The new season of filmschoolshorts hits public television April 2014.
The new season of filmschoolshorts hits public television April 2014.
Smokey, my friend, you are entering a world of pain.
Part coming-of-age story and part road film, Mauricio Osaki’s My Father’s Truck (Xe tải của bố) made at NYU: Tisch School of the Arts Asia is tender and heartbreaking, capturing the story of a young girl who skips school one day to help her father with his passenger truck.
Tell us a little about your background and about your film My Father’s Truck.
I was born in São Paulo, Brazil and started working in films here shooting my own short films while I worked as Assistant Editor and Post-Producer in feature films. In 2010, I was accepted in the MFA filmmaking program from NYU. They had a campus in Asia by this time, Tisch Asia. Since my grandparents were Japanese I thought it would be a great opportunity to fulfill my passion for filmmaking and re-connecting to my heritage.
You have said that you had originally planned a father-son relationship story. Tell me how that changed into a father-daughter story. Did you have to adapt other parts to more closely represent a female perspective?
Yes, I wrote a father-son relationship story, and I had been for two months trying to cast in Hanoi, and I was just struggling to find I boy that I liked.Then, we thought about having a look into the girls as well to play the role. It was when I first met this little girl named Mai Vy, she had such a great personality. She would help her mother in their street food business and had a great passion for animals as well. She had the perfect combination of toughness and sensitivity that I was looking for. It was very difficult decision to cast a girl at this point since I had always thought about the story as a “male” universe.
Then I read and read the script many times, I talked to my Director of Photography Pierre de Kerchove, and we came up with the decision to keep everything the way it was in the story. The father would treat the daughter as any other employee. I believe that it created an extra tension that served perfectly to the story.
Once her source of comfort and security, Vy’s father is transformed into a man who is capable of the same terrible things she tried to escape from in school. Does Vy identify her father as a man who does terrible acts or do she believe that the classroom is no different from the real world?
I think it’s that moment when she learns something about life, that it’s not black and white, that the sense of right and wrong are vast as the roads of her country. When I am writing, I always want to create characters that are bold, complex and face moral conflicts. I think at the end, she still loves her father, but she knows that he is not a super-hero. He is a man as well.
What were the challenges working with actors who speak a different language?
Trung Anh, the father, is such a great actor. He is a very experienced theater actor and if he was working in a market like North America, he would be a star by now. He does have recognition in Vietnam as well, but as they do not produce many films, he just doesn’t have much opportunity to act for the big screen. That said, it was very easy working with him, and we talked a lot before the shooting. He understood the story and I asked him to bring it to his personal experience as well and make it very specific. He knew the girl was not an “actress” and he would need to help her on the set. We had a translator in these meetings, but when it came to the shooting I hired another actor to translate for me. I wanted someone that would be able to translate exactly my directions, no more no less, and that worked perfectly.
Mai Vy has a great personality. She could speak and understand English, so I just told her, “Look everyone here has a role, everyone is working hard and serious. You are going to assist Trung Anh. He is your boss, follow his orders and I don’t want to see you crying.” She delivered much more than I could imagine. I think at the end I learned a lot from them, and it somehow showed us how universal film language is. On our set, we would speak three languages at least, but once we were watching a take, we just knew if it was working or not.
Have you had much experience working with child actors? What were the challenges and the delights?
I had worked before on another shorts and my experience is that they are very smart and they understand everything. You need to respect them, give them their space but treat them as professionals. I also don’t like giving them the script: I tell the story and we go scene-by-scene. A big challenge is that they can get tired and you always need to go through the hard scenes when they are at the peak of their energy, but when you see them managing to improvise with an adult actor, adding more nuances to the scene, that just feels great!
Does Vy’s fascination and love for animals and the unsettling truth she discovers speak largely on our destructive force as mankind?
I believe it speaks to the idiosyncrasies of human beings, our capacity of creating the beauty and also destroying it. When we were shooting, we were very concerned how the film would be received. There was a moment we thought that maybe it would be very hard to show it anywhere, but fortunately people understand the film, and it also makes them think and put into perspective their own habits, especially when it comes to food.
What training did Tisch Asia provide you to best tell your story and how has it influenced you as an artist?
I feel I owe a lot to my professors at NYU Tisch Asia. I had such a great faculty supporting me, encouraging me and guiding me to make this film. We focused a lot on storytelling and working with the actors there.
When I wrote the first draft of My Father’s Truck, I thought that maybe they would suggest me to shoot something in English or easier, but to the contrary, they always encouraged me to take risks, try my limits, be ambitious with my projects and aim high.
I workshopped the story in class with Todd Solondz, Michael Burke, Boris Frumin, Katherine Lindberg, John Hammond, Bobby Bukowski and my classmates (Amy Hartman and Russell Clarke) that were also part of the crew.
We researched a lot and lived for a while in Vietnam before shooting, so when it came to the set, even though we had many problems, I was confident to get the essence of the story.
