Interview with Filmmaker Debbie Vu (ROLL PIN PUNCH)

ROLL PIN PUNCH was the winner of BEST ACTION FILM at the July 2020 Action/Crime/Thriller FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Debbie Vu: I went to my first fighting tournament back in 2013 and was so inspired by the sweat and energy each fighter puts into the ring. All those months and years of training laid out in the ring in brief 3-minute rounds. I wanted to juxtapose emotional and physical pain. This film shows the comparison of how emotional pain leaves scars that never go away while physical pain is fleeting and graceful in ways.

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

I wrote the first iteration back in 2013 and screened the final product for my team in early 2020 soooo it took me 7 years and dozens of people to go through the content and make their artistic contributions.

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

Strength. Resilience.

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

The biggest obstacle was funding. It is a constant reality for me in the filmmaking industry. I decided to put my savings into the project and I am in severe debt because of it! But it was all worth it. Also, I had to push the shoot dates twice! Because I didn’t have everything in place like the full cast until much later.

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

I was blown away from all the reactions. It was so comforting to hear this feedback because I am big on words of affirmation. Often with my imposter syndrome, I find it difficult to find confidence in my work when I do not have detailed feedback. I was awed that all the feedback was positive and I am so elated that I had the opportunity to move so many people. A lot of them nailed it with their interpretations of my work and interestingly enough, they told me things I didn’t even notice myself!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I grew up in an abusive household and after a punch to the jaw from my father, I realized that I should pursue learning how to fight and defend myself. So I took MMA in college and boxing and muay thai after I graduated and moved to Oakland, CA. With that particular gym, they suggested I come to a fighting tournament and that’s when it all clicked. I understood that I should fuse my visions as a fighter and as a filmmaker.

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

Honestly, I do not watch movies because I fall asleep quickly during the first act! A lot of movies take too much time with the exposition! I am more of a TV show kind of gal so my favorites include Game of Thrones, Bob’s Burgers, Rick and Morty, Schitt’s Creek, and Broad City. TV shows really emphasize character development and I am here for that!

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

I used to submit to before they ended their services and it included an option to create IMDB pages for our projects so I do miss that aspect of submitting to film festivals. But I do like the organization of FilmFreeway’s website so it makes navigating through hundreds (maybe thousands!) of film festivals so much easier.

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

“The Sound” by The 1975 and “Too Close” by Tom Misch and Carmody

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

I am working on my first Vietnamese American film which is almost entirely based on my own relationship with my mother. We are going to film the first scene in August 2020 and we will use it to raise funding for the rest of the feature film which chronicles a mother-daughter relationship while they straddle between two very different cultures. A language barrier keeps them apart but the culture of cooking brings them together. I locked down my dream crew, dream cast, and dream location within 3 days after being accepted into a series of storytelling workshops that will provide a stipend upon completion. I’m writing and producing it for my mother who’s been battling breast cancer since 2017. I am determined to produce the entire feature film within 3 years to make sure my mother gets to see it.



By matthewtoffolo

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

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