On this week’s episode of establishing your empire, Christine Chen, Christine is an award-winning filmmaker, a business owner and a recent author and we sat down to figure out how she turned her passion into a career, how she bootstrapped and begged, borrowed and stole to be able to create a full length feature movie and how she continues to build her empire.
You’re listing to the establishing your empire show, a podcast that inspires entrepreneurs, creatives, and future business owners to pursue their passions, grow their organizations, and build their empire. My name is Darren Herman and creatively I’m best known for my photography, but business wise, my claim to fame has grown a company from 15 K per month in online sales to breaking the $1 million a month barrier. And I’m sitting down with interesting people to talk about their process, the lessons they’ve learned and how they have established their empires.
Daran Herrman: Hello and welcome to my podcast. I’ve got Christine Chen with me. My better than good, my great friend. So a lot of people who might not know who you are… Most people know who you are, but for those who don’t, for those who don’t know who I am,
Christine Chen: I’m Christine Chen and I am a filmmaker and Daran wants me to say an award winning filmmaker.
Daran Herrman: Always. Always make sure that’s in there. You’re also an entrepreneur and now a book writer. That’s right. Yeah. Got a new novel out called get realism’s, which is you know, to me, I think this is, if you, which, okay. I’ve been on many film sets and I have no clue. 90% of all the words, the jargon. Yeah. Jargon has good key terms. And this book is a, obviously it tells you all these key terms, but you could just look up on the internet, but it doesn’t have fun, illustrative way so as to remember. Yeah. It also, it’s kind of like a, you can put it on or you can put it on your coffee table and look at it every once in a while. I’d probably put it in a different spot so I’d read it more often in your bathroom. So, okay. You’re award-winning filmmaker for short films. You’ve done a full length feature movie. Which I was in briefly as a douchey party guy. Yeah.
Daran Herrman: How did you start?
Christine Chen: Yes, so I started all the way in elementary school as a kid because I at that time had a VHS camera and my professor or teacher [inaudible] told us that we need to make a commercial about why science fiction novels are cool. And so I made a little commercial about it and then I figured out really fast that I can give, it’s all my teachers to let me make a film instead of write a paper, which is a lot more fun in elementary school. Yeah. Sorry to know that. So then in middle school, in high school I’ve made a film wherever I can is in lieu of a paper. Yeah. Is there a right, it was great. So I did a film on like fashions of the 1960s and then I didn’t want about huckleberry Finn, but in the place of like won America’s most wanted British range.
Christine Chen: And then I did a microbiology series of commercials. I’ve done like a film for everything. And that translated to, even in undergrad I made a documentary. My first real thing, I was hired by rice university to make a documentary in China. Good. We spent a month, they’re all paid for. I didn’t know how lucky it was, you know, and made a documentary there. And then when I was in MBA school here in Austin, Texas, I am also made a documentary for my global connections class in India. So, so, okay. But when you went to rice university, was that for filmmaking or, Oh, so I, I, I’ve been brainwash or I’ve been S highly encouraged to pursue a career other than film. It’s understandable. Film is very difficult. Anything artist’s difficult because it’s not a very, it’s not a stable career. And so when I went to rice, I went, there’s no PA, well actually if you join the union you get a pension plan takes a while.
Christine Chen: But yes, no 401k that I know of. So when I was at rice, I actually went thinking I was going to be a doctor. So I did premed up to my junior year. Then I decided that that’s not really what I want to do. So I tacked on a business degree, kind of a shift business degree. Cause rice doesn’t really have an undergrad business program, so an economics management and for myself, I tacked on a visual arts degree as well. So, but at that time did you know that you wanted to be a filmmaker? I know cause I enjoyed it. I just enjoyed it. I knew that proportionally the amount of time is spent in my documentary film class making our documentary film, it was probably 80% and then the 20th percent was like all the other seven, eight classes I had to take.
Christine Chen: So, so the two, their priorities were in filmmaking early on. It sounds like. I just loved it. Yeah. So priorities because I loved it. Yeah. So you’re an undergrad. Yes. They’re going to be a doctor. Yes. Okay. What happens now? So I took a real job for three years. Graduated. Yes. I graduated, took a real job and really quickly, like within year one, it was like, I definitely know I do not want to do this. The only thing I enjoyed about the [inaudible] is no, you know, it was just not for me. What I did enjoy was traveling. I was a it business consultant and I had clients everywhere and that allowed me the opportunity to travel. However I knew very quickly I did not like doing it. And how you know, is that when you wake up, you don’t really feel excited about going to work at all.
