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The Making-of ROAR

Juilliard and UCLA Film School grad cuts documentary with Final Cut Pro By John Virata

Prior to the advent of the digital video camera, aspiring filmmakers were for the most part, just that, aspiring filmmakers. They had their Hollywood script and just needed that break to get in. There wasn't a whole lot that those who wished to tell a story could do because of the stratospheric costs associated with making a movie. Today, as we know, this has all changed, not only for those who wanted to make a movie but couldn't because of the cost restraints associated with film, but also for those who work in film and wanted to make a movie of their own. Those with scripts are using the latest digital technologies and are telling their stories with a digital perspective.

Filmmaker VV Dachin Hsu has embraced digital technologies and has been able to meld both her traditional filmmaking knowledge with that of digital to successfully work in both mediums. Versed both in the art of filmmaking and more recently, the art of digital filmmaking, Dachin Hsu, a Juilliard trained dancer, UCLA Film School graduate, and award winning filmmaker, recently completed The Making-of ROAR, a 36 minute documentary film about the making of Roar, a film shot in the 1970s starring Tippi Hedren, her daughter, Melanie Griffith, and a whole pride of lions and tigers. Dachin Hsu served as director, camera operator, and editor on The Making-of ROAR, which will be included with the DVD release of Roar. She cut the film on a Power Mac G4 running Final Cut Pro. DMN senior editor John B. Virata recently spoke with Dachin Hsu on The Making-of ROAR, the DV format, taking her filmmaking lumps in China, and dancing with Yul Brynner.

DMN: What year did you come to America from Hong Kong, and why did you come?
VV Dachin Hsu: The year was 1972.   I came for college.  I came to the land of unlimited opportunity with roads paved in gold.  Seriously, that's what I thought of America before I arrived and, you know what, I still think so today.

DMN: You studied dance at The Juilliard School and earned a BFA degree, then 10 years later you earned a degree from the UCLA Film School. When did you decide that you wanted to pursue a degree in film production? And how did the film school at UCLA prepare you for what you are doing today?
VV Dachin Hsu: I started dancing when I was 4 or 5.  By the time I graduated from Juilliard I had been dancing for twenty years.  In this modern age when one can enjoy a wide range of freedom, dancing for the rest of my life just didn't make sense.  I wanted to learn new ideas, use my mind and body to explore life in other ways.  One morning I woke up and I was no longer a dancer in top form. I picked up a still camera for a while taking motorcycle pictures for magazines and doing portraits. In search for the next big thing I went to film school. I guess I was trying to combine dance and photography, i.e., moving pictures, but it wasn't all that well thought out at the time. Did film school prep me for what I am doing today?  Yes, film school opened my mind to the possibility that making movies was within my reach.  Film school was the root of many things to come.

DMN: Have you been able to use what you learned studying at Juilliard in your filmmaking endeavors?
VV Dachin Hsu: Indirectly.  I have Juilliard to thank for my sense of movement, my appreciation of music and art,  my understanding of how deep some artists have gone for their craft.  That made me set my target for the highest goals.  If you make it here, you can make it anywhere, New York, New York! One day I will make a dance film.  Then I can truly say, Juilliard was a direct step to becoming a filmmaker.  

DMN: You have quite a bit of experience in filmmaking, working in various capacities on films both here in the United States and in China. You also served as writer/director of two feature films, My American Vacation and Pale Blood. How many years were you working in the industry before you felt you were ready to take on the challenge of not only writing a screenplay, but turning that screenplay into film and directing that film?
VV Dachin Hsu: I was lucky that I co-wrote and directed my first feature Pale Blood straight out of Film School. After making that film, it dawned on me that film school was the tip of the iceberg, there is so much I still have to learn. I set out to learn as much as I can working as crew, watching other directors from the sidelines. I worked as script supervisor, line producer, wardrobe, boom, craft service, you name it. I also watched as many good movies as possible. I still do. That took 10 years, during which I also worked on American studio films shooting in China because I am fluent in Chinese and it's good money.  One day, I was standing on set in China working slave hours making this awful movie when I suddenly realized, hey, it's time to stop this bull and make my own film. So it took five years to rise from the ashes of the first film to the second film! I came back to LA and made My American Vacation, a drama about three generations of a Chinese American family on vacation in a motor home. I had the delightful experience of working with the best cast, crew and investors.  I made the film I wanted to make.    

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Related Keywords:VV Dachin Hsu , Tippi Hedren, Melanie Griffith, Roar, The Juilliard School , UCLA Film School, The Making of Roar, My American Vacation, Pale Blood


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