Profile on Randall Okita: Director of No Contract

Posted by Vinnie Yuen & filed under Film Festival, Pop Culture.

Esther Frid holds "El Atardecer de la Vida," a book she wrote about the stories of seven senior Latin American women living in Canada

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Randall Okita’s No Contract will be featured at the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival on November 8 – 13 in Toronto.

Can you give us a quick synopsis of your featured film for this year’s Reel Asian?

No Contract is a piece about trying to connect with other people. It’s about constructions and how they influence the way we feel about each other.

Who did you idolize growing up? Whether it be film-related or not, and why?

Ok, this is top secret. Seriously. I really fought it for a long time, and I wouldn’t have admitted it to anyone, especially myself when I was younger, but my parents are the people I look up to most. They have lived truly remarkable, inspiring lives. I am humbled when I think about the amount of innovation and resourcefulness that it must have taken to raise a family and deal with the extraordinary complications their lives presented to them. My father is a fixer, a builder; he works with his hands all the time, and my mother is the most spontaneous, present and joyful person you’ve ever met—totally creative.

The more fluent I get with my own deal—filmmaking, or life—the more obvious it becomes to me that I am trying to emulate their qualities. Just don’t tell my teenage-self this! He would be mortified! I think for a lot of reasons we are used to looking outside our lives for heroes, to people that have achieved fame. It’s an important idea to me that we can be our own heroes, and that I can celebrate the successes of my own family, culture, city and community, you know? It’s making me look around a lot.

Do you have a signature or style to your work that makes it distinguishable from others’?

I try not to think too much about owning a particular style or voice or anything like that—it may be dangerous! I don’t want to define anything from the outside in, you know? Plus, really, I don’t know anything yet! I have to think about work, not myself! I’m early in my career. I’m still a puppy. Well, like a puppy, but not as cute. I’m like some kind of baby animal that isn’t cute. I’m working hard to focus on and create projects that I really care about, that matter a great deal to me. I hope that if I focus very hard on making things that feel vital, really necessary for me to make, then I hope a voice, or whatever, will show itself, that makes sense, right?

What style do you take more to through the process of making this film? Are you more analytical and methodical (i.e. plan every stage and have it executed as such)? Or are you a more fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of artist?

I love to over-prepare for a shoot. I love schedules that are color-coded and minute specific and flow charts and diagrams! I enjoy that side of my work – planning, thinking, measuring, drawing, storyboarding and researching. It’s a great feeling when a project is moving forward, and you get to start imagining how the pieces will come alive and come together. One part of my job is to have a crystal clear idea of what we are going for and five ideas of how we can get it. Now don’t get me wrong, the other part of my job is to have no hesitations in throwing that planning away if a better idea comes along that is dictated by the events of the day. It has to be fluid, and fun. The goal is to make a piece that results in a feeling, an emotion, and that is all that is important, not lists or schedules, but they can be useful in getting you there.

With this film, No Contract, it was a great combination of these two ideas. We had stunts and pyrotechnics on set, so there was a lot of meticulous planning that went into making sure things were safe. At the same time, there were a number of cameras shooting documentary style, with only light notes of what to cover, and people in the “audience” who had no idea what was going on, so there was a lot of discovery going on during the shoot.

What is the best/worst thing about the film industry?

The best and worst thing about all of this stuff is that when you are making something, there isn’t a right answer. This is scary and exciting! If you are trying something new, nobody, anywhere, can tell you if it’s going to work or not. So you have to balance the learning/taking advice from others with finding things out for yourself. There is such a big difference between learning technique and developing a voice. Many people will tell you that you’re wrong when really what mean is that they disagree. This is a crucial difference.

What advice would you give prospective filmmakers out there?

Develop an appetite for canned tuna, wilted celery sticks, and tap water. Make work, not excuses. Be bold. Learn everything you can. Send me money.

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About Vinnie Yuen

Vinnie Yuen
Vinnie is a 1.5 generation Chinese Canadian who calls Hong Kong and Vancouver home. She likes story-telling and writing about relationships, gender and identity. Vinnie has a Master of Journalism and B.A. in English Literature from UBC.

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