Filmmaker Q&A with Scott Eriksson of "How War Ends"
As part of the NewFilmmakers Los Angeles screening taking place at Sunset Gower Studios this month, we've decided to spotlight filmmaker Scott Ericksson of How War Ends. Learn about the film, Ericksson's goals and the lessons he's learned from working in the industry.
Tell us a little bit about your project and how long you’ve been working on it.
The film is based on a real life story about a close friend of mine (Rithy) and his younger brother (Bunthon) who lost their parents to the tragedy of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge in Cambodia between 1975-1979. While we have been friends for more than 10 years I didn’t actually think about writing this script until last year. As a person who has suffered from severe depression, I wanted to use my own experience to see if I could explain to an audience what it’s like to be in such a dark place and do it within the context of a real conversation these two brothers had about the issue of suicide. My goal was to see if I could make people understand suicidal thoughts and bring a whole new understanding and conversation about the issue itself. Before I even began writing I discussed it with Rithy because I also wanted to make sure I could honor him and his family in the process and make a film they would be happy to share.
Is there anyone you'd like to thank for helping out with this film?
Of course Rithy, his brothers and his sister all who read the script, talked about life in Cambodia, who allowed me to interview them and most of all who were very moved and happy with the finished film.
How does it feel to have your film part of the NewFilmmakers Screening at Sunset Gower Studios?
Personally this is one of my favorite places to be screening because the design of their programming (monthly), the diversity of the films and the support they provide is an amazing year round thing, not just a yearly festival. I only hope I get to screen another film in the future.
What inspires you?
That is a hard question for me because I can find inspiration in anything at anytime and usually without expecting it because my films are all in some way looking at life. I can say that my films are usually very dark, twisted, uncomfortable or controversial and that often limits their screenings, but I want my films to make people talk, debate, and remember long after the screening is over.
Who are your influences and who do you admire?
Like inspiration it’s hard for me to think of one person who influences me since many people do and usually for a moment in time as opposed to something that is continual for years and years. People that I admire also changes but strictly looking at the film industry right now, I have to say I admire James Franco and Shia LaBoeuf because they both are challenging the film industry in very creative ways and have the clout to be noticed and effective; and George Clooney who despite all his fame always takes time for fans and never forgets that fans created him. I just hate it when celebrities think they should be left alone or don’t have to mingle with the “common people.” If you wanna be in the industry, loosing your private life is a possibility that goes with fame, so accept it. As a part of the Asian American film industry, I know so many personally who are talented and humble that I admire. A few that come to mind are Osric Chau, Daniel Henney, Ian Anthony Dale, Steven Yeun, Eugenia Yuan, Lily Mariye, Archie Kao, Brian Tee, Maggie Q., Dustin Nguyen, Jason Tobin, Christine Yoo and Reggie Lee. And I could name 50 more without even much thought!
What lessons have you learned from the industry so far?
One word, collaboration. There are too many big ego’s out there and the nature of filmmaking is collaboration. If you wanna succeed you need to make connections, work with people who compliment your strengths and fill in your weaknesses. I also see so many who want everyone to notice them and yet don’t take the time to notice anyone else’s work. The film business is a big family. Learn how to meet with others, work with others, support others and stop just focusing on #1.
If you could collaborate with anybody, who would it be?
Oh wow that would be a list! If I have to pick “one” person it would be the team of Lana & Andy Wachowski. This is gonna sound totally stupid after everything I just said, but I love sci-fi and special effects movies, but I can’t stand all the bad scripts. These two are bold and imaginative and they have the money to make amazing films so I would love to be throwing my creative ideas in with theirs and have the money to make them a reality....with my wicked, dark and twisted sensibilities of course!
What is the toughest experience you've ever had to overcome?
Severe depression that is probably genetic and will be a never ending fight despite medication. At times it can paralyze you into being non-functioning.
What is the best piece of advice someone has given to you?
When I made my first film the cinematographer I worked with who had many years working in the film business said to me, “Scott, there will be people who will love what you do and people who will hate it. So in the end you just need to be happy with it.” The business can rip you to shreds so you have to realize #1. comments are subjective opinions; #2. rejection is not a reflection on your film or your creative ability.
I have since taken that a step further whereby I tell people evaluating my work, “If you don’t have anything bad to say, don’t say anything at all.” Criticism is better than praise because it can make you a better filmmaker and you might be able to steal a good suggestion from somebody!
What advice would you give to new filmmakers starting out in the industry?
Pay your dues. Don’t expect people to recognize you and your talent because there are many talented people. Networking is critical and if you want to succeed go help everyone you can who is working on film project and do it for free. You will get the experience and develop connections and have the opportunity to show people what you can do. Eventually people will want to pay you for your talent, but don’t expect that at the start.
Where can we expect to see you next?
This is an overwhelming year for me because I have 5 short films being released (3 are out already) and I just released my first music video project, a song I co-wrote and a video I co-directed and co-produced by super talented dancer Alex Wong (SYTYCD) called “Crave.” And one of my shorts due at the end of the year, “The Ballet Dancer,” stars Alex Wong. The guy is so talented as a singer/actor/dancer that I hate him! LOL I have also started writing a sci-fi feature script that is a dark thriller and I hope Lana and Andy become my close friends!
Let our readers know where they can find more information about you and your projects.
Besides being a filmmaker, I am Editor of the website www.asiansonfilm.com that is about the Asian American film industry and we have filmed over 300 interviews in the two years we’ve been up. AsiansOnFilm also has a twitter account and a Facebook page.
For more information, visit: http://www.newfilmmakersla.com/
About the Author
Formerly an editor at Demand Media, writer at Citysearch, The Examiner, LA Youth Newspaper and proofreader at The Los Angeles Daily News, Christy Buena decided to start Disarray Magazine because she missed writing what she wanted. From hiring writers, to contacting publicists and making assignments, Christy is responsible for the editorial strategy of Disarray Magazine. Get to know the team of talented contributors.
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