Interview with Filmmaker Sunny Wai Yan Chan (GODSPEED)

GODSPEED played to rave reviews at the April 2020 Under 5 Minute Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Sunny Wai Yan Chan: Godspeed is a thesis film for my master’s degree program. I wanted to grasp this opportunity to make something personal to me. Eventually, I decided to dig deeper in the relationship with my family. We care about each other, but it is usually less direct and less obvious. I thought it would be interesting to describe such bonding in a visual way.

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

I started pitching the idea in October 2018. Production started officially in January 2019 and the finished product was released in May. That is a little bit more than half a year.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Family love

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

Rendering. There are a lot of close-ups in the film which required a lot of rendering time. Some shots took about 110 minutes to render one single frame. We did a lot of tests at the school’s render farm to get the highest quality possible under its limitation of maximum 120 minutes per frame. Huge thanks to Brian, Yuna and Aster for helping me out with the rendering.

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

I was happy that my film resonated with people all over the world. Watching and listening to them talking about it makes me even happier. To me, this is the best reward I could ever achieve.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The film is about family and is heavily inspired by my childhood experiences. I was born and raised in a traditional Hong Kong family. Lucky enough, there were no disastrous events or moments of life and death. Just like every other kid, I lived a mundane life with ups and downs that revolved around school exams, family quarrels and summer holidays. These aspects of life may sound trivial to most people, but they were extremely important to me as a kid. When I was in elementary school, there was this robot toy that I wanted so badly but it was a bit expensive. I kept asking my mom for the toy but she never agreed to buy it. I felt as if this is end of the world. Looking back at this incident now, this is something I could only experience as a kid. I re-visited my other childhood memories and I learned things that do not matter much to adults actually matter a lot to kids. This is what I wanted to achieve in this project – a simple story that is emotionally amplified through the eyes of the child protagonist because saying goodbye to his mother matters to him a lot.

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

Toy Story. I had a VHS tape of this film when I was in elementary school and I re-watched it countless times. Coco is the film that I watched the most in theaters. I watched it 4 times – 2 times with original voiceover and 2 times with Cantonese voiceover.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

It is very convenient and I like it. I was worried about searching for festivals at their official websites from Google but FilmFreeway totally solved this concern. It is also great that I only needed to create the profile of the film once for submission to all festivals.

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

“I Believe I Can Fly” performed by Yolanda Adams, David Foster and the Soul Children of Chicago during the Concert for World Children’s Day in 2002.

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

Definitely a new film. This time I wanted to do it slowly. I am learning a lot as a junior animator right now in an amazing studio. Eventually, I want to incorporate the knowledge and skill I acquired into my next animation project, hopefully again with my team.


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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