Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Filmmaker Profile: James Chean



James Chean kicking back at the Asian Film Market in Korea.

A few reasons why we need to listen to the tales of woe to go from our fellow filmmakers is to keep our creative lives in perspective, to be inspired, to reconfigure our own strategies, to troubleshoot and learn from those who have broken molds or may be able to give us tips, if not more importantly hope, in producing our own scripts.

James Chean has been busy making films for the last thirty years. Ten years ago James had a script, "Silent Scream" he was shopping around for funding, but no-one was giving him a break, so James came to that inevitable conclusion that if no-one was willing to pick up his idea and run with it, he would produce it himself. That is why he started up KYC, a self contained production company that housed a 35mm camera, HD camera, and HD editing gear. That is the very basic tools of production, from which he could then concentrate on all the other fiddly bits of filmmaking.

James didn't have enough funding to hire crew so he called on his family to work on the film. The experience was fun for everyone but had its wayward moments like having to shoot on location without a permit, but when running with the wolves one must not be afraid to howl at the moon. When the shooting was over James looked back on the experience and thought "We finish shooting a movie with my family as a crew. If I can do that, anybody can do it. It's so much fun", but soon afterwards his leading actor Dana Plato suicides by an overdose, obviously affecting James by having worked so closely with her during the shoot and also having the last remaining footage of her career, so he changed direction and stopped directing to focus on producing.

Last year James Chean returned to directing and made 'Alibi'. His current project 'The Ashura Worshipper' is directed by Xin Xin Xiong and stars Jaing Lu Xia but Chean is taking the role up again as producer alongside Catherine Hun and Eric Tsang - with a clear passion for production, he'll be back in the director's saddle next year with two films 'Born to kill' and 'Three'.

It is true to say that having stuck with it, James has managed to use his production house as leverage for his output, his ten year plan has KYC being a globally centric company shooting in such countries as Hong Kong and China, Korea , Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia - and allowing for James to then consider projects for the international market.

In his youth, like many passionate filmmakers, James loved watching movies and with the advent of new digital technology he understands how much more viable the cross over from watching to making now is. James sees the independent film industry as allowing for much more freedom, to the point of working straight off the idea even if you rope in your family and shoot on a low end digital camera. The obstacles become challenges, and in turn they become rewards. The achievements turn into successes when you work hard to get around low budget obstacles.

So what is Jame's advice to independent filmmakers? He says "Don't wait for the funding, take to long, just go out and shoot". "Don't let people tell you that you can't do it."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jimi,Jimi, Jimi, Jimi, Jimi Chean! what happened to "The Chinese E.T. from Moterey Park"?

Feed me, Seymour!

I like to watch

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