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Whistler Film Festival Interview – “In The Family” director Patrick Wang

In The Family - At Whistler Film Festival
by Jason Whyte

“Critics have written very beautifully about the movie. Most recently I was really taken with Rob Humanick's review in Slant Magazine that included the following paragraph: "The leisurely yet assured pacing allows the film to make its points through acute reinforcement, delivering a fault-proof human rights debate without once being aggressively or even obviously argumentative. By showcasing its political threads as incidental, it lends them that much more gravitas. In many ways, In the Family is a commentary on hate—that against a foreigner, or a sexual other, or any kind of group—and the ways that hate legitimizes itself and hides inside accepted routines or public policies, but it's also more about love, and understanding, and putting everything aside and talking about "the big stuff" when necessary. Wang's line readings have an assured everydayness, but there's also poetry in his voice, and when he not only asks the big questions, but then proceeds to actually answer some of them, it's so morally invigorating you might just feel the world tremble." Director Patrick Wang on his film “In The Family” which screens at the Whistler Film Festival, 2011 edition.

Is this your first film in the Whistler Film Festival? Do you have any other festival experience? Do you plan to attend Whistler for the screenings?

Yes, this is my first film at Whistler. “In The Family” has played at the Hawaii International Film Festival and the San Diego Asian Film Festival earlier this year. I will attend the Whistler screening.

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your background, and what led you to wanting to make films.

My background is mostly in directing, acting, and writing for the theater. I began in theater in my late 20’s and my interest in film started even later. Very recently I started falling in love with movies, but they were all at least a few decades old. By comparison, I think it's embarrassing what films my generation is stuffing into the time capsule. I want to make movies because I think we are capable of creating films every bit as literate, human, ambitious, detailed, insightful, complete, and organically inventive as any age. I don't know if I will actually end up creating one of those films, but if I fail, I plan to fail while aiming at the high bar.

Growing up, you were no doubt asked the eternal question “When I grow up I want to be a …” Finish this sentence, please! inventor.

How did this whole film come together? Please give me a run-down, start to finish, from your perspective.

I had written the screenplay and was looking to sell it to a producer. That didn't go well. Everything unique about the film was up for execution. As I was considering what to do next, my father, very suddenly, became ill with only months left to live. It was a kick in the ass to stop waiting around and do something meaningful with my life. That's when I decided I would be responsible for making this film. I put my life savings into purchasing the freedom to make the film without having to consider anything other than what would make a quality film. That was the set-up, and a long line of heroic partners have emerged since then to help me make the movie.

Tell me about the technical side of the film; your relation to the film’s cinematographer, what the film was shot on and why it was decided to be photographed this way.

This is the first film I have shot with my DP Frank Barrera. We spent about five months preparing for the shoot, and I was fortunate to be able to collaborate with him all the way through color correct. We shot on the Red camera with the Mysterium-X chip and Cooke Panchro lenses. We finished on 35mm. We needed to shoot digitally because of the length of many of the takes; a couple takes were over 30 minutes long. I decided to finish on 35mm for three key reasons: consistency of projection and sound; analog is the aesthetic fit for the material; and with long, static camera shots, the small movements that come with grain and projector (and dust) help keep the eye active.

Out of the entire production, what was the most difficult aspect of making this film? Also, what was the most pleasurable moment?

The most difficult aspect of making this film has been getting people to rethink industry conventions. When they are open to it, the result is thrilling, and when they are not, the result is painful. The most unexpected fun I had making this movie was during color correct. Technicolor is my Disneyland.

How has the film been received at other festivals or screenings? If this is your first festival, what do you expect at the film’s screenings in Whistler?

The reception at film festivals has been tremendous. From casual filmgoers to film professors, I am thrilled it can move and affect people of all backgrounds.

Who would you say your biggest inspirations are in the film world (directors, actors, cinematographers, etc)? Did you have inspirations from filmmakers for this film in particular?

At this moment, I would say my biggest film influences are Tony Richardson, John Cassavetes, Ingmar Bergman, Sven Nykvist, and Liv Ullmann. "Scenes From a Marriage" and "A Woman Under the Influence" were my reference movies for this film; I like the balance of design across departments, the focus on performance, and how a house becomes a universe in those films.

How important do you think the critical/media response is to film these days, be it a large production, independent film or festival title?

The critical response has saved my film from obscurity.

No doubt there are a lot of aspiring filmmakers at film festivals who are out there curious about making a film of their own. Do you have any advice that you could provide for those looking to get a start?

I think it's interesting you use the word "curious" in the question, because I think that curiosity is the start, and my advice is to feed it and to stay curious. I'm stunned how many people make films who are not terribly interested in understanding films. Learn and prepare in whatever form fits your curiosity so you'll have some sort of foundation, whether formal or non-conventional, when the first filmmaking opportunity is in front of you. And for me, my curiosity also sustains me throughout a project.

What would you say or do to someone who is talking, texting or making noise at a screening of your movie (or any screening that you attend)?

I'd tell my producer to knock it off.

A question that is easy for some but not for others and always gets a different response: what is your favourite movie of all time?

Scenes From a Marriage by Ingmar Bergman.

”In The Family” screens Friday, 9:15pm at the Whistler Village 8 Cinemas.

This is one of the many films playing at this year’s Whistler Film Festival. For show information, tickets and for other general information on films and events, point your browser to the official website HERE

Jason Whyte,

link directly to this feature at
originally posted: 12/02/11 05:10:55
last updated: 12/02/11 05:12:14
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