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Q&A: Fate Scores

June 14, 2009

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I recently spoke with Albert Chan, actor and director of Fate Scores, a short film that recently played the Memphis Film Festival. I apologize to Chan for the delay in getting this up but wanted to get it closer to the next chance for people to see this smart short film. Fate Scores will be screening next at the 32nd Annual Asian American International Film Festival in New York City (http://www.asiancinevision.org), which takes place July 24-26th, 2009.

Q: Tell us a little bit about how you came up with the concept and the difficulty (or perhaps ease?) of moving from acting to directing?
A: The concept for Fate Scores came from my own experiences riding the subway. I’m an observant person, and I like seeing little things that most people wouldn’t notice. For example, I remember seeing a man with a cane, hobbling toward a bench on the subway platform. The people on the bench didn’t know each other, but it was as if they were somehow connected mentally – they all rose and parted in the middle to make room without ever saying a word. These and other observations really got me thinking about how every single person we came across in our daily life impacts us in some way or another, without us ever realizing it.  We’re all much more connected with each other than we think.

As for moving from acting to directing, after I’d done a few bit roles in major TV shows and feature films, I realized that if I wanted to take my acting career to the next level and be a lead or a major supporting character, I’d have to undergo some serious acting training.  After all, acting is a highly skilled art that takes years, if not decades to master.  For the past two years, I’ve been taking a fantastic, ongoing class at the Boston branch of Carter Thor Studio (http://thoreast.com), which is based in Los Angeles. I’ve really enjoyed the class, and I’ve grown a lot as an artist. What’s more, the studio encourages us to create our own material – to write, direct, and produce our own films, the reason being that the heart of film and TV is really the ancient art of storytelling, which can be accomplished whether one is an actor, a filmmaker, or both. So moving from acting to directing made sense to me as a storyteller.  Also, for Fate Scores, I cast actors from Carter Thor Studio, and I found it incredibly easy to work and collaborate with them because not only am I a director trained as an actor, but we also all speak the same “language” coming from the same studio.

Q: You have a Ph.D from MIT? What made you go from engineering to filmmaking?
A: Growing up, acting was something that I always wanted to try, but I never gathered up my courage, nor did I think my preoccupation with academics would permit me the time. After I got my Bachelor’s degree in Engineering at the University of Toronto in 1997, I moved to Boston to start my graduate studies at MIT.  While most people know MIT in the context of science and technology, MIT actually also provides numerous opportunities for students to get involved in other disciplines, such as theater, music, visual arts, and sports. I initially got interested in acting during the seven years I spent getting my Ph.D.  It started off with a couple of musical performances on campus—I played Mr. Blushington in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Utopia, Limited, followed by El Remandado in Bizet’s Carmen. Soon afterwards, I was doing student films and local independent films, and over the years my acting career has progressed to where it is today.

Q: You wrote a song and performed it for the film? Also Christian Coleman wrote a score. Tell us the importance of music in the film?
A: I decided to make Fate Scores a silent film because it was inspired by my experiences people-watching in public places.  With people-watching, one doesn’t always hear what people are saying, but rather one can infer what’s going on from body language, eyes, and emotions.  Take for example the scene in Fate Scores in which two women are arguing.  The scene lasts for maybe a minute, but in that minute an entire story unfolds, with a complete emotional journey.

With a silent film, music obviously becomes even more important.  Since my character is a guitarist, it might have seemed natural to incorporate guitar music into the film.  However, my character’s guitar string is broken for most of the film, so Christian Coleman’s original music score doesn’t contain guitar.  Rather, his score features soprano, piano, violin, cello, and marimba, which create rich textures and distinct themes for the ten characters. I’ve received many positive comments about how tightly the film editing and the score couple together.  Christian not only worked off of visual cues well, but he also contributed greatly to the storytelling aspect of the Fate Scores, highlighting the emotional journeys of the characters.

Since my character’s guitar is fixed by the end of the film, I wrote and performed the song It Won’t Be Long on guitar for the end credits.  Originally, I had a popular acoustic guitar song in mind that I really liked for the end credits. But to avoid the hassle and cost of music licensing, I decided to attempt writing my own song. I had never written a song before, but I think it turned out well!

Q: Tell us more about your acting career and hopes for the future? What about hopes as a filmmaker, what is next?
A: Some of my acting credits include Disney’s Underdog, Showtime’s Brotherhood, and CW Network’s I’m Paige Wilson. Currently, I can be seen in New Line Cinema’s Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, and Michael Douglas).  My next project will be Every Day (Helen Hunt, Liev Schreiber, Brian Dennehy, Eddie Izzard, and Carla Gugino), which will be released later in 2009.

I plan to continue pushing forward with both acting and filmmaking.  I’m currently co-developing a pilot for a series centered around a rather unique family.  It’s in the early stages so I don’t want to say too much about it, but I’d also be acting in it as one of the leads.

Q: Where is the film playing next? How was the reception been at previous festivals?
A: So far in 2009, Fate Scores has played at the Wisconsin Film Festival, Boston International Film Festival, On Location: Memphis International Film Festival, and Southeast New England Film, Music & Arts Festival.  The response so far has been fantastic.  I think people everywhere, from all walks of life, can relate to seemingly ordinary people watching other seemingly ordinary people in public places.  It’s just human nature.  It’s really wonderful at a screening to watch and listen to the audience connect emotionally to Fate Scores – all the laughter, and even audible sounds of satisfaction at the end of the film (without giving away the ending!). We’ve had people come up to us after the screening and tell us how amazed they were with the music score and how engaging it was.  Others said they’d never been to a film festival before, but after our session, were so happy they attended.  There was even one woman who told us that Fate Scores was her second-favorite film of the session (second only to her own film, of course)!


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