Digital Cover: Lo Chun Yip x Parmigiani Fleurier
By: Hill Choi Lee
November 30, 2023
Sometimes you find your calling, or the calling finds you. For film director Lo Chun Yip, his own path led him from behind the camera to the front of the lens. Now an award-winning director and rising star actor in Hong Kong with his first lead role at the age of 36, Hill Choi Lee finds out more about the artist’s quiet yet sturdy rise in the entertainment industry
We often hear about aspiring actors who earned their chops at some point in their careers transferring their skills by taking on the director’s mantle, but it isn’t every day that a dedicated film director gets pulled into acting out scenes by his own peers and colleagues. This is exactly the trajectory Chun Yip Lo was placed on.
In contrast to new artists joining the entertainment fry, Lo started his career on the other side of the camera. A film graduate of Hong Kong’s City University, he was determined to direct and produce films and make his own mark in the city’s illustrious film industry.
He experienced his first serious film gig in Ex (2010) under the direction of Heiward Mak Hei-Yan (who directed her debut feature High Noon (2008) at the age of 23). The 2010 short film went on to make some serious noise, which mostly went over Lo’s head and brought along with it some attention the newly minted actor wasn’t prepared for.
“I wasn’t really that deeply immersed in the mobile phone culture,” Lo thinks back. “Therefore, I was oblivious to the online discussions and feedback. I did hear that it was shared fervently over Facebook. At the same time, I received a lot of random calls on my cell phone with many of them immediately hanging up on me. Turns out that someone found my number online and wanted to check whether I was the actor in Ex.”
“That was something that perplexed me,” he muses. “I just graduated as a film director but inadvertently also started an acting career out of the blue.”
When he opened a Weibo account, he gained over 10,000 followers in a mere week. “That was crazy to me,” he shares. “It told me that the domestic market was very receptive of my performance.”
However, it wasn’t until 2014 that Lo pursued his acting aspirations by starring in two films: Uncertain Relationship Society and Happily Ever After.
Despite the attention he received for Ex, Lo never sought out formal acting training. After all, there was never a burning dream of becoming an actor on his part, though it did spark an interest. As a director, he completed his first documentary, Days after n Coming, in 2012 for which he won the Contemporary Perspective Award and Human Rights Award at the South Taiwan Film Festival. Lo was also the recipient of an award for Young Artist (Film) at the 2012 Hong Kong Arts Development Awards.
However, by 2014, Lo hit a bit of a career crisis. Suddenly, Lo wasn’t so sure anymore about being a film director. He entertained the thought of switching careers altogether. Even contemplating becoming a teacher among many other options he conjured.
But amid his own search for direction, Mak reached out and asked him whether he could help with her next feature. Despite an almost blasé approach, “Why not?”, it would set Lo on a path that would define the rest of his career. That role happened to be for the 2014 short film Uncertain Relationship Society.
“It was then I decided to seriously pursue acting,” he affirms. The same year, he would go on to gain another lasting impression with the 2014 feature – also a Mak masterpiece – Happily Ever After, where he starred alongside Kate Yeung Ki.
“Yeung Ki and I are of the same age but she started acting at 17, so she has way more experience in the industry and is my senior in that regard,” Lo says when asked about some of the most memorable he has worked with. “This was quite a unique experience for me at that time.” He was 24 at the time in what would be his first-ever serious acting role.
He has since starred in several high-profile Hong Kong films including Fagara, No. 1 Chung Ying Street, The Murders of Oiso, Suk Suk, and Time Still Turns the Pages. He was subsequently nominated for the Best Supporting Actor award at the 39th Hong Kong Film Awards for his performance in Suk Suk.
Now, at 36 years old, he bagged his first male lead role. He described it as an exhilarating experience.
Lo stars as secondary school teacher “Cheng Sir” in Time Still Turns the Pages. The story follows him in an attempt to find a student who he believes will commit suicide, while confronting his own traumatic childhood past.
“It is totally different from what I knew and did before. As a lead character, there is much more dialogue and as opposed to being a supporting role you need to synchronise more with the character’s background.”
“What is fundamental in a lead role is how deeply you can immerse into your character and experience what they experience. At the same time, are you able to synchronise with that energy from scene one to scene 80? If you can’t, the audience would perceive you to be someone entirely different at various stages. These are all new learnings for me.”