Interview with Filmmakers Yvette Sin, Nikita Zhang (THE TIME YOU LEFT)

THE TIME YOU LEFT, 26min., Canada, Drama
Directed by Yvette Sin, Nikita Zhang
When single mother Erica gets diagnosed with cancer, she has one goal: to protect Amelia, her precocious nine-year-old daughter, from the harsh realities of sickness. Amelia, however, will not be deceived so easily. She turns to her own devices— namely, her camera— to navigate through the familial intricacies of secrets and good intentions.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

As children of East Asian immigrants, we have a unique definition of motherly love. It feels like calloused hands sealing smelly thermos lunches. It sounds like accented English asking if we’ve eaten. It’s the non-stop work until the skin is tough, until the table is full, until the kids are asleep. It’s secrecy. It’s sacrifice. And we don’t always see it until we grow up, and look back. Inspired by our own relationships with our mothers, The Time You Left seeks to explore motherhood, sorority, and sickness through an East Asian lens.

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

We pitched this film as our thesis project in September 2020, went into production in the summer of 2021, and premiered in Toronto the summer of 2022 — so it’s been two long years!

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

Mommy issues?

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

Like many, we had to learn to navigate production during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of our biggest obstacles was dealing with capacity restrictions. We had a relatively large cast and crew, and some days, all of us simply could not fit safely at once in our locations. However, thanks to our producer and COVID supervisors, we were able to complete production without any outbreaks!

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

We were so moved by everyone’s kind, insightful words! We’re very thankful to have heard from such a thoughtful and articulate audience.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

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

[Yvette] I remember my old babysitter used to recruit me and my brother to help her make these stop motion videos. We used construction paper and old Scrabble tiles. I’ve been chasing that high ever since.

[Nikita] My little brother once made a funny pose and told me to take a picture of him, but I took a video instead. I edited the clip before telling him and we watched it back, cracking up. Then my little siblings and I just started making funny home movies together. It’s a hobby I never quite shook off.

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

[Yvette] My family had a pirated DVD of The Incredibles when I was a kid, and I swear I can probably still recite the dialogue from memory.

[Nikita] I had Cinderella on a pink VHS as a kid, which I watched nearly every day. When we got a DVD player, Cinderella III: A Twist In Time (which is criminally underrated) became just as frequently watched.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

Networking events and opportunities between nominated filmmakers would be a great way to connect with other creatives!

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

FilmFreeway has been a great platform to reach multiple festivals! We would definitely use it again.

10. What is your favorite meal?

[Yvette] Pho is my comfort food of choice — any type of noodle soup, really.

[Nikita] Fried chicken has stood the test of time. Korean fried chicken, Taiwanese fried chicken, Church’s fried chicken… Just can’t go wrong.

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

[Nikita] Trying to figure out post-grad life! Creatively, I’d like to try writing something comedic next!
[Yvette] I’m actually directing another short this November!


By matthewtoffolo

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

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: