Interview with director Dinh Thai (MONDAY)

MONDAY was the winner of BEST FILM at the January 2018 FEEDBACK Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: Dinh, what motivated you to make your award-winning HBO APA Visionaries short film?

Dinh Thai: The motivation for making MONDAY came in three ways; I was spending an abundance of time with my two filmmaker friends, Fidencio Casas and Gregg Furuoka. They’ve been writing and directing high-quality micro-budget films for many years. So just being around them, I learned I could do the same. Although this short film is far from being a micro-budget, their constant push for creation was motivating enough. Secondarily, last year HBO announced their Visionaries short film contest. That simply gave me a goal and a deadline. Thirdly, my business partner, Josh Falcon and I started a commercial production company a few years back, so we had the support system and resources to execute a project of this scale. The culmination of these three things provided me confidence and reason to write and direct my first short film since graduating from film school in 2002.

Side note- MONDAY is currently streaming on all HBO platforms.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make MONDAY?

The total time spent working on the short was approximately twelve weeks, broken up into two timelines. For the HBO submission, I spent about four of those weeks writing. Brian Burgett (producer) and Josh Falcon (executive producer) spent close to two weeks prepping and we were able to finish principal photography in under four days. Our key crew members are all friends from working on previous projects, including the DP, Adriaan Kirchner. So we were blessed with a shorthand approach. Our post team, led by Matt Detisch (lead editor), spent the next two weeks cutting and finishing to hit the final deadline. A month or so after our initial entry, I went back in and spent five grueling weeks audio editing and finessing minor details. Our friendships and collective commercial experience really gave us an edge.

3. Describe your short film in two words?

That’s a tough question to answer, so thought it would be fun to ask some of the actors in the short to share their two-word descriptors. Alexis helped me come up with mine.

“Dealing Love” – Kevin David Lin (lead actor)
“Authentic Conflicts” – Intae Kim (supporting actor)
“Diverse Morality” – Alexis Clayton (supporting actress)
“Consequential Intersections” – Dinh Thai (writer/director)

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

The biggest challenge was the audio editing. During that five-week process, I spent days and nights making sure as much of the spoken words and subtle sound design was the best it could be. To give you an idea of the painstaking work, I would find myself obsessively searching various takes for just words and syllables that sounded clearer and cleaner to edit back into the picture. In addition to that, I used Adobe Audition to clean up much of the noise that production audio normally contains. Perfect audio is something we take for granted in films and I still feel as if I could have done better.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

There were four of us in attendance (lead actor – Kevin David Lin, supporting actors – Intae Kim and Steve Castillo, and myself). It was a very warm audience and they seemed to laugh and gasp at all the right moments. We had a great time feeling the vibe of the room and that sensation was very satisfying, so the feedback wasn’t surprising. Many of the comments were compliments and even the criticism was on-point. It’s priceless to be in the theater with an audience that connects and understands our movie. So thank you for creating such an interesting environment for filmmakers to showcase their work!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

The story is based on real-life moments. I wanted to address some of the racial nuances of growing up in Los Angeles. Many of the characters and scenes are exaggerations of my personal experiences. And to avoid incriminating myself even further, I’ll stop here.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

I’d have to say Weird Science, Back of the Future 2, and Beverly Hills Cop.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are your feelings of the new(ish) submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

FF is simply the best. Their website is far superior to the rest. They properly catalog your submissions with all the right details and provide reviews and ratings for many of the best festivals. I highly recommend FilmFreeway. Sometimes I won’t submit to a festival if it’s not on FF. I just don’t want to deal with the other sites’ lack of detail and usability.

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

I’ll just say it’s a very famous N.W.A song.

10. What is next for you? A new film?

Along with creating commercial content for ad agencies and clients, I’ve been trying to get into television making. We’re hoping to turn MONDAY into a series. So that’s the current push.

Here are some links for readers to follow and support the short film. Feel free to reach out to us!
https://www.facebook.com/mondayashortfilm/
https://www.instagram.com/mondayashortfilm/

And if you want to read more about MONDAY, here are two articles.

The Hollywood Reporter
http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/hbo-marks-asian-pacific-american-heritage-month-winning-short-998387

Angry Asian Man
http://blog.angryasianman.com/2017/05/adapt-or-die-navigating-worlds-of-dinh.html

You can check out some of the commercial work. http://www.ArtandState.tv and http://www.DinhThai.com

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