Interview with director Sean Tien

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

I can’t recall a specific or particular event or time but I’ve always felt the impact of film either directly or through others. Even today, any time I want to tell a story or share an idea, the first thing that comes to mind is to write a script and shoot a short.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

Essential? No. Does it help? Yes. I was self-taught and made numerous short videos as a college student, and even with the unlimited resources on the internet, I knew two things were invaluable, and those were (1) experience and (2) a mentor. So I applied to film school in hopes of being mentored by someone I respected and gaining more experience working and growing with other filmmakers.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

Both are beasts in their own respect. Getting started is hard because just like any first experiences, the fear of the unknown and lack of confidence really is the hardest thing to get over. But once you find some success and/or momentum, it’s also hard to keep going unless you find tremendous success and you are in high demand, but for the most part, it’s the pressure of finding a story in time to keep going but also no rushing your craft and diluting your voice. Ideally, I would like to be making a quality short film every year that is not self-funded but in my case, that’s simply not my reality.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

That when you truly believe in the idea, concept, and story, you would do anything to make it happen. It happened on this film. I really had an idea that was so vivid in my mind and I just had to tell this story. But no one really wanted to fund a short film. So I went back to my roots growing up and also from film school, and independently produced it with all the resources I had and just figured out a way to make this work. Of course a lot of luck and fate came into play but in the end, it worked out better than I imagined.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

There really wasn’t much to compromise as I knew this was self-funded and I knew what I was working with. But like I said before, a lot came down to luck. Casting was easy because I had worked with and witnessed Joe Black Chou before and he is a great actor. Production cost a bit of money as I didn’t know many crew members in Taiwan but I luckily, and randomly, bumped into people who just happen to have connections and were able to help out with wardrobe, make up, locations, and food. Postproduction wasn’t too hard because I have experience in post and I also like to edit my own short films.

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

Compromising between the shot you want, and the shot you’re able to get on the day on the spot.

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

Most of my closest collaborators are from film school. But aside from that, it’s simply people you worked with before and enjoyed working together. It’s easy to keep the relationship strong when both sides have the understanding that we’re in it together to help and support each other to make the film better. The film/story comes first. Whenever my fellow filmmakers ask me for help, in any shape or form, I always say yes (pending I have the time and am in the same country).

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

I don’t know what audiences want because audiences is not a singular entity. People in general are so diverse and multifaceted that it’s impossible to figure out what they all want at the same time, and thus it’s rather comforting to know that you won’t be able to please everyone and give everyone what they want. With that said, it’s natural for a filmmaker to worry, but the filmmaker should not worry about that, rather they should worry about telling the right story, and doing the story justice.

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

I am an amateur, as the award infers haha. I haven’t submitted to and been accepted by many film festivals. This is technically my first run. But I have attended a few and I think they are necessary because they are an outlet for stories that either don’t get a chance in a large theater, or get lost in the infinite universe of content on the internet. Aside from exposure, it’s also a great venue for filmmakers and film lovers to gather and experience their passions together.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

Original. Always. No one can tell you what story to tell, let alone what kind of filmmaker you should be.