Nowadays I am still working on my thesis project and preparing my first feature film project. My professors are always very accessible to give advices, and that is great about NYU.
Any advice for fellow filmmakers?
For me, film is still about story. Nowadays, the “making” is very accessible, so just work a lot on your script, take your time, try to work with good actors, get advice and guidance if necessary, and put a good team together. I am very thankful for all my crew.
Mauricio Osaki is currently completing his MFA in Filmmaking at NYU Tisch School of the Arts Asia in Singapore, and is working on his first feature film to be shot in Brazil.
All screenings at Camera 12 Cinemas in San Jose.
#TBT Star Wars!
2014 Oscar Nominees // Saul Bass Remixed geminianum:
2014 Oscar Nominees // Saul Bass Remixed
To make the task of creating alternative movie posters for this year’s Oscar nominees a little more interesting, I decided to limit myself to solely remixing famous work of Saul Bass instead of making something completely new. This way my options were very restricted, but at the same time it made the process of finding the solution of representing a movie visually somehow easier (confirming the known rule of ‘limitations driving creativity’).
It’s rare to see a film that is willing to and capable of looking into the mouth of cruelty and examine those ideas carefully and cleverly. Liam Goulding’s Mis Ojos Estan Sangrando (My Eyes Are Bleeding) made at San Jose State University does so unflinchingly, playing with cinematic form in a most alarming way.
Tell us a little about your background and about your film.
I’ve been making films for nearly ten years, and over the course of those ten years, I’ve done my absolute hardest to better myself (since I feel I should be my biggest competition). I’m currently a film major at San Jose State, where I have won at two screenwriting festivals—the 2013 BEA competition and the 2013 CSU competition. I’m primarily a screenwriter, but I have an equal passion for directing. Since first attending State, I have written and directed six short films, including Mis Ojos, about a cameraman who is forced to film the brutality of a Mexican drug cartel and post the horrific videos online for the world to see.
The film seems to function as a video essay, specifically the construction of reality in cinema and viral videos. What inspired you to make the film this way?
I wanted, above all, for Mis Ojos to seem real, as if it were itself a video one would find online. That sense of realism adds to the horror of the cameraman’s situation. It also brings to light the theme of fantasy vs. reality in that because a camera separates the cameraman from the cartel’s victims, in turn the computer screen separates viewers from the carnage: the recorded images themselves could be interpreted as “fake”. It’s because many have been so desensitized to violence in movies that when one watches a brutality video—the real murder of a human being—one’s brain is almost wholly incapable of comprehending the reality (it’s safer for us to think those videos are fake).
Your film raises as tough questions about the role of the filmmaker as well as the role of the audience or consumer. It almost feels like the ending of the film is an indictment of the viewer. Can you talk a bit about that?
The film itself was a way for me to come to terms with brutality videos that I had seen—a way to exorcise the horror and put it into terms I’d be able to understand. Brutality videos are real and people watch them every day, and it’s terrible. I let curiosity get the better of me, but I don’t totally regret my viewing experience. It’s soul-killing to say the least, but the point of Mis Ojos is to condemn those that simply dismiss brutality videos instead of wanting to take action against the true evil that creates them. True evil exists and the supposed good people, the innocents, NEED to be aware that it does. Responsibility is to be had all around—filmmaker/audience. In Ridley Scott’s The Counselor, Brad Pitt’s character relates to [Michael] Fassbender that when one watches a video in which someone is murdered, the viewer is then made an accessory to the murder. You can’t just watch something and then go about your day as if you haven’t been changed by it—that’s what films are meant to do, they’re meant to impact our lives, not simply entertain.
How was it to work with another language?
I’m half Irish and half Mexican, and I’ve lived in East Side San Jose my entire life. With that said, I can understand Spanish far better than I can speak it (I can speak it, just not as well as I’d like to). So when it came time to make Mis Ojos, I consulted native Spanish speakers in order to translate each line correctly. Juan (“The Cameraman”) was a huge help, and he pulled off an amazing performance having never before acted in anything. And I believe the fact that Mis Ojos has subtitles and is in Spanish, it forces audience members to pay more attention to it than they would a film in English.
Any advice for budding filmmakers?
My best advice for fellow filmmakers is: make something that means something to you. And in turn it may end up meaning something to someone else, someone you’ll never even meet.
Liam Goulding is an award-winning film student at San Jose State University. He is currently in pre-production for his last short film as an SJSU film student entitled ‘Scared Straight’.
Mis Ojos Estan Sangrando screens as part of Cinequest’s Shorts Program 8: Student Shorts film showcase on Tue March 11 @ 1:30PM, Wed March 12 @ 9:30 PM and Fri March 14 @ 9:15 PM.
All screenings at Camera 12 Cinemas in San Jose.
In just a few scant minutes, the short film Hallelujah by De Anza College filmmaker Mike Libunao manages to play around with those tense, brief moments that feel like an eternity, as white noise becomes unusually perturbing. It’s an effective comedy with a deft punchline.
