As part of the YOMYOMF Network series, The Short List, where we present short films we love every Friday at Noon EST, we’ve reached out to the filmmakers with 5 Questions to see what’s up since the production of their short film. It’s a way for them to revisit their film and get an update on their next projects. You can view all The Short List films here.
This week, we ask 5 questions to co-directors Sara Newens and Mina T. Son regarding their short film documentary, TOP SPIN.
1. How did you come up with the concept for this short?
We were in a car full of documentary filmmakers and the inevitable, “You know what would make a great documentary?” came up when someone mentioned a New York Times article about ping pong prodigies in the Bay Area. We were both getting our MFAs at the time and had to co-direct a project together, so thought this would be perfect.
2. Any challenges or setbacks during the production?
It was just the two of us making this film; we didn’t have a crew or production assistants. Which was comical because we’d constantly be forgetting things or needing to do ten things at once, so a lot of times one person held down the fort shooting while the other basically ran around like a chicken with its head cut off.
3. Any funny stories from the making of this film?
Ariel’s grandmother isn’t in the film but lives with the family and she’d always greet us in Chinese and try to feed us. We never walked away from a shoot hungry, that’s for sure! She was incredibly kind and hospitable, and we felt so bad when we made her keep quiet while filming (ie, had to turn off the Chinese dramas). The two of us have also developed quite the table tennis rivalry and can get very competitive, though neither of us is very good.
4. Where has your film played? Festivals or other places around the world?
We had a great festival run screening at places like Hawaii, Cinequest, Michael Moore’s Traverse City, Mill Valley, and a lot of the Asian American film festivals. And we were especially grateful to win Best Short Documentary at the San Diego Asian Film Festival, a CINE Golden Eagle, and a Student Academy Award Regional Finalist nomination.
5. What’s been going on with you, filmmaking wise since the completion of this short? What are you working on next?
Well, for the past two years we’ve been developing Top Spin into our first feature-length documentary! We continued to follow Ariel and added several other teenaged ping pong athletes. The film’s currently in post-production and should be done later this year. You can check out the trailer here