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FLEFF Intern Voices

The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view

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Posted by Matthew Reis at 4:21PM   |  Add a comment
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Blog was written by Matthew R. Reis, Cinema & Photography with an Art History minor, '13, FLEFF intern, Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey

Who is Karin Chien? She is a rising star in the world of Independent film distribution. I interviewed her recently and this is what she had to say:

So how did you get your start in film?

I moved to NY from California to work in independent film and I just started looking for an internship. I started at an internship in January 1999 and worked my way up as a crew-member for a year and a half. After a year and a half I got a Masters degree at Columbia in Comparative Literature. After that I graduated in May 2001 and started producing in June.

Since you didn’t go to college for film did you feel like an outsider when you entered this industry?

I guess I felt like an outsider not because I didn’t go to film school but because I’m Chinese American and 10 years ago, there was almost no one in the Asian American community working in film so I didn’t know a single person that worked in the entertainment industry when I started. So it kind of seemed like an odd thing to do probably to my whole family. But no I never felt like an outsider because I didn’t go to film school. I didn’t feel like film school was necessary to be honest. And there are a lot of people in the industry, maybe over half that did not go to film school.

What skills did you learn from your education in running a business and promoting films?

I mean to be honest I didn’t learn any skills from my education about that. I mean what I got from my education was a real peak and layered appreciation for narrative. A very thorough understanding of how storytelling works, different forms of storytelling, I mean really just a love of stories that I got from my education. I also got an ability to think critically.

The practical skills like how to run a business and how to promote my films came from on the job experience after I graduated with a literature degree from [UC ] Berkeley. After graduation I decided that I needed some kind of business experience so I wound up running a start-up. It was just a very small start-up, but it actually performed due diligence for sub prime mortgage securitizations. So I found myself in the middle of this industry that was going to turn into a bubble. But running that company was the best producing experience I ever got.

Would you comment on the differences between New York City and Los Angeles and what each environment is like for filmmakers?

Yeah LA is very much a film industry town kind of like Detroit is an automotive town. If you think of LA as a Hollywood driven town, I mean a one-industry town just like Flint, Michigan used to be right then it makes a lot more sense. So if you’re an independent filmmaker going to the studio owned town it kind of becomes a hard thing to sustain your work in that environment. But LA is where the industry is based and NYC is very much a strong independent film community. I wouldn’t necessarily say industry, it’s a community even though there’s a lot of shooting that goes on here and there are some companies here. But film is just one of many, many things that dominate NYC and isn't one of the five major industries. There is a lot of great contacts for storytellers and artists to be a part of and to take from and be inspired by. And that’s the beauty of NY.


To continue reading please look below for part 2.



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