Season 5 – epiBLOG 17:
In the business of making movies there are a lot of moving parts. The screenwriter. The director. The producers. The actors. The crew. All of these people work together in order to create something magical for you to stream on Netflix, to watch On Demand, or to rush over to the nearest Harkin’s or AMC to watch while eating an overpriced bucket of delicious popcorn.
What may be 30 minutes… 60 minutes… or even a full two hours of viewing pleasure for you has taken those artists who’ve created such work months, and sometimes years, to make.
Filmmaking is for sure an art form. I know — I am a bit bias since I’m a screenwriter and I’ve made movies in the past. However, as always, I speak from experience. I know what goes into making those wonderful stories that we see so eloquently and beautifully played out on screen.
And so does full time Filmmaker Le Han. I had the pleasure of connecting with Le on social media. It was exciting to gain a new friend in the film community and he was a delight to interview.
Today’s topic is on my interview with writer/director/producer Le Han and his inspiring artistic ambitions that make him original in his own time.
Le Han was born in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, but later on moved to Sydney, Australia. Finding his purpose early on in life fueled a drive within his spirit that is completely unstoppable. The epiphany that he experienced would put him on a path to success and to living the life that he was destined to live. He holds a Master of Art degree from Raffles College of Design and Commerce and went on to be an award-winning independent writer and director. He is currently producing a film that he’s written (and will soon direct) titled Man’s Best Friend. Now a resident of Los Angeles, Le is making great things happen in the film community by doing what most don’t take the risk to do.
Here is his story.
Nitara O: Do you prefer to be called “filmmaker” or do you prefer “writer/director/producer?”
Le H: I consider myself a filmmaker. I’m a writer. A producer, but above all, I’m a storyteller. I use visuals and sound to do so. It’s not too different from a novelist – like a comic artist. They tell stories. I tell stories.
Nitara O: So when people address you or ask what you do for a living, what are the first words that come out of your mouth?
Le H: If I had to pick one, it would be writing. Writing is my most personal job in this business. That’s how I got started in the business. As a writer. I write stories so that I can direct the films myself.
Nitara O: Like Spike Lee or Quentin Tarantino. You’re the one who is making it happen and not just waiting for someone to come along to do it for you.
Le H: Exactly.
Nitara O: Writers tend to be at the mercy of other people. Producers… directors. Have you had the opportunity to produce and direct the work of another screenwriter or do you only do your own?
Le H: Only my own. I love directing my own material and I’m honestly not interested in directing other people’s projects. Even if someone paid me, I wouldn’t be interested. This is part of the reason I entered this business – so I can direct my material.
Nitara O: That’s fair. Is there a reason you’re not interested in other people’s material?
Le H: I honestly never think about that. But I am a big fan of Paul Thomas Anderson and Quentin Tarantino.
Nitara O: I appreciate the works of both men. There Will Be Blood and Django Unchained definitely make my top 20 of favorite films. So why are Anderson and Tarantino two of your favorite directors? Although, I have a feeling why.
Le H: You got it — they direct their own material.
Nitara O: When did you first get inspired to make films?
Le H: I remember how old I was – I was 20. I was studying in Sydney, Australia. Believe it or not, I was studying interior design, which I enjoyed. But to me it felt like a very dry form of art. It’s art. But very dry. You have to deal with regulation, you have to deal with numbers… you have to deal with houses and you have to make sure that you don’t make a mistake because errors can cause accidents and injury. So, interior design feels like restricted art to me.
Nitara O: That’s an interesting perspective. “Restricted art.” So, what was it that drew you to interior design in the first place?
Le H: I made that decision when I was 18. When you’re 18 you don’t exactly know what’s going on in life. You’re not mature enough. I wasn’t in a place mentally to be able to make a sound decision about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. However, what pulled me to design was the fact that I like to draw, but deep down I realized that’s not what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing.
Nitara O: It is challenging to choose a career path at 18 that you plan to stick with for forever.
Le H: Yeah, and after studying interior design, I yearned for something better. Something more exciting. Something more satisfying. And it all of a sudden hit me that filmmaking would be a way for me to carry out my artistic ambitions. I realized at that time that I wanted to make films professionally for the rest of my life.
Nitara O: Elaborate.
Le H: Well, I remember that moment of realization. It was an epiphany. For the first time in my life I felt like I had a purpose. It was completely real to me.
Nitara O: Can you paint a picture of what that moment was like? What happened that made you have this realization?
Le H: A friend of mine called me – he’s a very close friend. He was studying in Sydney as well. Anyway – when he called he said that he has to write a script for his school. For one of his classes. I was thinking how exciting that was because I didn’t get to do that in my school. My school was for interior design. So he tells me that he’s writing a short script. He piqued my interest and I wanted to know what he was writing about. He told me and I said that topic is very boring. I suggested that he give me about 20 minutes to write something interesting and if he liked it, I was willing to let him have it.
Nitara O: That’s pretty ambitious.
Le H: Yeah. I hung up the phone. I didn’t have paper, so I picked up some mail that was laying around and I just wrote a short script for like 20 minutes on a piece of mail. I called him back, sent it to him, and he liked it. He gave the script to his teacher and his teacher liked it, even though they said it was too long for what they were needing for the class assignment. That was my introduction into the world of film… and storytelling.