Christine Chen: I was actually dreading going to work. And so I still want to assure, because I’ve been taught throughout my life that art is not a career. And so I thought, okay, what can I do? Maybe I’m going to be a lawyer. I don’t know how, I don’t know how I came to that conclusion except maybe because I don’t mind talking. And so when I do get to talk, you know, lawyers need to talk and all that stuff. And so what happens is I have to take theL sets. And so I chose, this wasn’t just a thought, this is like, yeah, I’m going to be a lawyer. And so I have to take the LSATS. So there’s LSAT prep courses. Uand I remember going to my first all set per course to find that my LSAT professor is a filmmaker and he’s like, Hey, you want to go help us be a PA on a production? For the 48 hour film festival. And I was like, I don’t know what that means, but sure. And I go on set and they give me whatever random job needs to be done, which happens to be the slate, which is like the most exhilarating job for someone who’s never been on film and every rented, I’ve only done documentary up to this point. A sample slate real quick so we can sync the audio later.
Christine Chen: Podcast, take one marker. Yeah, take two. Right. Take two. Fine. but before that it was documentary in, this was the first narrative set I’ve ever been on. So everything was completely different. You know, a documentary, just pick up any kind of camera you shoot, what page? I don’t think that that means it’s scripted, right? Yes. Narrative is scripted and it’s usually planned out. It’s a story and efficient on and whatnot. And so I’d never seen a sleep before cause you don’t really slay. Oftentimes during documentary, I’d never seen a focus bull or I’d never, I’m pretty much never see any position of the job. And I luckily ended on a set with people who knew what they were doing, who were actually professional. So it was completely eyeopening. But I, for some reason the light bulb just turned on literally. And I just said, I want to be a filmmaker.
Daran Herrman: Yeah. Well it sounds like the universe was kind of forcing it, like you were under out, and they’re like, Hey, why don’t we pay you to go do this amazing [inaudible] a documentary experience, and then you’re going to be a lawyer. And they’re like, Hey, hell, why don’t you come on set? Like it was pulling,
Christine Chen: Hitting me, like I’m on the head.
Daran Herrman: All right. So why, why was the preconceived notion of doctor, lawyer?
Christine Chen: Sure. So I grew up in a very traditional Asian, a first generation American family, and it’s a very Asian stereotype. I pretty much encompass all that. I play an instrument. I’ve written it mat, piano. Yes. I’m very good at piano. And that’s just so whatever stereotype they know to be Asians, except the fact that they’re submissive, you know, all that stuff. I’m very loud and obviously is true. So, yeah. So I just grew up thinking that those are my only options. That being a doctor or lawyer, something with business that basically any other thing, but art was an option or was made to be hobby only.
Daran Herrman: What advice would you give somebody who wants to enter the filmmaking world?
Christine Chen: I believe one, just do it. You know, you just, you just need to start. It doesn’t matter what you own. Yeah, you can. It was especially now you have cameras on your phone. Yeah. There’s some of the subtle we ever had. You have that. The equipment is not an excuse. I don’t have the right equipment. No. You can literally just use any kind of light and figure it out and just shoot stories. The stories are what matter two is find a tribe, find a group of people and this will be a trial and error type thing. You know, you will, you’ll say, Hey, I want to, it’ll start off with probably the your friends and then branch off as you get to add on people with specific skill sets to believe in you and support you in want to make stuff. You know? And so I started off with just people from business school really, who I could just con to come and Hey, come and be in my sketch. You know, none of them had I think experience, but it was fun to practice writing that way. And then as we wanted to expand our stories and tell better, more, better quality stuff, that’s when we started collecting people. A fun employment was where I collected a bunch of people who now work with me and have also grown together and are much better at what they do than when we first started. So
Daran Herrman: If none of my friends, what if annoyed by me wanting to be a filmaker?
Christine Chen: So then you create a completely new network of people. So what I did was I was lucky that when I went to business school, I was kind of smart about this. I knew I wanted to go to film school, but I couldn’t because my parents would think I was bomb. So I went to a business school attached to a film school. So that’s, I want to stop that. So w you went to McComb’s UT business school. Yes. And you went there on purpose because you might want to be a filmmaker. I went there and purpose because I knew that the RTF department of UT is really well known film school. It was connected to it and that if I was nearby I could always just pop over and you know, say that I was a filmmaker. Make friends, you know, obviously you’re your parents.
Christine Chen: That was a tough thing. They actually went to business school, although you were pretty sure you want to be a filmmaker. Yeah. They actually had no clue that I had this plan to be a filmmaker whatsoever. I kinda just told them was a hobby for a very long time. Even though I was clearly building my business was going to business school, they’d be like, why are you filming so much? I’m like, it’s a hobby. I swear. Yeah, yeah. But it was I went to, so when I knew that I wanted to be a filmmaker, my thought process was, well, so I want to be a filmmaker, obviously need to make a lot of films and how am I going to support myself? Probably have a business of some sort. And if I want to be a filmmaker, maybe that business is making films. So skill sets of going to MBA school that would translate and I could if [inaudible] be a great backup plan because business degrees can kind of translate over different industries.
