How Art Talks to Art

21 05 2015

Originally blogged from my official site:

The choice to make my memoir a mixed-genre book was a surprisingly easy one to make. Back when I was sure it was going to be a straightforward memoir, a writer friend and colleague of mine suggested, half-kidding (I think? She jokes a lot so it’s hard to tell sometimes), “Is it gonna be mixed genre? Throw in some poems? Yeah? Yeah! You know it!” Sure, I had thrown around the idea of making my memoir a mixed-genre book but never seriously thought about it. When I went home that day, I looked at my poems — and also some of the few fiction pieces I had written  — and saw that some of them naturally fit with the pieces in my memoir, like how continents fit together.

I thought it was a pretty neat idea, writing a mixed-genre memoir. I certainly wasn’t the first to do it either. Amber Dawn’s memoir, How Poetry Saved My Life, includes both memoir and poetry. More recently, Amy Poehler’s book, Yes Please, features essays, haikus, and other odd little pieces of writing. Bossypants by Tina Fey includes the Sarah Palin/Hilary Clinton SNL script that became famous.

My memoir contains, poetry, a short script, a short play, song lyrics, and, of course, memoir. I know it might seem strange to include fiction, and I’ve tried to explain it concisely as I’ve could in the queries and book proposals I’ve been sending out, in an effort to make publishers and editors see that I’m not just a weirdo novice writer who is scrapbooking my greatest hits. But it’s difficult because I feel like it requires a bit more explanation. So if you’re a publisher trying to figure out why you have a multi-genre memoir thing on your desk, here’s your answer.

I made a short film called Stay, which is about two Chinese-Canadian gay men and what happens when one of them refuses to stay the night. You don’t need to know anything about me to watch this film (in fact, it’s on YouTube). After watching it (or before, really), if I told you that my first boyfriend was Chinese-Canadian and in the closet, and that we never had a night together, how does that change your reading/interpretation of the Stay? (Does the film come across as a fantasy/hope if the real same had stayed the night?) How does Stay reveal autobiography as a work of fiction? What can you suggest about why I decided to write and make the film?

Maybe it’s just the English major in me, the one that constantly analyzes things for meanings, but these are the kind of questions I like to ask — and I’d like people to ask — when reading my work. Not everyone will want to think this deeply, for sure, but I think they’re good questions to ask.

Here’s another way to put it. I recently watched a documentary called National Gallery, made by Frederick Wiseman. At one point in the film, a worker at the National Gallery in London explains how paintings and works “talk to each other.” When looking at a painting on its own, he says, you may have one interpretation. When put next to another painting, it causes you to reinterpret both paintings; you notice things you didn’t notice before. They both mean different things.

That’s exactly what I’m trying to do with my mixed-genre book. I’m trying to show readers a different way — my perspective — of looking at not just my straightforward memoir pieces, but all the other kinds of writing and art that I do and make. I believe that this reveals a lot more about a person that a simple memoir, and as someone who feels constantly misunderstood (or not understood at all), I relish the opportunity to give people this special insight. And it’s not just me trying to boast to everyone that I can write a script and a play (although that is an added bonus).

Hope that makes sense. I feel like it will make more sense once my book is available and people can read it for themselves (hint hint, publishers). What are your thoughts? Do you think a mixed-genre memoir is a good idea?


Reading a synopsis of your film written by someone else

15 10 2013

It’s weird, but in a good way. I certainly haven’t come across many reviews for my films (although I’m really interested in knowing what others have to say to the point where I will google the hell out of myself and my films), so I was pleasantly surprised when I came across someone else’s synopsis of Stay on imdb. Here’s what they said:

Eric and Sam, two Asian-Canadian males, have just had sex with each other like they have had several times before. But like he has every previous time after their sexual encounters, in-the-closet Sam is going home to his parent’s house where he still lives, rather than stay the night at Eric’s. The actual act of staying the night becomes a symbol of the status of their relationship. Sam doesn’t ever foresee himself coming out as to upset his culturally traditional and religious parents, and thus he will always “go home” so as not to give his parents any indication of what he has been doing. In Sam not spending the night, Eric sees himself as just Sam’s fuck buddy, which has no emotional connotation. If Eric and Sam truly see each other as a boyfriend, Sam will soon have to make that symbolic leap of spending the night or else risk losing Eric. Written by Huggo

What a wonderful synopsis! Huggo gets the film, which is awesome. It’s a whole lot better than my short, tiny synopsis that was there previously. Thanks, Huggo!

Cure(d) — gay short film

31 05 2013

The second film I wrote and directed is now up on youtube. Have a watch, leave a comment, and share it!

Cure(d) — gay short film

11 04 2013

Hello, everyone! Here’s another short film I made a few years back called Cure(d). Hopefully it can be as popular as Stay! (which I still can’t believe)

Share it around! Leave comments! Like the film!

One million views!

2 04 2013

No.  Way.

Something happened in November/December when my video suddenly got thousands of views a day, and it’s continued to today.  I’m not sure what it was but damn, it’s really cool to see a film I made get so many views.

