Meet the New NYWIFT Member: Hannah Xie

By Ozzi Ramirez

Let’s say hello to new NYWIFT Member Hannah Xie! After spending her earlier years in China, Hannah now lives in New York City where she dedicates much of her time to cinematography and photography. Her talent for blending and accentuating colors and lighting on film is reflected in projects such as Brief Encounter, Sleepwalker, Epic, and The End of the Affair.

To learn more about Hannah’s creative process, check out our interview as we discuss her collaboration style with directors, her approach to cinematography, and the influential role that her childhood viewing experiences contributed towards her future career.


NYWIFT Member Hannah Xie


Describe yourself. Give us your elevator pitch!

I’m a filmmaker exploring authentic girlhood and womanhood narratives. I’m passionate about cinematography and dedicated to excelling as a Director of Photography.


For those of us who have a general idea about cinematography but would like to learn more, can you describe the basics of this role and the work dynamics between cinematographers and directors? To what extent is your job a collaborative and/or solitary process?

Borrowed from one of my mentors, the cinematographer is a cameraperson and a resource manager at the same time. You are given the script and communicate with the director about the looks and styles. Sometimes, the client already has a very clear vision, and your role is to execute and achieve it. Other times, you figure it out with the director during pre-production and make the shot list and storyboard while looking at the references for specific scenes.

On set, you work closely with the director and your G&E team. It’s important to make each other happy so there is no suffering. I can be clumsy with my English, so I’m always jealous of DPs who can smooth the air on set through humor. To not go over time, sometimes you need to find a balance between the craftsmanship and efficiency. For the most part, it’s a highly collaborative experience.


NYWIFT Member Hannah Xie


What came first, your affinity for photography or a passion for cinema? When did you know that cinematography was the path for you?

Both photography and cinematography started growing within me simultaneously when I was a nerd secretly drawn to a world where I could be anything except a nerd. I was in middle school and got my first DSLR camera. I also spent nights and weekends watching pirated movies in my room. Just to clarify, while growing up in China, this was pretty common and sometimes the only way to access foreign movies.

I became determined and dedicated when I started learning how to shoot on film. I just loved it! When I got back my footage from the lab for my mise-en-scene practice, and it looked good, I knew this was something I would want to do over and over again.


NYWIFT Member Hannah Xie


As a cinematographer, what factors most attract you to a project? Is it a great story that you can envision enjoying as a spectator? Maybe it is the individual scenes within the script that you sense you would be able to enhance visually through your craft?

Of course, a great story you can envision or relate with is a pleasure to work on. But without that, I would still enjoy working on many projects because I always get to learn, explore, and meet people. Deep down inside, I hope and care there’s a deeper drive to tell a story.


Your website contains reels from some of your previous projects. From Brief Encounter to Sleepwalker and Easy to The End of the Affair, your talent for capturing the essence of a frame through color and texture is impressive. Is it important for you to have access to various types of cameras on set to achieve these results, or have technological advancements made it possible to modify these details during post-production?

In general, I try to get what I want during the production unless post-production is a more efficient or economical way. I like shooting on film, and the film texture can’t be replaced by glass filters or through post-production. Besides that, I am not a gear head and since I’m still building up my skillsets, when shooting on digital, I’m open to whatever gears the production budget could support.


NYWIFT Member Hannah Xie


What brings you to NYWIFT?

I’d like to meet more passionate independent filmmakers and hopefully work on something together in the future.


What is some great advice you’ve received and would happily pass on to others? What is the worst advice you’ve been given?

Great advice regarding cinematography specifically: “Backlight and stay on the dark side.” If you’re new, and I regard myself as pretty new, put a lens in front of your camera, sit in your yard, observe, and remember how the lighting appears on the camera during different moments.

More generally about filmmaking: “Something is always going to go wrong on set. How you deal with it is just a part of the filmmaking.”

Worst advice: I may have already forgotten.


NYWIFT Member Hannah Xie


How did the pandemic affect your professional life?

I was a new professional taking online college classes during the pandemic. This gave me time to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.


What’s next for Hannah Xie? Where do you see yourself in the coming years?

I’m excited to spend this year focusing on working on more production sets and building more connections. If accepted, I see myself in grad school later this year. If not, I see myself still working on the set of some passion projects as a 1st AC, gaffer, and DP.


Check out Hannah Xie’s website www.hannahcine.com, where you’ll be able to access some incredible stills and behind-the-scenes photos from some of her works. And connect with her on Instagram at @hannah.cine.


Ozzi Ramirez

Ozzi Ramirez Ozzi Ramirez is a current intern at NYWIFT and aspiring film producer and programmer. He studied English Literature and Theater at the University of Vermont and later received a Master's Degree in Mass Communications from Florida International University in Miami. Having moved to NYC in 2019, his interests include moseying through Manhattan with his headphones on full blast, most dogs and cats, coffee, discovering good deals on theater tickets, politics, traveling, and of course, experiencing great storytelling through movies, TV shows, and books.

View all posts by Ozzi Ramirez

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