Christine Chen: Oh completely. Yeah. And I mean you have to run your own business. Well you don’t have to, but the way you went a about a two as well. And that’s the way I went about it as well as the cause I enjoyed business too. So yeah, I am too. I know and I th it’s funny cause I looking back and connecting the dots, I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I started selling knives, you know, as in high school I was a Cutco knife seller. Okay. That’s a very good one. In fact. And then I also started a piano teaching business as well. So I’ve always had that entrepreneurship mindset. How did you navigate your family pressures to still become a filmmaker? Because now we look at you, you’ve already a filmmaker. [inaudible] That’s what you do. It’s the business you run, you’re out there promoting films.
Christine Chen: You don’t live in it living that dream every day. But how did that, like any advice to people, like I don’t need this story so much, but maybe the advice, like how did you deal with it and what would you, even if it’s not the way did it, how would you suggest other people handle that? Sure. I think the biggest thing is that you really, it’s, you really need to know that you love this beyond anything else. And I knew that and I advocated unfortunately by kind of lying to my parents by I just kept doing it, but also compromising and doing things that also made them happy. But you know, going business school and when I was ready because I knew that this was 110% of what I wanted to do, I told them and it was a sorry like this is who I am and take it or leave it, you know?
Christine Chen: And to continue to stick true to that. I mean, unfortunately this meant a lot of mutual fights and a lot of misunderstanding and a lot of, you know, blah, blah blah. But I think
when it comes down to it, my parents are just wanting me to have a good life and their definition of what a successful life is very different, you know, from yours. And as long as I can survive and feed myself and, and you know, seem to have a happy life, I think they’re okay with it. But I needed to power through and not wait for validation. You don’t, you don’t wait for permission. That’s what you do. You can, you can’t wait for permission. There’s always gonna be down this road. People were until you that you can’t do something or that you your, why are you doing this? Or they think it’s, you’re doing it to fork something against them or, or it’s selfish or it is making art and doing what you want to do is selfish.
Christine Chen: But that’s good. Is your life by yourself as well? So just to, you always just need a reevaluate in and think, this is my life. This is what I want to do and if this is what I do, then just keep [inaudible]. What’s something that you wish you would have known when you started that you maybe no now or just wish she would have just known in general? I just wish I had started earlier. Honestly, I wish that I had known that yes it would be hard, but I just wish I’d started earlier. Just I have, I have more stamina. I’m old now.
Christine Chen: Okay, I got it. I love it. So what’s your favorite memory from filmmaking? That’s a really hard, just anything that you really know. I had a really, I have had many good memories with you cause that, cause you met me when I was pretty much just starting off building my business. I just remember us the first music video, Bri Bagwell
and I mean that was like 80,000 views. It was huge. Very few short period of times using what we had, which is, I mean to, to lie for you, but you can buy buy on eBay for $200 on eBay right now by $40. The TTY is not worth anything. You can buy a seven D, which I have a set I had again 70 which is the tire in the camera. Yes. I bought for like 1800. I sold one for like three 50 or 400 or something.
Christine Chen: And that was two years ago. So it’s probably where like two 50 now. Yeah. So like just to give an idea of where we were and we made it look, I think it actually still holds up. It’s still looks for the wash. We watched it a few days, not for like a maybe a few months ago. And we’re like, this is awesome. This is great. Great locations, great people. Good lighting goes a long way, no matter what your claiming it is. And I think we were just so willing to think outside of the box to achieve something that looked higher end or look like a big budget. Oh, I think I worked harder on that music video than I have on any other content. So like going back to good memory, it was, there’s two. One, we were on the back of the truck because we wanted to follow this motorcycle.
Christine Chen: Well that’s a different music video. Patton sparks. That’s a fun ride. I have a photo of that one. Yeah, in sparks though. We can just shift gears if that’s your family member. I just thought that was super fun. We were all in the back. There’s a picture of it somewhere. You don’t have it on here, but it’s a, we’re in the back of a truck with as jib, pretty crap gym, but it works cool and it was great. I was like, we have a crane. Yeah, we had a crane. It’s a chip. It looks like a crane and then my old golf five feet, but it looks like a crane truck probably violating all sorts of safety and just following this motorcycle is falling on us and it just looked really cool. It was fun. It was super fun. There’s a Patriot. I’m clearly very happy in it.
Christine Chen: I love that picture. And yeah, I just, it was, it was cool that we were creating this stuff and then it with Rebag well the party we had, we, it was, everything was just a big deal. Just made everything about it. You know what, I think that’s something that’s important, you know, make your life a big deal. Even if it’s small. It doesn’t have to be anything. Just make it a big deal. And you know, for us [inaudible] it was big at the time and it’s kinda, it’s kinda sad that sometimes we do some much bigger stuff. No, celebrate it, celebrate it. So I think that’s an important reflection. Okay. So as regards to your career, what are you proud of stuff? So with my career, I believe one of my films called, yeah, I’ll be, was able to Academy qualify, which means you are in contention of possibly getting nominated for an Academy award.