Nitara O: That’s incredible. One phone call changed your life forever.
Le H: Yeah, pretty much. It took some time in order to have courage to make such a transition from being an interior designer to a filmmaker.
Nitara O: I’m sure. So did you actually work in the field of interior design or were you only a student of the craft?
Le H: I did work in interior design. About a year and a half. Not long. But I was bored. Film offered me more freedom to create the way I wanted to.
Nitara O: Very good. That’s honest. I want to pivot here just a bit. What is your all-time favorite film and why?
Le H: I have two, actually. Kill Bill Volume 2 (2004). I read the script to that movie before I watched the film. The movie captured the perfect essence of the script. What happens on a script page doesn’t always mean that it’s going to transfer well on the screen. Transferring the story from script to screen effectively is a skill utilized by the director, and Tarantino did that perfectly in that movie.
Nitara O: Well said. And your other favorite film…?
Le H: Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master (2012) is by far the other. It didn’t make a lot of money, but that film is just so deep. It’s almost like I’m having an abstract experience when watching it. Beautifully done. So those are my two favorites. Both Anderson and Tarantino wrote their own scripts and directed their movies. Both of them have a very unique voice.
Nitara O: You’re from Vietnam and lived in Australia. What made you want to make movies here in the United States?
Le H: Like most people in my generation, I was influenced by American pop culture. It doesn’t matter where you go, that influence is strong. For those of us born in other countries… it’s almost impossible to ignore American pop culture. What drew me to want to make movies here is sophisticated technologies. Creating visual images and sound. I’m very excited about technology. My very next film will be shot in 3D. And people tell me that’s never been done before. Only the big studios can do that. Not indie filmmakers. I beg to differ.
Nitara O: That’s that artistic ambition that you have. You don’t see any obstacles. Just solutions.
Le H: That’s right. Well, I figured it out. I talked to my cinematographer, and we figured out a way to shoot in 3D with a good price. It’s a very exciting moment for me. See – other countries – China, Russia, and Europe in general – are great at telling stories. But America is the only country that has the sophisticated techniques to bring visual image and sound to the industry.
Nitara O: And when did you first move to the United States?
Le H: My first time was in 2004. I was 15.
Nitara O: And how long have you been making movies?
Le H: Since 2010. Writing is a very time-consuming job. I’ve taken time to learn the craft.
Nitara O: So you’re eight years into your career. When did you first make the transition from artist to entrepreneurial artist?
Le H: You mean transitioning into making money doing what I love, right?
Nitara O: Right.
Le H: It happened in about 2015. I made my short film. And it got a lot of festival awards. And I got some money from it too. As satisfying and good as all of that made me feel, nothing compares to getting access to higher resources to make higher quality movies. You have to love your craft. And learn your craft. You have to study the business. You don’t come in blindly and expect things to work out. The money will come, but the money comes later. Money is a bonus, not a target.
Nitara O: Please share your latest project with all of us. What inspired you to want to do it?
Le H: Absolutely! My upcoming movie is called Man’s Best Friend. It’s about the life of a dog that spends his entire life dedicated to his owner without realizing that steep of being “man’s best friend.” The film will carry you through the discovery of the five stages of abuse that humans have done to his kind. We got the support of Michelle Fitzgerald – who is a three-time Emmy award-winning producer and a full time producer on this project. Michelle noticed us after seeing our crowd-funding efforts. Emmy Award-Winning Voice Actor Bo Barker is going to be the narrator for the film, and we also have 20 other associate producers for this project. I want this to be the first short film to be shot in 3D. I don’t care about the cost or how hard it is; I just want to make it happen. No independent filmmakers dare to make a short film in 3D.
Nitara O: Why do you think they don’t?
Le H: They’re afraid. Intimidated. I even tried to do some research on Google, and there was virtually nothing on how to create a 3D film. There’s nothing for you to learn from the internet. So people get intimidated and say this is only for the big studios. It’s basically a little more time-consuming because there is a learning curve and it’s a little more expensive than 2D. But in the end, you simply need two cameras in order to create the illusion of 3D. It’s actually very simple. When you are walking in your purpose, you just love doing what you do, and you figure out solutions along the way.
Nitara O: Thank you so much for sharing your passion and experiences as a writer, producer, and director with all of us, Le! I wish you nothing but continued success!
Today’s LESSON is to discover your purpose and to always follow it.
FUN ASSIGNMENT: Just like Le is doing with his 3D short film, do something daring and ambitious to move your career forward. Perhaps you can set a specific goal, create the actions that need to be completed to reach it, and create a schedule to make that happen.
Le Han is a full time award-winning writer, director, and producer and resides in Los Angeles, California where he makes movies that he’s passionate about. Follow Le on social media through Facebook and LinkedIn.
Please contact Nitara Osbourne if you’re a full time artist, and would like to be interviewed in The UnCloseted Professor Blog or if you would like help developing your life story into a non-fiction book or movie script. InfiniteWriterAgency@gmail.com.