Watch me “act”!

7 01 2013

Here’s the rough cut of the first short film I wrote and directed, titled Stay.  As I posted in the comments (but not in the description… I should probably do that sometime), the rough cut was filmed first to submit to a film festival (the Vancouver Queer Film Festival) in hopes of buying me more time so I could make the film with Nelson and Minh. It was shot in one afternoon and edited quickly vs. the real film, which was shot in three days. I think Nelson and I did only a couple rehearsals before shooting too, both on the day of.  It’s imperfect and it really is rough and I wish I could’ve acted a bit better (but I’m not an actor so I excuse myself), but what’s there is there, and it’s not all bad.

Enjoy me half-naked!

Stay on youtube

11 08 2012

I uploaded my short film Stay on youtube yesterday and it’s already gotten 476 views!  I knew gay films on youtube were popular but I didn’t think it would be that popular that fast.

Anyway, enjoy!  (if you haven’t already seen it)

Starting from scratch: looking at filmmaking from a different view

22 08 2011

I know I haven’t posted in a few days, and I have to write reviews for Gen Silent as well as the Closing Gala film, Different From Whom? but after last night, things have changed a bit.

Although I wasn’t expecting to win either of the two awards of the evening, of course I would’ve liked to.  I knew Jason Karman and his fantastic short I’m in the Mood for Love was going to win the Gerry Brunet Award, but the Hot Pink Shorts Award was still up in the air.  At the same time though, my sister told me that it’s really a popularity contest since the award is voted by audiences, and since I’m fairly unpopular, it didn’t surprise me when it turned out to be a three-way tie between Mette Bach’s B.A.B.S. which was clearly an audience favourite, and two other shorts.

I’ve been frustrated and have a love-hate relationship with these awards– yes, they are a fantastic opportunity to local filmmakers and I’ve so happy and glad they even exist.  At the same time, the Gerry is usually given to a film that looks great overall and ostensibly was made with some sort of budget.  But it’s a catch-22: how do you get the money to make a great film when  you have no budget to make the film that would help you make the great film?  I’ve been lucky enough to make two short films with virtually no budget and though I’m satisfied with the final films, I can’t help but feel like they’re B-list, average movies.  Sure, money would’ve helped but I didn’t have any sources of funding and I had to make-do with the resources and people available, and I’m grateful for everyone that’s helped me along the way.

But after last night, I felt like I needed to change my entire process of filmmaking and how I look at films.  Stay and Cure(d) were both simple shorts that I quickly put together and submitted to the Queer Film Fest, but I have other scripts that are more complex, more artistic that I don’t want to throw together quickly and submit.  I’ve thought of a few things I want to change for future projects:

1.  Take your time.

Like I said, I made the two mentioned films above in a hurry because of the deadlines, and though they’re good as they are since they’re simple, I want to really take my time with my next film planning everything– and I mean everything– out.  I want every shot to mean something; I want my actors to have rehearsed plenty before the shoot; I want to explore different angles and transitions with my cinematographer; and most importantly, I don’t want to feel pressured to finish something in time for the festival.

2.  Research shooting formats.

I’ve been shooting on digital for my last two shorts, mainly because it’s convenient and easy to handle.  But I want to take the time to look at other formats, like film, that show different textures and give the film a different feel.  I want to use format as a way to create atmosphere and mood instead of relying on dialogue or lighting, but using format to enhance it further.

3.  Find a producer.

So many times, I’ve tried to find funding sources but more likely than not, they require the applicant to not be an undergrad student, and despite the fact that I’ve graduated from Vancouver Film School with a background in film, it doesn’t seem to matter since I’m still a student at the moment.  What would really help is finding someone I can trust to help fund my film, who would aid in assisting the process.  I’ve never put down any producing credit for any of my films because, frankly, it wasn’t made with any money, and there wasn’t really a producer.

I also am now willing to spend money to make my films, now that I have a job.  I’m willing to go and rent cameras, lights, equipment to see that the project is given the proper artistic respect as it’s realized.  It’s all within reason though.  I have to research all of that.

If anyone out there is remotely interested in doing some producing work or knows of someone who might be willing to help me, let me know!

4. Network?

I’m not the social type.  I don’t go up to random people and just start chatting away, which may be my downfall.  I’m just a quiet, kind of shy guy making movies and getting into an industry that is heavily relient on extroverted, charismatic people who know how to talk to other people.  It’s who I am, and I can’t help it.  I think I just need to man-up and go and talk with strangers.

For a few years, I was writing songs and going out and performing around the city.  It was a great time and I felt like it was what I really wanted to do for a while.  But then I started feeling like it wasn’t working– after shows, people would go and talk with the performers while I sort of loitered around awkwardly.  I don’t know if no one simply wanted to talk to me or if it was because I was the only piano player while everyone else was a guitarist but eventually, I realized that I probably was never going to have the level of success and popularity that I wanted for myself.  So I turned to filmmaking.

And now I’m starting to feel the same way.