Christine Chen: And for me that was a huge moment because I remember it ears before going to watch the Oscar shorts. Every year they have the Oscar shorts play at to violet crown or Alamo Drafthouse. And prior years I’d watched those films and think, wow, I’m so far away from making that that you know, how am I ever going to be able to contend with these people? And then, and then that year with ELB going to the theater and being like, wow, I’m there, I can, I can actually compete with everybody who has been nominated. So, and how long of a period of time of you going there and saying, my God, I’m not even close to almost, there’s only like three or four years. Honestly, it wasn’t that huge of a gap, which looking back seems fast. Yeah. But it’s in the funny how three years seems, you know, it’s hard to have the patients when life is happening, but when you look back it’s like, Oh well it wasn’t that long.
Christine Chen: Right? But, but when you’re in, it’s like, man, why is it taking so long for anything to happen? But that, that I think that was just a moment of, Hey, I can, I can do this. I can, I can stand my own ground. And that was a really, really neat moment. And definitely, I mean, prior to that, finishing my first feature with no money with crowd funding was really neat as well. Let’s go into that. So a feature is a movie for to if, yeah. So you a full length movie, like a two hour movie era and a half, whatever hour and a half. Yeah. I mean, so full big movie, not five minutes, right. Which a five minute film can be really hard too. So okay, so how, how does that even happen? So usually someone gives you money to make it because you’re well known or something you already know from what you said is you go ahead and do stuff.
Christine Chen: So that’s kind of what I did. I knew that when I went to business school, I think one of my goals was, Hey, I want to make a full length movie. And an inspiration came from Robert or Regus, his book rebel without a crew. As you know, Robert made a look, kind of like talking about him. Like he’s, Oh, Roberts Roberts. So I guess that’s a, we are a first name basis now. So Roberts made a feature film for $7,000, which is unspoken. And I read that book and it was completely inspired and I thought, Hey, I can be just like that. I just want to prove to myself really that I can make a full length feature film. And so I went into business school and that was one of my goals. And so I started off when I was taking a graduate graduate school level, a screenwriting class, you’re able to take three electives at a different school.
Christine Chen: I took, took all of them at the film school. I workshopped fun employment. Oh, interesting. Sorry, I didn’t know that. Yeah. Yeah. So in college, yes, while I was there. So it started off as a really shitty 300 page scraped. And as you know per tradition, one minute means one full page. So 300 would have been a three hour [inaudible] even longer, even longer than that. So it’s all right though. Yes. And so what did you know that that role, the one minute daily, by the way, if you film a whole page in a day, it’s usually pretty good day. So you’re also going to have all four year of filming every single day. Yes. But I didn’t know anything about writing really at that point. And so I thought that was, you know, I’m going to workshop this novel. You know what’s really funny is that two of the best writers in that class were panelists and speakers at the Austin film festival this year.
Christine Chen: Oh, interesting. So at, at UT, yes. They had the these, that’s amazing. Yeah. And I got to meet up with one of them cause I was a second rounder and the film festival as a screenwriter this year. And Britta is actually a writer for Riverdale now. Yeah. And I went and said, Hey Britta, do you remember clash? She’s like, yeah, your 300 page script. She’s like, I was thinking about how there were some great ideas in there, but why was it 300 pages? But she’s, it was, they were so kind of that entire class. And they workshop my 300 page script. And by the time I got out of the class, I had a workable script and that was my goal. Something that I could shoot. And so in business school, I told everybody I was gonna make this film and make this film, make this film.
Christine Chen: So that by the time I launched my Kickstarter it, well, six pretty much raise half the money within the day. And but was that, that was your graduated correct. Graduate much time in between. Probably year to year maybe if that still had all those contacts. Yes. And that’s the purpose. That’s why I was in such a hurry to make it because I knew that I had my business school ties. It was so fresh in people’s minds. How do you have people that you’re going to business school, you’ve got to get your MBA. Just sit there and say, why don’t you pay for my movie that I’m going to make? So sounds a little. So in business school, I quickly became known as the filmmaker I when I was in business school at how many people go to like McComb. It’s like, Oh yeah, it’s quite a few.
Christine Chen: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So I got known for this because I use business school as a get out of sight for free card. Therefore I can use this time to do what I really want, which is to make films. So I spent most of my time business school making films and I, all my films stemmed around parodies making fun of me going to business school. So I made a music video called getting my MBA that kind of went viral amongst the MBA crowd, basically making fun of us going to business school and how were their networking, but we call it drinking and a bunch of other stuff you can still find on YouTube and shit. MBA say, and I had my economics teacher do the Douggie teach McGee how to Douggie became a huge hit. It was very surprising. I actually had no clue that it would take off the tissue.
