(In the upcoming weeks, we’ll be highlighting other INTERPRETATIONS entries that caught the jurors’ eyes but didn’t make it to the final five. But each day this week, we’ll spotlight the five winning finalists in their own words, followed by a few words about their films from a few of the jurors. Last but not least, Joey Yee.)
Born and raised in the city by the bay, Joey Yee is among the last few non-Italian people over the age of 12 with the name Joey. Though he’d never admit to enjoying the hamstring-crippling hills or the fierce wind and fog, Joey Yee takes great pride in his hometown of San Francisco. He loves the city so much that he even decided to stay there for college (a decision totally not influenced by the awesome bachelor pad in his parents’ basement). Nowadays, he divides his time between editing until his fingers fall off and being carded everywhere alcohol is served. see Joey’s INTERPRETATIONS profile page here.
Perhaps one of the most appealing aspects of the Interpretations Film Initiative was the fact that my biggest shortcoming was already taken care of. Really, when it comes to writing dialogue, I suck. So when I had gotten word that the script was already laid out for me (and couldn’t be changed, for that matter) I was stoked. I didn’t need to worry about any of these complicated things like “beats” or “rewrites” or “character development” All it took was that one idea and blammo, I could start shooting.
Although I did eventually think of a story to compliment the dialogue, it wasn’t until I finally decided on a title did I begin to get really excited about it. I guess I’m just one of those people who feel the title is just as important as any other part of the movie. Yeah, I’m just weird like that.
After storyboarding the whole thing, everything was looking great! My friends and I were gonna go to the park, shoot it, come home, perhaps enjoy a nice melon—maybe a cantaloupe or honeydew, and rest. The plan was perfect, but as anyone who has ever made a film knows, there’s always some ominous rain cloud with a frowny face ready to absolutely storm on that parade of yours.
Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating things a little bit, but I now know exactly how much anxiety the human body can endure when it’s waiting for one of his actors to show up to the park that they’re shooting in, which is about to close for the evening, while two annoying kids are playing with water guns dangerously close to the equipment. Despite almost raging after I chucked one of their toys halfway across the playground, we managed to wrap shooting just in time for dinner.
If there was one thing that I particularly had trouble with (and duly noted for future reference), it was being both behind and in front of the camera. My problem might have been because I didn’t really have a dedicated cameraperson that I could trust with my vision, but I really have to hand it to directors like Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood, and even Tyler Perry(!) for being perfectly capable directing and acting in their films (I can’t even imagine what it’s like to do it in drag). It’s tough, even for a short three-minute film like this, and—unless I’m completely desperate and strapped for actors—unlikely that I’ll try something like that in the future.
Onward to post-production, my favorite part! Okay, maybe I was a little too overconfident going in it, but one thing I noticed, more than anything else, was how frustrating creating the music was. Maybe it’s just not my calling, but after having tinkered in GarageBand for hours on end, I’ve come away from this with a much greater appreciation for composers. As much as I’ve ragged on Randy Newman, people like him play a huge role in (literally) conducting a film’s mood and drawing the audience closer to the action. Though there are a few exceptions—No Country For Old Men comes to mind—music, to me, is one of the main things that bring everything within a film together. And it’s freakin’ hard as hell make, especially when you have no clue what you’re doing. So hats off to you, composers!
Also, I don’t care what anybody else out there tells you, but if you own a saxophone, the only song that you are allowed to play is “Careless Whisper” by George Michael. I mean, once you’ve got that in your head, there’s no use trying to play anything else; it just comes out automatically.
If I could offer any advice to those starting out and aspiring to be filmmakers, I would say this: Worry less about the assets you don’t have, and more about the ones you do. Don’t have a crew? Grab some friends and teach ‘em a thing or two about film. Don’t have a camera? I know you’re lying, because everyone and their mothers have cameras, but borrow one from someone who does. Don’t have a budget? You don’t need one! When starting out in an industry like film, money is not (and will never be) a replacement for raw talent. The real inspiration comes from your mind, not from your pocket.
I feel like Interpretations (along with all the films that were entered into the contest) really does epitomize the true value and importance of independent filmmaking. Where you’re not only able to write and direct your own movies, but to edit, star in, and compose the music for them as well. In a way, this contest allowed me (and all the filmmakers) to have complete creative control over everything that was presented onscreen—something that even few people in Hollywood are able to have.
It’s crucial when starting out that filmmakers have an idea of the direction we want to head into, and creating our own shorts is one of the few stepping stones that can push us into whatever direction that may be. We might find out that directing isn’t our thing, and that editing is what they want to do. Or that they hate holding the camera and would rather be holding the boom pole instead. It’s all a matter of trial and error until we find our true calling. And the Interpretations Film Initiative has done nothing short of an amazing job of doing just that: getting people out there to realize their dream.
Until then, however, I encourage all aspiring filmmakers out there to really go out and make your own films, and don’t stop. The more you push yourself, in an industry designed to push right back, the easier it’ll be to break through. And I can’t believe I’m drawing from 90s cartoons for inspiration, but in the words of Ms. Frizzle, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”
In addition to voting, some of our industry jurors also included comments about the films they enjoyed. Here are some of the juror comments about Joey’s entry:
Great energy and natural acting and solid camera. Fantastic use of b/w shifting color and great sense of humor. — JON MORITSUGU (director, Fame Whore)
Not what I expected. Great use of the concepts. — ART MARCUM (writer, Iron Man)
This film has a very consistent and interesting tone. Especially after reading the director’s profile, the film implies more than the simple plot. It made me smile and made me think. — A.P. GONZALEZ (UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television)
A hilarious take on what guys will do to get a kiss from the girls we adore. — DAN LIN (producer, Sherlock Holmes)