I don’t feel as bad because I’ve gotten a lot more support than I did with my music, especially from the folks from Out on Screen and the Queer Film Festival (the awesome and lovely Amber Dawn in particular who keeps surprising me by being incredibly supportive) and I feel like I’m reaching a lot more people by making films than with music.  But there’s always that fear in my mind: what if all I’m going to be is an average, B-list filmmaker who comes to the Queer Film Fest every year and nothing happens?  What if this is as good as it will ever get?

I know.  If I don’t try, I’ll never know.  To parallel another event, I’m a super fan of Vanessa Carlton.  After her third album, she sat down and thought about her process of music, songwriting, and recording.  Eventually, she went to the English countryside and wrote and recorded her next, entirely self-financed album.  She said everything was organic and was exactly the kind of record she wanted to make.  Every lyric in every song was thought out carefully and went through drafts.

And I guess I feel that way too.  After Cure(d), I think I need to sit down and think for a while, to look at every possible option out there that would help me make the best possible film.

As usual, I welcome any thoughts anyone might have.  In the meantime, I’ll be sending out Cure(d) around to festivals and seeing how that goes.

Finally, I just want to quickly thank everyone who’s ever supported me in anything creative I’ve done.  It’s helped me more than you’ll ever know.

Accept, reject: Inside Out (Toronto LGBT Film Festival)

16 05 2011

Two years ago, I submitted my first short film, On the Bus, to various film festivals and it got screened at almost all the festivals I sent in Canada.  Unfortunately, Inside Out, a.k.a. the Toronto Queer Film Festival, was one of the few that declined On the Bus, which was disappointing since it’s a big city and a great opportunity.

After months of checking now and then the Inside Out website for any changes regarding submissions for the 2011 film festival, it was finally up!  I hurriedly threw in a copy of my film and entry form and sent it away. Maybe this time they’d screen my film.

Fast forward a month or two (probably more.  I don’t remember).  It’s February, and I get an email from the festival saying this: Inside Out would like to invite the film “Stay” to screen with us as part of our 21st festival program in May, 2011. A formal invitation as well as print traffic information will follow in mid to late March.

Hooooooray!!!  I thought.  Finally, a short film of mine would be screening in Toronto.  Finally.

I replied to the email and sent some screencaps of the film and asked what kind of exhibition formats they accept and received a reply with a list of formats.  Then I went to work trying to find a place that would be able to transfer my film to one of those formats (which, btw, is really expensive to do).

And I waited for their next email, for their formal invitation and for the print traffic info just like they said.  And so I waited.  And waited.

By April, I had not received anything from them.  Growing slightly concerned, I sent them an email again, greeting them politely (as usual) and asked when I would need the exhibition copy sent there.

No reply.

I wasn’t sure if they were just all busy or something, but I gave them a lot of time to respond.  In early May, I sent them another email and asked if they had received my previous one about the exhibition copy.

And again, no reply.

Frustrated, I looked on the Inside Out website and saw that they already had a schedule for their festival’s films up.  After searching through the film last, I finally got the hint they were trying to tell me: my film isn’t going to be in the festival this year.

Did they accidentally email me instead of someone else, perhaps?  But then again, they mentioned me by name and also my the title of my film, so if they did, that’s pretty unprofessional/unorganized of them.  I just don’t know.

For a while, I wasn’t sure how to feel.  Angry?  Sad?  I mainly felt disappointed, though.  Disappointed that they had emailed me and told me good news, only to never reply and ultimately, not program my film.  I feel like someone who’s been lead on in date or something, which makes it seem more dramatic than it is.  If anything, I’m only moderately disappointed.

Inside Out starts this Thursday the 19th if anyone is interested in going.  I’m still in the process of sending out Stay to film festivals so it’s not like this was the one and only opportunity I’ll ever get.  At the same time, I may have lost my chance in Toronto.

So now that the challenge is over…

10 05 2011

combined with the fact that I have 10 minutes to type something moderately substantial before midnight, I don’t have much to say anymore.  Should I try to find another challenge to regularly post material about or should I continue to post my own stuff?  According to my dashboard, I get around 15 – 20 views a day, which I find absolutely incredible since I didn’t think anyone would be the slightest bit interested in what I have to comment on.  But it’s fantastic nonetheless!

I will say that I was emailing my friend about having another short film in the Queer Film Festival here in Vancouver and he remarked that I was “making a name for myself” but I really don’t feel the same.  I feel like yes, I do have some short films to show for, and yes, they have been getting into festivals and all that.  But what is their impact?  What has it lead to?  Stay so far hasn’t gotten me much in terms of talks with producers or film people and On the Bus, although I wrote it, most people wanted to talk to the director, not me.  I guess what I’m trying to say is, if I continue to make films that despite getting into festivals but don’t lead to anything bigger, what am I going to do?  It’s all fun to make a film but I don’t want to keep making zero budget films forever with meh sound (very much meh in Stay).  Success is different for every person but what if my films don’t allow me to reach my own goal of success?

There’s no way to know that until I make a film and send it out, but at the same time, I can’t make an awesome super duper film on zero budget (well, I could try but it would be hard).  What to do? Suggestions?