Christine Chen: Richie had a Douggie with something. It was supposed to be a sizzle actually a teaser to get in my MBA and I put it on YouTube, not thinking anybody would watch it at all. Literally the next day, every single person in my business school class had seen it. And it was a, the talk of everything. Like I went from the the filmmaker in class that doesn’t really talk too much and see, you know too Holy shit, you are awesome. I want to be in your film. You know. So it’s interesting cause everybody’s still not quite in their life to where like they have to be super serious yet either. So it was, it literally went from Christina said it in the background, like kind of just hoping nobody notices and [inaudible] no, I feel like in MBA school everybody’s trying to warm up one up each other there.
Christine Chen: You know, it’s usually someone says a quote, comment and someone was like, well to add onto that and then they repeat it. Just like business is a conference room. It’s basically a big conference room. It is a giant conference room, honestly. And so I, I like to say stuff when I have something to say. I don’t know. I become better at observing. I like observing people and I went from that to every, like there wasn’t a classroom in place I did that wasn’t talking about this, this video. But it’s, although it sounds like you probably already wanted to become a filmmaker, did that social approval even just enhance? Totally. And what did you think that did for you to become a filmmaker? I mean it was that like I realized that I had a voice that I have a voice and people want to listen to that voice and I could say what I wanted to say and people would, could react to it.
Christine Chen: And what was, I think that was also when YouTube was starting to get big and social media was, so I graduated from business school in 2007 Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. This is total. So this was when, yeah, we were just off to it. Cause some was, was undergrad. It’s way we were just talking earlier. I think 90% of my YouTube subscribers came like pre 2010 because there’s just so much easier. There’s much more wide open you and more excited and stuff. And so that was when YouTube was, that was a thing. It was open and it was a wild, wild West. And I was amazed by the power of it, that one little post would generate that many views and everybody in my film class knew about it. And I think that just gave me a power to be like, okay, well let’s, let’s just keep making stuff in testing.
Christine Chen: Let’s see what works. Let’s throw this video. Okay, now getting that, maybe let’s throw this other video out. Let’s try this. Let’s try it. How fast were you like making videos and this was like [inaudible] monthly. Weekly. Wow. I was, cause I had, I had time, I didn’t have, I didn’t have to have a job. Yeah. So I had no job and I mean I was starting my business school, but my business, but it wasn’t like do or die cause I was on loans, so everything was fine. So I wasn’t like, if I don’t do any work then I’m not going to have, I had a place to stay. So, so it was, it was a good, smart move on my part to start my business while I was in business school. Do you have any regrets?
Christine Chen: Maybe that I didn’t have a move to LA yet. [inaudible] Is 75 degrees here in Austin, Texas and she did, she wants to be gone. Okay. But no, not really though. So is that, is that true or not really? I think if anything it’s just that I didn’t start sooner, but I had, I was, I didn’t find what would I love sooner. I just want more time to do it. Sure. So that now I would already have won an Oscar [inaudible]. I mean, to me that doesn’t sound like a regret so much. That just sounds like you’re not done. I’m not done. I think I would have started my business with other people. Oh, I like it because it’s very hard to [inaudible] as an a partner or just like, I don’t know, taken on other people who I knew were just as like my, like instead of you doing color line by yourself or me, I, we would have like just started off with one brand. And the reason for it is that being an entrepreneur by yourself is extremely difficult. Very term too. It’s very lonely. And if anything goes wrong with you personally, it takes a complete direct hit to your business. You know, like I, I went through a heartbreak and my business just was stagnant for a while because I have any energy to put it into the business and I just feel like, Hmm, if you have somebody else, you, it’s accountability as well and you can bounce off ideas and it’s, I don’t know,
Daran Herrman: I think I completely agree. In fact, that’s something that I’ve talked about is my next go around with ever whatever business that comes up, not withinN currently and I have a whole list of them, but it will not be, I will not be an Island anymore. It will definitely be people who have different skills too and different backgrounds. Ubecause I, I the Island thing that they’d loan loan some part,uthe accountability, the contacts, duplication,uto me is worth,
Christine Chen: Yeah. I mean say, I mean get realism. I have three, it’s three people, you know, and I, I can already feel that is a huge difference because, you know, we started setting up schedules and saying, Hey, we’re switching off every other week. You know, Jason does one week, Kelly does the other week, I do another week where we, we have, we’re responsible for that week and we like do marketing and whatnot. But that alleviates so much. That’s at least two weeks that I don’t have to worry about posting something or doing research where if life takes over, I can switch a week with somebody and that stuff is still going right. It doesn’t pause. Yes. It doesn’t pause. That’s the biggest thing I think with, yeah, with social media, with, with businesses, it’s about consistency. [inaudible]
Daran Herrman: So, all right. Tell me, all right, let’s switch gears to get real items. So this is a book. Mmm. How, okay. How did this start? Like literally not, not, not when it’s people’s hearts. You start sketching and partners like w how did this idea come about?
