Cinematographer Rina Yang on the art of balancing life with 12 hour working days

10 October 2017

If her social media feeds are anything to go by, Rina Yang is never not working. The cinematographer was born in a little city in Japan, and has since grafted her way into every crevice of the creative industry, working her way up to prize-winning status at neck-breaking speed: she was working as a DOP in a notoriously hard to access male-dominated industry just three years after graduating.

Now, Rina is cinematographer to an impressively long list of directors, with clients including Netflix, Nike, Under Armour, Channel 4, i-D, Vice, Dazed Digital, Stink, SomeSuch, WANDA, Saatchi & Saatchi, Pulse Films, Partizan, Colonel Blimp, PrettyBird, StrangeLove and musicians numbering Kendrick Lamar, FKA Twigs, Vince Staples, Rita Ora, Charli XCX, Dua Lipa, Emeli Sande, Icona Pop, Dizzee Rascal, Kano, Devlin, Chase & Status, Zara Larsson, Niall Horan, Loyle Carner, Novelist, Giggs and many more.

With a schedule which takes her across the planet, Rina knows a thing or two about tilting the scales between work and life. We caught up with the in demand DOP and mined her for tips on maintaining life when work takes centre stage.

Can you describe your day-to-day life as a cinematographer?
If I’m shooting, I’m onset for 11, 12 hours, sometimes longer. When I’m not shooting, I’m either catching up with admin, doing meetings, research or test for new projects, attending colour grade sessions or reading new scripts and treatments. At the moment, I’m working on several projects; commercial, music video, short film and developing feature films with my directors.

How does the job physically and mentally impact you?
I feel most alive and energised when I’m working but it can get stressful and it’s physically demanding. When you are shooting back to back you have no energy or time and space in your mind left to do anything other than work..!

Tell us about your own experience with mental health.
I personally deal with stress and pressure from work fine, my family and relatives weren’t very straightforward growing up, so very early on in my life I learnt to just chill when faced with drama and bad news. My father however, was affected by the economic collapse in Japan in the ’90s, and to see how badly it affected him mentally and physically because of his work and pressure to support my family was heartbreaking. Mental health wasn’t something we talked about where we lived, and we sort of accepted that people go slightly mad or lose themselves as they get older. I regret that I didn’t realise he needed help, and I was harsh to him when he couldn’t work. As a teenager I just thought that he was weak and lazy. I wish I’d had the knowledge and access to mental health support back then.


Rina Yang


Rina Yang

How does your work life influence your mental health?
It has positive and negative effects. But this comes with any type of work and life, it depends how you handle it. I hang out with my friends and talk about what’s going on in my life and work. Not looking for advice or solution but verbalising how you are feeling and also, listening to what your friends are going through puts you into a perspective and…it’s just nice to have a chat, complain, and laugh. I also like spending time by myself; going to the exhibitions, cinema, eat alone at restaurants..and listen to my own thoughts, observe people and things around me.

How do you relax and decompress after a long day?
I have a hot shower, eat something nice, watch a film or tv show with my partner if he’s home, cuddle my dog and then sleep for eight hours — or longer if I have time.

Do you think the creative world is open when it comes to discussions around mental health?
I feel like creative industry are more open to people who aren’t ‘normal’ or who won’t be accepted in other type of work. Having said that if you are are not right kind of ‘crazy’ (crazy in a cool or artistic way) or you are depressed, people distance themselves from them. Again I think this reaction is not specific to the creative industry, it’s more to do with the society and people in general when it comes to how we treat mental health.

In what ways does social media impact on your mental health?
It has positive and negative side, depending on how you use it. I think people are getting tired of social media. When Instagram started, it was to share art and photographs and your inspirations. It’s still a great platform for that, and you meet and discover amazing talents. But more and more it’s to do with showcasing highlights of your life and work that fit your online persona/style, attention seeking and advertising. It’s not pleasant to be bombarded by this everyday. We all know that our life cannot be constant success and progression, although social media often makes it look that way. Somehow it’s uncool to be sharing ‘real life things/feelings’ – lowlights, being sad or boring on social media. One has to ‘entertain’ – there’s audience (followers) who expect certain contents on one’s feed. As much as I love social media like Instagram for discovering inspiration, I hope the time will come where the social media is obsolete, and we move into a new era of communication tools.


Image via Rina Yang


Image via Rina Yang

1 in 4 people in the UK experience a mental health problem every year, and in England, 1 in every 6 people report a common mental health problem – like anxiety and depression – each week. But only 1 in 4 people in the UK reporting mental health difficulties receive ongoing treatment. If you have been affected by any of the issues discussed in today’s coverage, if you would like to find out more or to donate, please contact Mind or CALM

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About the Author

Bryony Stone

Bryony joined It's Nice That as Deputy Editor in August 2016, following roles at Mother, Secret Cinema, LAW, Rollacoaster and Wonderland. She later became Acting Editor at It's Nice That, before leaving in late 2018.

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