Hi Mike! Tell us a little about your background.
My journey with the creative field started back in 2001-2003 when I was a member of the Foothill Theatre Conservatory. Acting was my main focus at that point, but I was intrigued by this student-run theatre troupe called “Brown Bag” where the students write, direct, produce and act in all the productions. I don’t know why, but I always felt like I’d be a good writer, so I joined up and tested the waters with writing and directing, and I took to it really well. At that point, I was already wondering if it would transfer over to film, but as life would have it I ended up going overseas for several years and leaving all that behind me. It wasn’t until a year and a half ago after working a desk job for 2.5 years that I finally decided to give filmmaking a try. That question of whether or not I could write & direct for film still lingered in the back of my mind. What I wanted to capture with Hallelujah is that feeling of heightened awareness that one seems to get when they’re anxiously waiting for something, and so far based on audience reactions I guess it’s working.
The film is short, really short, but there’s a LOT of things happening, specifically with that sound design. Can you tell us about the role sound played in the making of the film and the challenges of making such a kinetically mixed soundtrack?
Sound design was definitely incredibly critical in establishing the pace and tone of the film. Like I said, what I wanted to do was try and capture that feeling of heightened awareness that comes over someone when they’re anxiously awaiting something, so I used the soundtrack to achieve this by driving up the sound as the film goes on, repeating them, and making each sound shorter and shorter to really bring things to a boil until it’s about to burst. I have to give credit to Mike Caroza and Alvin Matudio, because they took the sound that we recorded and played around with it in Pro Tools and gave it much more weight, especially for the close-ups. Believe it or not, once I decided on the order in which the shots would be, the sound editing wasn’t that difficult. The great thing about using a ticking clock as your background is that everything can be neatly timed out to 1-second increments.
You have a theatre background, which you can clearly tell by pulling a great performance out of your lead with minimal dialogue. How did you cast your film? What did you learn in theatre that you could bring to film?
Honestly, the casting was just pure happenstance and luck. The film was originally made as an assignment for a directing class I was taking at De Anza College. My two crew members/partners, Mike Caroza and Quentin Harris, and I only had two weeks to complete it. Quentin expressed to me that he had an interest in acting and that he was taking acting classes, so considering that we had such a short timetable and always being the practical guy, I just cast Quentin as my lead and it worked out great!
The biggest advantage I have coming from my theatre background is the fact that I know how to talk to actors. I was an actor myself for a few years, so I know what’s going on through their minds. Acting is really a tough job. It’s not tough in the same sense that being a firefighter is tough, but it’s tough in terms of the actual skill it requires to do it well. I find that getting a good performance from an actor is a balance between being clear with what you want as a director, and giving the actor the freedom to bring their own sensibility into the performance.
The punch line of the film is fantastic, partially because up until the joke, the film is a little bit nightmarish. Can you talk a bit about how you planned multiple shots of, essentially, a man waiting to create tension before the release?
I’m really glad to hear the build up to the punch line/release is working. Basically, I just asked myself what kind of objects around the house would drive me crazy if I were to isolate the noises they produce and just make them louder and louder, and if they kept repeating. At that point. it was just a matter of getting an establishing shot of each object whose sound would be repeated, then getting closer and closer on the subject, and throwing in some off-kilter/dutch angles to increase that feeling of tension and anxiety.
What training did De Anza College provide you to tell your story and how has it influenced you as an artist?
Honestly, everything that I am as filmmaker is a result of the Film/TV Department at De Anza College. I learned all the basic tools and principles in the beginning production class, and every other class from directing, lighting, editing, screenwriting all goes towards refining those basics and moving onto more advanced techniques. What’s great about De Anza is that it’s such a hands-on program. You’re not gonna sit in class for weeks just learning about making a film. You’re actually gonna do it, and pretty much right off the bat sometimes. I truly believe that the best way to learn is by doing, and the De Anza Film/TV program is great for that. You get lots of practical experience.
Mike Libunao is a Hayward, CA-based freelance filmmaker. He is currently writing and directing a music video for the single “Howl at the Moon” on the soon-to-be-released album “Slow Burn” by musician Chris Edgar.
Hallelujah screens as part of Cinequest’s Shorts Program 8: Student Shorts film showcase on Tue March 11 @ 1:30PM, Wed March 12 @ 9:30 PM and Fri March 14 @ 9:15 PM.
All screenings at Camera 12 Cinemas in San Jose.
Game of Thrones…90’s style.
It was bound to happen. Great job breaking Twitter! 2.5+ million retweets!
Vanity Fair’s 2008 ‘Hitchcock Hollywood Portfolio’
"Don’t cross the streams." Art by flimflammeryart
These guys are rad! World premiere of nationalfilmsociety's “Awesome Asian Bad Guys” at CAAMfest March 20th and 21st in San Francisco!!
Get your tix: http://caamfest.com/2014/films/awesome-asian-bad-guys/
Indie film bingo: holdingforhijinks:
Bingo Bango Bongo