VIRAL, 11min., USA
Directed by Al Chang
In their pursuit of viral fame, a group of young women's social media recording session turns perilous when they're stalked by an internet serial killer.
Get to know the filmmaker:
What motivated you to make this film?
The concept of "viral" content emerged during a casual scroll through Instagram reels, prompting contemplation on the proliferation of videos that are presented as genuine but can be easily debunked upon closer inspection. A prevalent trend is the creation of content primarily for entertainment, with the boundaries between fact and fiction becoming increasingly indistinct. In today's digital landscape, consumers of these bite-sized clips seem less concerned about the veracity of the content and more focused on its entertainment value, readily sharing and liking material that captures their attention.
The consequence of this trend is a world where individuals are swift to post without thoroughly scrutinizing the authenticity of the content, leading to situations where people may willingly compromise their own well-being or that of others for the sake of garnering likes and shares. It is acknowledged that amidst the plethora of content, there exists informative and high-quality material. However, the challenge lies in such content being overshadowed by the deluge of frivolous and misleading content, unless actively sought out by the audience. The aim of this exploration is not necessarily to convey a specific message but to depict the collective inclination to embrace and propagate content, regardless of its authenticity. The viewer's interpretation of the accompanying short film is subjective, leaving room for varied reactions, from disturbance to indifference, reflecting the prevailing dynamics of our online engagement.
From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
I'm always thinking about my next project while working on one. I thought about this project while shooting another short film in the same location. I don't write a script until I know 100% where it'll take place and then I write that location into the story. We shot Viral over a weekend and I had it done within two months. My team and I operate on a small budget so we have to get very creative with our resources. Everyone's time and support if so valuable to us and we don't want to take advantage of that.
How would you describe your film in two words!?
What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
Making short films is always a race against the clock for us. We're a tiny crew with not a ton of resources, so we've got to iron out as much as we can before the camera starts rolling. That means lots of rehearsals, blocking out scenes, and going through the whole routine again. You can plan for the worst, but there are always curveballs you can't predict. That's why nailing down our environment is crucial for us.
I try to tackle this time crunch by literally writing my filming locations right into the script. No writing happens until I know exactly where we're shooting. When it's finally shoot day, we only need to make small tweaks and handle any unexpected stuff as we go along. It's all about being as in control as possible so we can roll with the punches when the unexpected happens.
What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
It was great to hear the feedback and that they really enjoyed it. Our main purpose is to get as many eyes on our work as possible to get meaningful feedback. We are still learning and navigating through what works and what doesn't work and we can't fine tune it without feedback.
When did you realize that you wanted to make films?
I knew early on as a teenager that I wanted to be a part of film making in some way. Story telling has always been a part of human nature. The magic of storytelling will never die, regardless of the medium it's filtered through. I wanted to find my own place in that.
What film have you seen the most in your life?
I watch so many movies on repeat, whether it's white noise playing in the background as I do chores or try to capture that nostalgic moment from when I was a child. The movie I always have playing are is the Back to the Future trilogy. It's spans so many different timelines with one core story and it still captures my imagination.
What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?
I think what separates your festival to others is the feedback. I've screened at other festivals and had Q&A but due to the lack of time, I'm not able to really find out what my film did or didn't do for the audience. As a filmmaker, you want to know what people really think or feel about the work you put out, it is so valuable.
You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?
There are a lot of festivals that are genuinely there to help new filmmakers showcase their work, like yours. There are other festivals that are cash grabs, so it's navigating through that and weeding out the authentic festivals vs. the cash grabs that have been a challenge. I've had both good and bad experiences for sure.
What is your favorite meal?
I'm Korean so that will always be my go-to but I love Mexican food and Mediterranean food as well. I'm getting older so I try my best to eat clean and healthier stuff but it's hard.
What is next for you? A new film?
I'm all about pushing my boundaries and diving into various film genres. It's a personal challenge because each genre demands a different skill set. Figuring out how to spin a story and finding fresh ways to tackle obstacles keeps things thrilling for me. Filmmaking, at its core, is like solving a puzzle—scrapping what you thought you knew and having the finesse to adapt on the fly, making strong choices that really pay off. That, for me, is the sweet spot in filmmaking.
I'm committed to avoiding the comfort zone. I never want to fall back on a technique or format from my previous work. The joy lies in the constant evolution and the excitement of the unknown. Currently, I'm gearing up for my next project, a psychological drama honing in on one character's journey.