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Spotlight: An Interview with Chadaporn Mitinunwong ("The Gifted Ones")

Chadaporn, we're excited to learn more about you today! Before we begin, tell us a bit about yourself, where are you from, and what sparked your interest in storytelling?

Hi, I’m Charaporn Mitinunwong, Bangkok native. At the time I was deeply interested in 3D design and artistry, primarily cinematographic effects. I had a 10 year tenure as an understudy of a renowned director of animation. Under his tutelage I learned to understand not only the cinematics, but how they can be used to tell a story of each character arc and was attuned to the approaches of the different directors.

To this end, I moved to California to continue my studies of modern Film and Television. I was fascinated by it, and determined to dedicate my talent to this path, eventually culminating in reaching my dream of becoming a filmmaker.

When did you write your first screenplay, and what was it about?

I wrote my first script when I was in Film School. It was about a little girl who was living with her grandma both of whom seem pretty normal but they are hiding a terrible secret. They both possess supernatural abilities. However, tucked away in a small unassuming town, the pair manages to keep it low-key but when the girl turns 15, her powers manifest and overcomes her. She initially uses her powers for the benefit of her and her grandmother but being sheltered all her life, she soon uses her abilities to hurt and punish those who did them wrong. She accidentally hurts a neighbor and soon draws unwanted attention to the duo and it leads into a situation where it completely changes her life. The core idea of the story is pretty much similar to The Gifted One. It’s talking about power that can either bring you glory or despair. Only you can decide how to use to and who you want to be.

What was the first piece of gear/equipment you owned?

For me I would say, Mac Book Pro is the first gear of everything.

What, or who would you say are your biggest influences in terms of cinematic style?

Personally, I like the balance of the element in the composition. If you connect it together with the camera movement it could be used as a powerful tool of storytelling. I love to reinterpret that idea continually and use it to convey a compelling story. I still have to lot to learn in regards to that.

The Gifted Ones is your debut film as a director, and you won an Honorable Mention: First Time Director and Best Trailer for your excellent storytelling abilities. Could you talk a bit about how did this project come about?

This project is actually the thesis of my Master Degree. After two years of going back and forth with my thesis, I finally landed on The Gifted Ones. Everything from pre-production, production and post production, it’s the first film I was in total creative control. From the get go I was so concerned whether I would cast the right actors, or whether I would focus more on the big beats and may lose the sight on little ones. And the perfectionist that I am, I had my doubts whether I could realize my vision at all and honestly those emotions pushed me to the brink of a nervous breakdown. However, all the doubts vanished as soon as I entered the studio. You realize how capable you really are. With the right attitude and a dedicated team, you suddenly get all the courage and confidence in the world. Everything came together so fast and so great I feel like the whole thing just manifested. But me and my team worked really hard on this. I can’t believe it’s been a year since that shoot and my graduation. And I got to tell you, it has been one of the greatest challenges and experiences of my entire life.

Is this your first collaboration with Roman Medjanov? How did you guys meet and what sparked your interest in his screenplay?

I met Roman in Film school. We took a couple of classes together earlier in the program and got to know each other during that time. We didn’t have much classes together after that until I entered the last semester of my program. Where we got reacquainted while I was assembling my team for my thesis course which was designed for film students to discuss their final thesis and to help each other find the best solution under the certain time and budget limitations. At that time my original script wasn’t quite ready to shoot, so he shared some of his thoughts and ideas with me. Later he decided to jump on my project and wrote a new script based on an original story. Step by step we worked from the outline all the way to the final script, that fits the scope of the available resources. Roman is really smart, professional and creative. I’ve learnt a lot from him and I was truly lucky to have him by my side.

What was the inspiration for the story? Is Emma's character based on... real Emma?

Emma is actually not real. As for the inspiration of the story, I would say it’s about an individual’s internal moral needs. What I mean by that is, we pursue success, achievements, great merits that we think we deserve. However, what you choose to fight for are not always right. Certain times we are struck somewhere between what we need and doing things that are wrong to pursue them. The big obstacle is to control ourselves. Setting our moral compass straight, doing what’s always right, despite the consequences. And that’s the real concept of the story.

Stefan Lee captured it on camera really well. What was your process like? Did you make any storyboards before shooting?