Christine Chen: So if you have been in the film industry for a while, you will have probably become a member of this Facebook group called Facebook. It’s called, was it Facebook memes or movie set memes. There you go. We’ll be set memes. That makes sense. And we spent copious amounts of time on there and laughing about how all these only insider film jokes and there’s just a bunch of memes and they’re just make fun of the film industry and all the crap we have to put up with. And one day, Kelly, my production designer and I were chatting and we’re like, man, I wish there was some sort of book or something out there that would basically just solve all the issues you would as a newbie filmmaker. When I was on set for the first time, I remember not knowing any of these terms.
Christine Chen: And it’s buddy, it was my current DP who was the first person you met and he was like, Hey, I need a singer. And I did not know means what is that? I directed multiple volunteers. I don’t know that stuff that’s, you feel really dumb if you’re just starting. And people are like, why don’t you know that immediately date dates immediately puts you in a lower position because people realize you have not, that is like he worked for GRI basically. Oh you don’t use these, you are agreed, you know? And so, Oh, we just decided, Hey, it would be really funny. We just made something that was funny and, and it could be easily assessable, not just for filmmakers but for filmmakers, parents, kids and the one, and I got ideas from reading funny adult children books, you know, you like everyone poops is a really funny, we’ll say a lot of people own it and put it in their bathrooms.
Christine Chen: And I thought that was, that’s hilarious. Yeah. And all my friends are dead. There’s another one that’s really funny about dinosaurs and so Kelly’s an amazing illustrator and I did all the layout and I’ve never made a book in my life. So this is a lot of trial and error. I, because I know the answer, this is, it’s so hard cause I know there’s so many different answers about you, but how did you design this book? Yes. So Canva had just come out cam with for social media posts. Yes. But I looked at it and I was like, I can use this in design a book with this thing. And I just started laying out stuff and it, it worked out really well. We, all these photo pictures are, this is my friend Charlie. Anyway all these drawings basically were watercolor drawings that Kelly does and she, we scan them in and I just Googled some stuff about how to digitize, you know, paintings and stuff.
Christine Chen: And then I would enhance them in Photoshop to get a good color. Or sometimes they scan it and it doesn’t look right, you know, fill in some blanks and parts that didn’t scan in and then skip put them in as a P, P and G and then just import them into Canva and just kinda did all the layout. And I swear I have never done anything like design. It is the 85 90 page book, 111 age page, really fun book that you did for the Canva. You probably should reach out to them because that’s kinda crazy. Something that you use for social media posting that is supposed to be kind of a, I wouldn’t go, it’s supposed to be a fast editor and you’re like, Oh I can use this to quick quickly make your book look good and lay it out. Yes. Super interesting. I would’ve probably done in design and then spent two months designed to do one and then, yeah,
Daran Herrman: But the thing, I think this is the key takeaway here is Joel, you don’t need the best solution to get started. Just get started and then you can always change it later. You can enhance, you can change. But it, I think that making something even like this is physical now, but making something real that you could show me on the computer or a friend or, or, or whomever to get feedback or just to keep going at Mo motivation even cause you, you know, you don’t do 111 pages then put it in there. You did probably 10 of these, 20 of them. I S super interesting and I think it’s very I think that can translate to making films or to start anything
Christine Chen: Sort of, nothing has to be perfect. There’s a definitely, I think there’s something to go with. Perfectionism sometimes can work against you and it’s sometimes an excuse to not do something.
Daran Herrman: Oh, completely.
Perfection is, is evil almost. It’s, it’s completely is a great excuse to not start
Christine Chen: Block. And so for me, I, I didn’t know what to expect. I was just, we were really making this for us, for fun. We took us about two and a half years, probably around three.
It was just something that we would talk about and laugh to ourselves. So there’s a lot of jokes in there that, you know, and we just kept at it. We did our first proof and people liked it and we liked it and did another one. And finally we pulled the plug. You know? And even that along the way, we still had, we still had failures. You know, we did our Kickstarter campaign that failed miserably. But I, you know, from there you pivot you, you I D I discovered, okay our Kickstarter might have been really over the top in terms of goal, but I had a list that generated a list of people that I knew that support me. So I went and reached out to all those people individually and then did basically a mini investor thing outside of Kickstarter. That probably worked better for us.
