The behind-the-scenes genre has been popular in Hollywood recently. APA takes a look at how Asian Americans are playing around with the format and adding a unique perspective, through works such as Justin Lin's Finishing the Game and David Henry Hwang's Yellow Face.
A failed attempt at emulating Brad Pitt's smooth moves in order to impress a girl inspired actor Chris Dinh and director Ryan Kim to co-write a short film called Pulling a Legend -- showing us that there can be hope after humiliation.
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One of the most practical ways for beginning filmmakers to cut their teeth is to start with the short film format. Cereal Monogamy, a memorable short at this year's VC Film Festival, documented one man's complex relationship with his breakfast food.
When Anton Delfino made Cereal Monogamy for his senior project at Cogswell Polytechnical College in Sunnyvale, CA, he had no idea that this short film would be selected out of more than 170 entries for “Best Editing” at Columbia’s National Undergraduate Film Festival.
In addition, Delfino’s luck, or rather, talent, placed his short in a much coveted position for 2007 VC Film Fest’s "In The Mood For Love" Program. On May 5th, 2007, the VC audience got to have a bite of Delfino’s Cereal Monogamy, which charts the endearing, hilarious story of Frank (played by James Lontayao) and his on-again, off-again relationship with his favorite cereal girlfriend, Sweet Rice Crisps, as he is tempted by another, seemingly "hotter" cereal prospect.
In this interview, Anton Delfino, a promising director and screenwriter, shares his vision and passion for taking steps towards Hollywood as well as his thoughts on Asian American cinema.
Asia Pacific Arts: What made you decide to pursue this field of directing?
Anton Delfino: I first entertained the notion of getting into the film business when I enrolled at Cogswell Polytechnical College in Sunnyvale, CA back in the spring of 2000. I went in thinking I wanted to learn 3D modeling and animation. Pixar was on the rise and I thought it'd be a great place to be career-wise. Then I realized I hated 3D. I couldn't sit in front of a monitor manipulating all these crazy pink dots.
I took a couple of film-related classes - screenwriting, editing, and directing. From there I was hooked. I had a really good screenwriting and directing instructor named Michael Dougan, who challenged me. I guess that's when I realized how much I enjoyed movies. I enjoyed writing, working on sets, and cutting in the editing room. I've done the corporate thing. I didn't hate it -- in fact, I could probably be good at it -- but I'm just not passionate about it. Telling stories and making movies -- I'm passionate about that. And in the end, you'll have a product that's yours and you hold it in your hand and look at it and say, "I made that." It's cheesy, I know, but it's still pretty awesome. Figured I'd give it a shot.
APA: Although some of the other clips in "In the Mood for Love" program were related to Asian American themes, your clip was essentially "non-raced."
AD: I'm glad you noticed that. To me, love is ultimately part of human nature. Therefore a "grass is greener" story like Cereal Monogamy wouldn't necessarily be specific to any particular ethnicity. And in the past few years, many of the concepts and scripts I've come up with have been "non-raced." I like the idea that actors' ethnicities can be interchanged, and the characters can still stay true to the intent of the story. Since the stuff I write usually has a love angle, I will likely continue to write characters that are not race-specific -- unless race is absolutely crucial to the story.
APA: What inspired you to write Cereal Monogamy? Is there a story behind it?
AD: Cereal Monogamy was made as a senior project for school. In fact, I had planned to shoot an entirely different script -- a screen adaptation of a short play that I wrote called PDA (Private Display of Affliction.) But after my instructor told me that it was way too long and wordy, it was back to the drawing board. I knew that I wanted to write a story that revolved around the theme of love. I Google'd and Wikipedia'd all these strange romantic relationships that people get into, and I stumbled upon "serial monogamy." I thought it'd be funny to transpose "serial" with "cereal." And it kind of just grew from there. And at that time, my girlfriend had just watched March of the Penguins and told me that penguins also practice serial monogamy. This is why you see the main character Frank watching a movie about emperor penguins at the beginning of the piece. He turns the TV off and falls asleep and completely misses the "lesson." And once we got the metaphor in place, it was really fun to come up with the dialogue and how we were going to show how a woman is cereal and vice-versa.
APA: How would you describe your artistic style?
AD: I don't think I've directed enough films to have a directing style just yet. I do know I'm influenced by so many filmmakers, but if I was to choose one, I'd probably say Wong Kar-wai is my absolute fave. Just love what he does with the relationships with his characters. In terms of writing, I really enjoy stuff from Kevin Smith, David Mamet and Joss Whedon. I just love the characters and the dialogue.
APA: Is there a fundamental element that you notice throughout your film pieces?
AD: The most common theme in my scripts is probably the issue of infidelity in relationships. There's always a character cheating on someone or getting cheated on or both.
APA: What is your ultimate goal in film?
AD: You know, I've always taken my progression in film one step at a time. With Cereal Monogamy, it was a film I did to complete my degree. Once I saw how it came out, I thought I'd take a crack at a few festivals. And now that it has been well-received, I figured I'd just ride it until the wheels fall off. Now, I'm really looking to get a feature under my belt. And once it's done, I'd like to see where that takes me -- hopefully to Hollywood, but anywhere in that direction would be rad as well.
APA: Do you have any other projects coming up that you would wish for us to know about?
AD: Two of the biggest reasons I moved to New York was to immerse myself in the world of film/video production and to get inspired. Often times a change of scenery rejuvenates creativity so I'm hoping to write a feature-length script while I'm out here. Right now (and I emphasize the now part because it may change) it is about a guy who hates change that moves to New York for his girlfriend only to discover some other dude is shacking up with her. It will probably have a Garden State meets Before Sunrise/Sunset feel.
Date Posted: 6/8/2007