Interview with director Sheng-Ting,Sandy

Sheng-Ting, Shen (Sandy) discovered her love for film in 2010. After that, she has not stopped telling stories through moving pictures. In 2019, she came to New York, studied MFA Film at The City College of New York, and pursued her dream to become a filmmaker. She first started working as a camera assistant in Taiwan Public Television Service (PTS), then became an editor, and she worked on short films, documentaries, and commercials. Now Sheng-Ting works as a freelance editor and assistant director.
Sheng-Ting enjoys all kinds of genres. She particularly loves to tell stories in a dark and comedic way. Her latest short film, “The Coolest Club,” uses dark comedy to bring out the stupidness and the shallowness of people wanting to be accepted.

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

Yes. I remember this exceptionally well. I’ve always been a visual person. I started to play with my father’s old film camera when I was young. And the first time I tried filmmaking to tell a story was during a summer camp when I was 15. The teacher asked us to team up and create a story using a video camera. I was so fascinated by using videos to form a story. After that, I started to film many videos with my crappy digital camera and bring the videos to Windows Movie Maker to edit. Every time I show my videos to my friends and families, I can see their emotion changes during the course of the film. I realize that filmmaking is such a powerful way to bring emotion out of people and think about things we avoid usually thinking. Since that, I have continued using film to tell stories ever since.

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

I went to City College of New York for my master’s degree. I don’t think going to a film institute is the way to become a successful filmmaker. It’s always about the story itself. However, I met so many talented people from film school, and some of us continue making movies together. I’ll definitely say it’s a wonderful experience to have. The short that won Best Mini Short for SHORT to the Point festival – I’m not Alone, I have a Dog, is created during the course of my study.

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

On the way to becoming a successful filmmaker, I will need to face people’s negative critics, and sometimes you don’t know the purpose of keeping going. I think to keep going is more challenging. When I was writing my first short film, “All I Need,” when people read the script, they didn’t understand it and didn’t think this script would work. However, I Iearned to take negative critics as the fuel to keep making the film better.

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

I attended a Q & A event with the film Ice Poison. The director Midi Z said, making movies is like cleaning the fridge. You don’t need fancy ingredients to make your film good. You just need to know how to use the elements you have. Instead of getting a lot of crew and fancy equipment, I keep telling myself to spend time creating a story that I can film with what I already have. My film won Best Mini Short for SHORT to the point – “I’m not alone, I have a Dog” only has two people as cast and crew.

  • 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?

Once, I thought of the story “I’m not Alone, I have a Dog. The big thing that comes to mind is how I would do this with only two people and no budget. I thought of getting better equipment. However, since we don’t have a lot of budget, we use what we have. The running scene in the film is just using an iPhone and a smartphone gimbal.

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

At first, I want our actress to speak to the camera instead of having a voiceover. However, it doesn’t feel natural to me. Fun fact, I asked the actress to record ten different speaking tones of the sentence “I’m not Alone, I have a dog.” From the beginning, she sounds more believing; then, she sounds more and more disbelieving.

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

I’ve worked with this actress for a long time. I met her when we were in high school. Keeping exciting stories and having them involved in the project is the way to keep the relationship strong.

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

It’s important to know what the audiences want from your film, but it’s your decision if you’re going to give them what they want. If the stories are meant to leave people unsatisfied, you don’t need to make the film to just give what the audience wants.

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

It’s stressful but a fun process submitting to film festivals. I love SHORT to the Point film festival because it gives filmmakers a platform to introduce themselves and their work.

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

I don’t think there’s a correct answer for this. I believe knowing classic filmmaking is to help you make more original films. I love keeping it authentic, but I’ve always had the classic in my head because that’s what worked before.