Daran Herrman: Yeah. Cause I think it’s something that’s going to catch up. I think it’s to see it, touch it, feel it, fill it thing. It’s much cooler after you see it. I mean, so th th the kind of the tagline is it says get rid of those them’s 100 plus things to know and say if you want to be a cool and smart filmmaker or appear to be one. How does a conversation go that you have this idea to in to start? Did you have two different people that helps you? Like
Christine Chen: So I was totally in the instigator. I, I’m a very big doer. I like to do and I think aye. I dunno. Just having something physical and creating, having something visual always gives me a lot of joy. I am, we just mentioned it [inaudible] my friend Kelly and she drew some stuff and I said these are great. And I just
Daran Herrman: Started figuring it out. I mean, how many awards do you think of your short films or your films in general? How have one maybe like 20 or 30 I don’t know. Okay. So do you, do you see yourself as successful and your eyes? No. Sad. Not funny. So you just told me, you know what you’re going to be kidding. Count the awards. You won your author. Now you own your own business, you have your MBA. So what’s it going to take for you to feel like you’re successful?
Christine Chen: Ever? Big goal, I guess. I, I’d like to to get into a eight tier level film festival. Like Sundance or, yeah. And I asked her out. I mean the biggest goals to get an Oscar.
Daran Herrman: So what’s that going to take for you to do that?
Christine Chen: I need funding for my next [inaudible]
Daran Herrman: Well specifically, how much money do you need specifically? 250,000. Okay, great. So I love that you have an answer to this because a lot of times I ask questions to people that I consult or help get through some stuff and you guys start asking questions and I’m like, well, I just need a lot there. You know, that doesn’t make it. Yeah. So that’s very, so to me, you’re on that, on that path of getting there. And again, this is going from the thinkers, the doers. And so this is one big key takeaway you’ve had a lot of great ones is you know, if you have a goal, get it down to where you knew every little piece of it. It doesn’t have to be like a perfection plan, but you need to know how is what it’s going to take to get there. Specifics be specific about everything. So what’s the timeline?
Christine Chen: The timeline is I like to do it next fall. Next fall. Okay. Yes. And I already broke it down the budget. I know that isn’t it take 20 days to shoot and I can do it in 15 if I have to. But 20 is ideal. And the 250 is with maybe one or two eight a B listers for like one day for like the smaller parts. If we land on the name on it. Yeah, just put their name on it. If we land a bigger part then it might skyrocket. Get the budget to seven 50 but that just depends on what kind of names we can get.
Daran Herrman: But, so it sounds like to me that you kind of have an understanding of what’s it take to make the film that the the one thing that’s yeah, that’s the unknown is the after and yeah, but that usually ends up paying for itself. Right. Okay. So what’s a common myth about film making or being a filmmaker? What’s coming myth about being a filmmaker?
Christine Chen: People don’t realize how much work of being a filmmaker is. I think they see the product and they see everything that’s associated with filmmaking. Like, Oh, you get to go to film festivals and you get to take cool pictures and wash the film. But I think especially, cause I mentor a lot of students and want to be filmmakers and I think the ones that don’t succeed come onto set and wait. I have to grab water for people. I have to do hard stuff and move things. I think they just think that if they show up on set, they’re going to just be able to direct. And that’s not 12 hour days. It’s 12 hours, sometimes 15. It’s hot, it’s outside, there’s no AC. Most of the time they just don’t realize how much work and what it team it takes to make a film most.
Christine Chen: Yeah. Like I said, and consistency, you know people, there’s a difference between I love films and I love making films. There’s a huge difference. I’ve met a lot of people who, I don’t doubt love films, but that doesn’t translate to, I love making films so, and everybody thinks they want to be a director until every, until 50 people as are asking them to make decisions. Then they realize that it’s actually hard to be a director. So I always encourage students to try all sorts of jobs on the film set to figure out what they really like. And I think the best judge of whether you’re made for it is he just went through a really terrible film set. Really terrible. It was hot, it was sweaty. Give us 15 hours. He got no sleep and you did this for a week and then the next week when you’re off and you think that who Ray em off, you wait one hour and then you’re bored out of your mind or wondering where your next film set is.
Christine Chen: Do you know that this is right for you? I love it. So besides being a director, what’s your favorite position on, on a film set? Okay, so directing is like by far like here, right? I would say I’m, I’m coming. I love directing. You’re writing together. I’m, I’m sorry I’m becoming a much better writer. I used to be very not confident in my writing. I’m sure getting to be a second round or in the AFF totally changed my perspective on it. Awesome. Film festival. Yes. Austin film festival, which is apparently one of the biggest writers to film festivals in the world. So I’m like, Holy shit. Maybe I know I’m doing, but my bread and butter is a first assistant director on film sets. That’s what I get to do a lot. In fact, Rose from a film says a first lady here straight to hang out with Darren, my favorite person to do this podcast. So what were you saying?
