SUBURBAN STORY, 30min., USA
Directed by Chris Yen
Struggling against the harsh realities of poverty, a devoted father, Mike reluctantly turns to burglary to provide for his daughter. Amidst the complexities of his choices, the narrative unfolds through the varied viewpoints of those touched by his actions, including the menacing presence of Red, his psychopathic partner in crime. The story weaves a tapestry of morality, betrayal, and unexpected consequences as a desperate man navigates a world where the pursuit of a better life carries profound implications for all involved.
Get to know the filmmaker:
1. What motivated you to make this film?
"Suburban Story" is the culmination of my journey as a filmmaker. It represents not only the technical growth I've experienced but also the maturation of my storytelling prowess. This film encapsulates the essence of my artistic evolution, blending the playfulness and creativity of my early work with the depth and sophistication I aspire to bring to my future projects. "Suburban Story" was a product of my life, in which each story represents aspects of my experiences and traumas hyperbolized into the film's storyline.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
The concept first dawned on me back in 2019 while I was strategizing my transition from creating YouTube content to pursuing directing. Filming commenced on my 20th birthday in February 2020 and continued until March 14th, when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted our plans. Following a lengthy hiatus until June 2021, we resumed production. Driven by my intense perfectionism and steadfast refusal to compromise on quality, we pushed ourselves relentlessly to achieve excellence in this project. Filming concluded in July 2023, after which I devoted all my time from August 2023 to January 2024 to single-handedly handle every aspect of post-production, from sound design and scoring to color grading and shot timing. It's surreal to acknowledge, but it took five years to turn this idea into a reality.
3. How would you describe your film in two words!?
In terms of the film: artistic innovation.
In terms of the production: overcoming obstacles.
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
We had too many. We had severe scheduling issues, technical difficulties, and a starkly low budget which made our production very slow and inefficient, but we turned those setbacks into our assets. Slow and steady wins the race.
The scheduling issues allowed me to drive back to LA to edit the footage and check for flaws. Many times, there would be issues, whether it's the performance, lighting, or the shot simply doesn't flow with the others. By being able to take the time to edit during production, we were able to go back and refine every shot at the next shoot. It is definitely not the most efficient process, but it absolutely aided in our film's quality.
The technical issues taught us to carefully choose the lighting, camera angles, and style of the shot, which gave us the chance to innovate with unique shots that have never been done before.
The low budget forced us to be creative with our ideas. By being aware of our limitations, we became more creative.
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
When seeing the audience reactions, I was immensely satisfied that they understood the themes of the story and enjoyed the overall film. Each of them had great insights into the story, which made me happy that they appreciated our style of filmmaking.
6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?
My passion for storytelling and filmmaking has been a constant thread throughout my life, beginning with a fascination for cameras that led me to create my own YouTube channel at the tender age of 7. From that moment on, I immersed myself in the world of content creation, teaching myself the intricacies of shooting, editing, and even stepping in front of the camera to bring my ideas to life.
Throughout high school and into early college, I dedicated myself to producing comedy sketches on my YouTube channel. Not only did this venture provide an outlet for creativity and self-expression, but it also allowed me to hone my technical skills. Over time, my content gained recognition, accumulating over 1 million views on several of my videos. It was during this period of comedy sketch creation that I laid the foundation for my future career in filmmaking.
As my skills evolved, so did my aspirations. I began to yearn for more profound storytelling and the opportunity to delve into the world of serious filmmaking. I craved the challenge of directing and using my newfound expertise to craft narratives that would resonate with audiences on a deeper level.
I firmly believe that film is the strongest form of art, as it seamlessly incorporates the visual aspect of paintings and fine arts, the auditory aspect of music, the storytelling from literature, and the performance from theater. It is a medium that allows me to blend these elements harmoniously, creating a unique and immersive experience for audiences.
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
It was most likely Se7en or the original Star Wars.
8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?
A live screening would be great! Otherwise, I believe that having a way for the filmmakers to interact with the audience would be great. Like a Q&A kind of aspect.
9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?
FilmFreeway is a great website. It has made it very straightforward to submit to numerous festivals. However, I get kind of carried away with submitting to too many festivals.
10. What is your favorite meal?
On a special occasion, I can always go for a Filet Mignon steak dish with loaded mashed potatoes on the side. On a normal day, I love fried chicken.
11. What is next for you? A new film?
After the hell that my team and I went through during the production of "Suburban Story", we have decided to move on from short films to seek out larger opportunities.
Our next venture is into creating a feature film, titled "Fish, Prawn, Crab". A Vietnamese-American man in Oakland struggles with addiction, criminal behavior, and gambling while caring for his younger sister. His life spirals out of control when he introduces a dangerous new game to the streets.
I believe that if we can sustain the level of greatness that we achieved with "Suburban Story" for a full two hours, we will make a phenomenal feature film.