I absolutely did. Stafan is an incredible cinematographer and even more of an incredible person. Like Roman, I met him in Film School and he was well sought after for his work ethic and quality of work. The Gifted Ones is the first project that we worked together. We discussed about the story and my vision of what I wanted to capture, in terms of the script and blocking. However, to make someone else understand a vision in my head is truly difficult. Sometimes it’s really hard to know what you yourself want, let alone explain it to someone else. So, I decided to do the storyboards myself which at first, I wasn’t sure if Stefan would understand it or not. Luckily, he did. It was the best decision I ever took because rather than spending time explaining, having a storyboard saved time tremendously and it helped to establish a clear vision for the shoot.

What camera did you use and how many days was the shoot?

After discussing with Stefan; my cinematographer we decided to use Panasonic Evo 1. From 6.30am to 7 pm, we continuously shot for 3 days in studio and shoots began and wrapped perfectly on time. The crew, especially my 1st Assistant Director, Kevin Ting constantly made sure that we wouldn’t waste a single second of our valuable time. Stefan and his team also did an amazing job by adjusting the equipment and lighting in each scene so swiftly. It saved us a lot of time.

Francesca Adams, Zoe Foulks, and Alex Hinxmann were great casting choices. Can you tell us a bit about your casting process, and how did you work with the actors to achieve the desired performance from each person, and the chemistry as an ensemble?

According to the Cast, we actually had a very short time to do casting. I was so lucky to have school professionals help me out. The school of acting read my script and reached out to actor that they believed would essentially fit the roles. During the casting process, we asked them to take several approaches according to what I envisioned about the characters. But I also let them play on their take of the role to get an idea. Working with actors can be challenging. It’s really hard for a director to know what he/she wants and trust the actors to deliver it. From my experience, I think the best way to get into the performance is to enlighten the actors on what you want to see in a character and let them play with it. Starting with a picture of your vision and see how they interpret and work on it. If it doesn’t seem to be aligning with your vision you give them exact scene to work on and shape it together from your point of view. I was lucky on that part; I got some really talented actors and I was amazed to see how a great actor can perform within any range.

What was the most challenging part during pre-production, production or post-production and what did you enjoy the most?

I would say the production is the most challenging part. Considering the budget and time that we have, the production is something that tends to go out of control. When the call time starts, every second has a value. Preparing as best as you can is all you can do. But on set, anything could happen. For The Gifted Ones, I made contingency plans before the shooting began, imagining if the blood wouldn’t look good in the scene or if a picture on the wall isn’t ready to hang up or if I couldn’t get all the shots I want, what should I do next that would save time, energy and resources but still achieve the goal. I would say that’s enough stress to keep you awake at night and eventually lead to anxiety cause all that work means nothing if you didn’t get all the footage to work with in post because editing can only take you so far.

What is the message you were hoping to convey with this film?

According to the original story, I was talking about power which can influence an individual in certain ways. It could either end up in a good or bad way depending on our desires. I want people to think more about their choices. What will you do with the power that’s in your hand? In the story we see two main characters. Controlling the power in different ways. Nevertheless, they have made their choices and they have to accept the consequences whether they like it or not. I want people to be more aware of the result of what we have chosen and what we choose determines our future.

If you could choose a supernatural power in the filmmaking world, what would it be?

Wow, no one has ever asked me that question before. I guess if I have magical powers like Harry Potter, I would use my powers on people who has lost hope to raise their confidence. To be brave enough to face obstacles that might hurt and discover the true value of life. Because making movies is easy, once you are strong and confident enough to carry it all out.

What can you share about your future projects? Do you already have cool stuff lined up for 2020?

I have two new projects coming up. One is a crime thriller short film of which I’ll be the editor. And other one is a crowdfunding project that aims to develop a mobile game app to help kids boost their self-confidence and gain strength to stand on their own. Through this app what me and the developers and hoping is to increase a child’s quality of life. I’m really excited about both of these projects.

Is there anything you wish to add, or someone you wish to thank?

I always tell people in my life to believe in themselves. Don’t limit yourself because of another’s limited imagination. As long as you keep moving, keep practicing your craft with passion your future will be better than it is today. Last, I would like to say Thank You to the people who support me. This is especially the Academy of Art professors and friends that helped me achieve the Gifted Ones short film, having them is marvelous to me. Thank You.

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