Interview with producer Winnie Chen

Hi there! Can you introduce yourself and share a bit about who you are, where you’re from, and what you do?

I’m Winnie Chen, an aspiring producer born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan. After working for a couple of years in the Taiwanese entertainment industry as a professional, I realized there was a big cultural difference between the Eastern and Western models of filmmaking, and the attendant challenges in storytelling.

Even though I had graduated from Taipei National University of the Arts, majoring in cinematography, and was working on set in Asia. I decided to apply for grad schools in the US, with an emphasis on Creative Producing.

You graduated from Taipei National University of Art, majoring in cinematography. You then started working in producing and creative writing. Is there a specific time/event that made you realize that this is what you wanted to do?

My interest in cinema developed young. For my generation, smartphones weren’t popular (affordable) till I was in 9th grade. And if you add a strict parent element to that, I honestly didn’t really have an iPhone until I got into college. So cinema was always my first go-to for entertainment, and I’m forever thankful to my parents for that.

© 8teen – 2021

What aspects of a script / project are you looking at when choosing what movie to work on?

Theme. Or as Lajos Egri said: “Premise”. I want to work on projects that are about things I believe in, so I can commit my time and a couple of my years into. My favorite films tend to be those where the combination of brilliant techniques can support a deeper meaning.

As a producer, how do you get involved in the creative process?

My relationship with writers is the key to developing great work. It’s second nature for me to seek out stories that matter wherever I may find them. For example, I’m currently coordinating with so many writers and so many actors.

8teen, your latest produced film, is a short coming-of-age story about the meanings of being teens. Could you tell us more about the movie?

Jay, our protagonist, lives in a small village with train tracks that lead to the big city of Taipei. At the end of the summer, Jay and his best friends plan to board the train with smiles and dreams of college and beyond. But the pathway to get on the train is complicated. With the absence of his parents, and his drunken grandfather breaking a leg, this further obligates Jay to take care of the aging drunkard and the family business.

As dreams of a life far away from the village begin to fade, a beautiful girl from the big city enters Jay’s life. Like a mirage, the girl fills Jay with fantasies of hope, excitement, and possibilities but once more he is shattered when the girl leaves the village while Jay looks onward into the night and the unknown of where his life will lead.

© 8teen – 2021

Why was it important for you to release that film?

Do you remember what it was like when you were 18? I hope you do, 18 is a beautiful age. When I was 18, I remember wanting to be 20, and when I was 20, I hoped to become 25.
Because it was my first time exploring this world alone, I had to learn how to survive socially and literally, and it just constantly felt like the world set me up for failure.

Now that I’m 25, looking back at my teenage years, I suddenly realized how insignificant my problems at the time were. But you wouldn’t know until you’ve grown, that those heartbreaks and disappointments that caused you pain, are actually the experiences that make you who you’ve become today.

What would you like the viewers to take from it?

8Teen is a short film that allows the audience to see the world through the eyes of a group of teenagers born and raised in a small town. The big city dream the characters weave together constantly reminds them of their endeavor to leave. However, does going to the big city really represent their dream will come true?

8Teen speaks about the pain of growth and is a story that centers on youth voices with a touch of the unique culture in Taiwan. We intended to transform our experiences of pursuing dreams in the United States into a message to the teenagers who are currently confused and uncertain– while exploring their future, they don’t have to rush to become the “best” of themselves

© 8teen – 2021

What have been your greatest challenges in making the film – both on the creative and producing sides?

I was fortunate to have made 8Teen when COVID hadn’t affected filmmaking in Taiwan in significant ways. But our location in Taitung was a six-hour drive from Taipei, so my main concern was the safety of our crew and cast. I made sure to schedule enough time for our crew to rest, and I’m proud to say that no person or equipment was injured during our shoot.

Creatively, every day was a challenge. Even though the virus was not spreading in Taiwan, and would not affect production – because I had recently returned from the US, I was locked down in a 2-week quarantine when I began developing the concept and treatment for this film.

I remember writing and rewriting for hours, but somehow still ending up with a blank piece of paper at the end of the day. That’s just the process of writing, you’re constantly questioning yourself till one day you feel like: This is it. The process of writing is definitely something I’m still learning.

© 8teen – 2021

What are the upcoming projects you are working on?

I’m not sure what my next project is going to be. I do have plans to develop features and TV series with a couple of close friends. But currently, I’m invested in building a career for myself in the United States as a producer.

What can we wish for your future in filmmaking

To have the ability and power to be creative.

8teen – About the film

Jay lives in a small village with train tracks that lead to the big city of Taipei. At the end of the summer, Jay and his best friends plan to board the train with smiles and dreams of college and beyond. But the pathway to get on the train is complicated.

With the absence of his parents and his drunken grandfather breaking a leg, this further obligates Jay to take care of the aging drunkard and the family business.

As dreams of a life far away from the village begin to fade, a beautiful girl from the big city enters Jay’s life. Like a mirage, the girl fills Jay with fantasies of hope, excitement and possibilities but once more he is shattered when the girl leaves the village while Jay looks onward into the night and the unknown of where his life will lead.

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