Networking with the Filmmakers by Monica Chen

With the film festival only days away, I have been taking the opportunity to tell my classmates about the various film screenings and events. As a writing major, informing my fellow writing students that they will have an opportunity to ask writers, directors, and producers questions—even network with them or pitch storylines to them—has been a great way of advertising the weekend. Personally, I have been considering learning how to write screenplays for a while, although I have not explored writing for film yet in my education at Ithaca College. The film festival will provide me a great opportunity to explore this aspect of writing that I have not been exposed to yet.

With practically all of the advertising materials completed and distributed, schedules organized, food purchased, and so on, the large majority of tasks left to complete pertain specifically to the weekend itself: attending the events, enjoying them, volunteering during them, helping set up and clean up before and after them. As a means to prepare for the festival, specifically for the opportunity all attendees will have to speak with the guests—writers, directors, and producers—and ask them questions, I have prepared a list of questions I personally am looking forward to having answered:

  1. What is an important lesson that you had to learn in order to progress further in your career and what was the situation that prompted that lesson?
  2. Are there certain topics or subjects that you believe simply should not be addressed in film or are all ideas free game?
  3. Do you believe that a writer or filmmaker has to have experienced the subject or have a personal connection to the plot that she or he is writing or creating for and through film?
  4. In terms of race, gender, religion, and so on, do you think that the author, director, or producer must identify her or himself within that category?
  5. How do you know when a project is complete? When is it good enough to be published, publicized, and viewed by large audiences?
  6. Have you ever had to abandon your values or beliefs for the sake of a profit—in regards to what topics to discuss in film, which actresses or actors to hire, etc? How did you come to this decision and do you regret it?
  7. Do you find it difficult to write or portray race, specifically Asian American characters, in a realistic way while also trying not to conform to stereotypes?
  8. Does the writer or filmmaker have a responsibility to the audience or is she or he able to create whatever she or he desires and envisions?
  9. At what point do you simply have to choose to ignore what the audience could potentially find problematic and go with your vision for the film?
  10. How do you feel about casting an actress or actor for a role specified for an actress or actor of a different gender or race? If a character is a certain gender, would it be okay to cast someone of a different gender? If a character is written as being a specific race, would it be okay to cast an actress or actor of a different race? If the character has a specific ethnicity, would it be okay to cast an actress or actor of a different ethnicity but of the same race?

I look forward to the opportunity to ask these questions, to receive answers back, and to see everyone at this amazing festival.

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