Daran Herrman: No, go ahead. I’m sorry. What’s the first assistant director and Saul, if you were to read what page you look in the index, I want to hear what you said. So first assistant director is somebody who’s [inaudible]
Christine Chen: Basically keeping track of the time in the schedule. They are mistaken as the assistant to the director and that’s completely completely wrong. They are the bridge between the crew and the director. So there talking to the gaffer, the DP, they’re asking about times, I’m the annoying person that walks around to each department and ask, what are we waiting for? Like why? Why aren’t we shooting right now? I for me, I want to always be shooting something and if something is not shooting then we’re waiting on something. I need to know what we’re waiting on. Is it we’re waiting on makeup? Is it because we’re waiting on lighting? Is it because we’re waiting on somebody to show up? Usually? I know, yeah. We’ll usually notice Zola problems, acts as a cell set therapists. Okay, so a couple last ones. Okay. Who has been the biggest influence on your life and what lessons did that person teach you?
Christine Chen: Ooh, that’s very difficult. Or it doesn’t have to be the biggest, just somebody who impacted your life. I mean, so I’ve had a lot of people who made it better when it’s been really difficult in this industry. And I remember a really good friend who’s now pregnant, yay Summa nag moti from business school. She’s really good friend of mine, you know, it feels good that she, I wrote her in [inaudible] as a character in my film, unemployment. I remember when I was really scared about going all in as a, into this business. After graduation I was sitting on her bed. You’re just saying, what if I fail miserably and what if I, I’m just really scared. I’m about to tell my parents and what’s going to happen, you know, I’m going to be broke forever and be homeless. And she say, you’ll never be homeless because you have a place to live with me.
Christine Chen: No matter what she says, if you fail, you just go do something else. It’s no big deal. You have an MBA. And that I needed to hear that. So what’s [inaudible] like lessons you’ve learned over this course of your career? My professor John Doggett says, if you’re not scared, that means you don’t take it serious enough. And I always remember that. So it’s okay to be scared about something that’s just telling you that you are taking it very seriously. I mean, I’m scared that I will not raise my money for my feature film, but that just means that I really, really care about it. What else? That’s actually pretty profound. I think that I always tried to do something that scares me to leave lead an interesting life, but also the fact there of if it scares you, then that means it’s important to you.
Christine Chen: Yes. I think that’s something that we should all reflect on. Mmm. And be self aware of those things and probably if you can go to hoard. So, yeah, it’s, I think there’s a misconception that if you’re scared, you’re supposed to like run away from it. That’s, I think that’s a fight or flight and it’s natural to want to run away for my, but oftentimes it’s just testing you and showing you to get out of your comfort zone. I think it’s easier to be complacent. It’s easier to feel comfortable. Everybody likes to feel comfortable. It’s great to just go home and watch TV. But [inaudible] something that you’re scared of means that you’re testing your comfort and only until you get out of your comfort zone are you actually changing and growing and evolving. And so, yeah, you’re exactly right. Do something that you’re scared of.
Daran Herrman: Yeah, it’s much easier to watch the TV watch TV than be the one that making what’s on TV. It’s also much more fulfilling. And you can be much more proud of that. And then all right, so any comments, anything you want to say before we wrap up?
Christine Chen: I think just [inaudible] doing anything great and doing anything that you love doing, anything that’s different from everybody else is very difficult. And what gets me through it is, Oh, it’s a lot of self reflection and evaluating and knowing that why I’m doing it. And really just surrounding yourself with other people that inspire you and surrounding yourself with people who support you. Because for example, anytime I’m feeling like crap and that I’m terrible at what I do, I just come over
Daran Herrman: All your food and I give you a boat, I’ll give you a bunch of trouble. But then I built it back up. It’s like, get back out there and make something so we can watch TV.
Christine Chen: And man, it means it means a lot. It really, really does because it’s really lonely. You know, you’re, you’re, you’re, I mean, my room most of the time laughing because I’m editing something that it’s funny to me or I’m writing in my head in a dark place by myself and you know, and I know that it’s a weekend, a Saturday, Sunday. I mean, look at us where it’s a Sunday and we’re making this podcast. We’re very exciting people. So it’s, it’s a sacrifice that you have to make and, and yes, I [inaudible] glad. And I so grateful to be able to make that sacrifice and do what I love. But it is definitely lonely and it’s definitely different from the norm.
Daran Herrman: Yeah, I mean I, I think it was very common to just default to working. Right. So how do you want to be remembered?
Christine Chen: I want to be remembered for some who tells original stories but also helps to bring other new and budding filmmakers into the industry and helping them grow. I, I love mentoring and I love, especially female filmmakers. I love bringing them on set and edge and fostering talent because I think that if we all help each each other, we elevate all of each other. I never understand this whole, like, I’m not going to tell you it was the secret and you know, like it just, this is common knowledge. It’s just execution. And I think working with like-minded, motivated people and fostering that talent just makes everybody better and you create better art and it’s more exciting that way.
Daran Herrman: Create Better Art Together. I love it. All right. Well, Christine, I really appreciate you being on the podcast and I think that’s a great place to end.