Interview with Filmmaker Naeri Do (TRANS)

TRANS was the winner of BEST FEATURE FILM at the May 2021 SCI-FI Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

First of all, I have been writing scenarios with the emphasis on “spatial realities.” And while I was doing that, I heard something interesting from a producer who said that “films are more like pop songs rather than plays.” I concluded that the reason behind this was on the concept of “time” and wanted to make a film that highlights these elements.

I was also interested in scientific themes during this time and had a growing fascination with “multiple universes” and “brain science”. So, this fostered my desire to make a plot that reflects the structure of multiple consciences and the flow of the brain.

Lastly, I am interested in non-humanism and “an opposition toward humancenteredness,” which I believe was expanded into the idea of transhumanism. The reason why I oppose human-centeredness is that when we think about the “possibility of
something beyond humans” and “the others,” I believe that we are getting somewhat closer to “the truth.” And this is science. We have to think about what goes beyond humanism.

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

The whole process from writing the story to developing the film took about 4 years-2 years for writing and 2 years for pre- through post-production. I like plots being complete so I don’t like to start writing the screenplay when the plot is incomplete. I tend to take a long time for the overall conceptualizing, planning, researching, and developing the plot but write the scenario fairly quickly. It varies by circumstance but because I accumulate a lot of material from the plotting and researching phase, I believe that writing is a little easier than structuring the plot.

“Trans” is a story that is especially centered on the plot so I tried to focus on the patterns that the plot created and wrote the script as if I were painting an abstract painting of realities reflecting our dreams.

The pre- to post-production process took about 2 years but the filming took only a month. We tried to cover at least 5-6 scenes and finished filming with 20 shoots. When I look back at the production phase, I can see that it would have been impossible without the understanding and help of all crew members and actors that participated in the film.

We had received support from the Korean Film Council but because we started with such a low budget, it was very difficult to find a producer that could lead the film as well as a VFX technician. By the time we got to post-production we were running very low on our budget so I had to complete the film by working as a director, producer and an investor. There were plenty of ups and downs and especially because we couldn’t spend as much as we wanted to for the VFX technician, there were emotional challenges.

It has been an unforgettable 4 years and I learned a lot from it. But personally, I am very pleased that I was able to develop my first film in the Sci-Fi genre.

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

Beyond humanity

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

Because of the low budget, communication regarding VFX was the most challenging.

When I think about it, every step in the pre- to post-production process was an obstacle and a moment for me to practice my patience. Communication with the VFX supervisor towards the end was especially challenging emotionally. “Trans” is a film that can only be completed with the finalization of CGs so I was a bit sensitive and because I couldn’t rationally control the situation, it was emotionally demanding and painful. I had to overcome the desire to give up on the finalization and remember laboring through the emotional pressure. I actually was angry at myself for wanting to complete a Sci-Fi film in the world of independent films. But during this whole process, interestingly enough, I didn’t think to give up on making more films.

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

The global screening of the film began back in February of this year and I was able to listen in on reviews through filmmakers by doing Q&As and interviews with film festivals in the U.S., the U.K., and Brazil. But because of the tight Q&A time limit, I couldn’t receive feedback in detail. Also, because I was only able to read reviews and press reviews through texts from the internet, I didn’t really get to feel the liveliness of it. But the video that I received this time felt real to me, personally. Because of the pandemic that limited us from meeting face-to-face as we have in the past, we now communicate mostly with words and languages. I was so glad to see the expressions of the audience and hear what they had to say. I appreciate their detailed and genuine reviews and thank the festival for providing the opportunity to see the faces of the audience members.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

When I was in high school. I began watching various films from Europe, the U.S. and Asia. And I remember watching ‘Breaking the Waves’ by Director Lars von Trier. The uneasiness of the structure and topic left a huge impression. It might be a little surprising but the director that inspired the desire for me to pursue film was the one with many
controversies, Lars von Trier. I feel that I express the “story of freedom (desire)” rather than the “story of love” and I feel that he is best at expressing this.

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

I generally don’t watch films repeatedly but the film I’ve seen most times would be ‘Barton Fink’ by the Coen brothers. I actually love their sense of humor as well as black comedy. I would like to produce a film in that genre in the future.

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

I was actually able to find “genre-based film festivals” and easily submit thanks to FilmFreeway. I thought that some were a little expensive to submit to and noticed that there were more South American film festivals than European ones. But because of this submission platform I think I was able to submit to festivals strategically in a shorter
amount of time.

9. What is your favorite meal?

Raw fish dishes.

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

I want to talk about “AI”. The main theme of ‘Trans’ on brain science was sparked by my interest in AI and I think that going beyond humanity is an interesting topic of research. My current goal is to add in the idea of “biology” which contrasts with “AI” and also include a strong sense of “feminism.” Because science deals with such abstract topics I
believe that it is a highly effective vehicle and a substantial material to explore. The stories can be endless.

I would like to develop a Sci-Fi film that has been more thoroughly and exhaustively completed that I missed in ‘Trans.’


By matthewtoffolo

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

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