’ve always loved this type of ensemble storytelling. That comes from Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z, from my manga obsession growing up. But then I was also a big fan of the X Men movies, the earlier ones, when they came out. There’s something about belonging to a group of people and finding your place within this group that’s not necessarily your blood family. It’s so nice and comforting to watch these people who don’t agree with each other or, you know, come from different walks of life and find commonality, something worth fighting for together. As human beings we like to watch these stories because we hope that we can all find common ground and things that are worth fighting for and that unite us.

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Stills from Eternals

You mentioned that you think a lot about belonging and other similar things. Did you fear that things may get lost in translation in such a big pop-culture project?

For every film I make, I worry that things could get lost in translation. You know, I never know. I try not to go there. Because when a film is done, like right now, this movie is more yours than mine. The way Nomadland came out during the pandemic, for example. I had no idea how the film was going to relate to people when I made it.

Do you see yourself developing a sequel or other stories within this universe?

We were really encouraged to make a standalone movie and really make a film outside the main storyline. It does have repercussions for the future. But we got to see how this film interacts with the world and grows, and what shape or form it will take, and then we can make future plans. This film is not finished yet, the making of this film now is left to you guys. I loved working with my team at Marvel and I’d come back and work with them in a second.

Gemma Chan and director Chloé Zhao

Is it hard to direct such huge actors?

People think it might be harder, but it’s also hard to direct someone who’s never acted before, who doesn’t even care if they show up on set or not. What’s beautiful about this cast is that they were chosen because there’s something about who they are, that’s already the character. And, and so right away, they could walk away and build their characters themselves.

In a movie like this, how do you balance storytelling, action and special effects?

It wasn’t hard because I had such a great team. They’d ask me “What do you want?” “What is the thing you’re trying to do?” And then they’d find ways to present me with ideas. What I told everyone from the beginning was that everything has to happen for a reason. Things can’t just happen because they look cool. It has to be related to the story and character driven, both in visual effects and world building. Action also needs to have character development in it. World building has to have a lot of restraint and limitations because everything has to make sense.

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How the Brooklyn Public Library Used Behavioral Science to Reach More Customers Tue, 09 Nov 2021 12:00:25 +0000

In October, New York City’s three public library systems announced they would permanently remove fines for late book returns. Comprised of the Brooklyn, Queens and New York public libraries, the city’s system is the nation’s largest for removing fines. This is a reversal of a long-standing policy of ensuring shelves stay stacked, but an outdated policy that many major cities, including Chicago, San Francisco and Dallas, had already abandoned without any discernible downside. While being a source of revenue – in 2013, for example, the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) racked up $ 1.9 million in late fees – the fee system also created a barrier to accessing libraries. which has disproportionately affected the low-income communities most in need of resources.

It’s just something the Brooklyn Library System has done to try and make its services more equitable. In 2017, long before the decision to eliminate the fines, BPL itself entered into a partnership with Nudge, a behavioral science lab at the University of West Virginia, to find ways to reduce the barriers. access and increase engagement with book collections. In a one-of-a-kind collaboration, the two tested behavioral science interventions through three separate pilot projects, all of which led to the long-term implementation of successful techniques by the library. Those involved in the project claim that the steps can be transferred to other library systems, although this requires a considerable investment of time and resources.

[Photo: Flickr user pedro layant]

When the project began in 2017, BPL’s initial research found that its old-fashioned systems in many cases were disenfranchised. Households earning $ 50,000 or less had six times as many blocked library cards as others, due to the $ 15 late fee accumulating, which also prevented patrons from borrowing more items. People were afraid then to return to the library and therefore did not feel a sense of belonging. Of the 37,411 blocked customers, only 2,993 re-checked books. Part of the problem was the difficulty paying fines, but there was more to be resolved. This prompted the Hecksher Children’s Foundation to give a grant to BPL and Nudge to start their work, with a real focus on fairness.

The implementations also had to be rooted in real research. “Libraries have been discussing how to get people to return documents since the dawn of libraries,” says Fritzi Bodenheimer, BPL press officer. But they often jumped on fixes by just guessing. “We didn’t assume we knew,” she adds. The key to knowing why patrons did not return documents, or why they interacted with the library the way they did, would be through behavioral science interventions, which aim to bridge the gap between the intentions of the people and their actions.

“Behavioral science really asks how do people make decisions under conditions of complexity? Explains Katharine Meyer, a doctoral candidate in education policy and research affiliate for Nudge. “Everyone wants their child to be successful and have every chance to explore their interests,” she says, but some families face more constraints than others, such as time, attention and finances.

Ideas42, a behavioral science nonprofit, helped bring together focus groups of ordinary library users who reported issues that they believed prevented them from easily using the library, such as that it was difficult to keep track of fines, that reminders were too late or not received, that they didn’t know that SMS alerts were an option, and that they couldn’t make it to the library during regular hours . Using the information gleaned from their responses, the partnership decided to focus on improving three areas: on-time book return, library card registrations, and engagement with library collections.

The library card – or lack thereof – is really the first barrier to access. There was an online registration request, but then users had to go to the library to activate the card, and the team noticed a drop in between. In the spring of 2017, during the first pilot period, they tested different behavioral science concepts in an attempt to remove the hassle factors and improve clarity.

On the digital app, they ensured that the questions were limited in number, so as not to be overwhelming, and applied smart technology so that later questions were changed (or omitted), based on previous answers from ‘a user, to reduce wasted time and irrelevant. queries. Then they administered visual prompts of what to bring to activate the card and explicitly showed the branch closest to their zip code., by removing the need to search for it on Google. They found that activation rates increased by 12%.

To make it easier to return the books, they focused on better messaging and tested those messages by sending separate reminders to different customers. Some received a prompt that encouraged social courtesy, such as “return it so your neighbor can borrow it.” But what worked best were text messages that simply included pictures of the book covers that someone owed. They’ve also had success with more user-friendly posts, reviews in different languages, and a link to their nearest library. Separately, they’ve also tripled the number of 24/7 drop boxes in Brooklyn, so busy people don’t have to rush to a library during opening hours. They found that the timely return of materials increased by 10%.

They have yet to see the long-term impact of the final pilot, to increase engagement with the collections once people have access to them.. In this test, they advertised their Book Match program – through which families can go online and request books for their children – by sending colorful, informative postcards to customers with clear instructions for participation. Within two weeks, the number of Book Match requests received increased from 5 per day to between 20 and 60. Despite early promises, they are still waiting to see the long term effects on actual book circulation.

But, so far, the overall investment has been worth it. Amy Mikel, BPL’s director of customer experience, says she knows her library has had the privilege of subsidizing money, which other libraries don’t necessarily have. Still, she believes other libraries could use some of Brooklyn’s findings while proactively engaging with their own patrons to find out what works for them.

And, she adds, “We are not finished.” Although the fines are now gone, BPL wants to continue breaking down any remaining hurdles. The library will continue to monitor progress and tweak things as needed, to respond to continuous changes in user and technology expectations. For example, they have now added wording in their posts about the recent elimination of fines and information on the new system, which charges for the books they keep, but waives the fees if they return them, no matter when. The bottom line is: “Bring it back,” says Bodenheimner. “We don’t want your money.”

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