Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
KPBS Midday Edition Segments

A Knight’s Tour

 January 5, 2021 at 10:17 AM PST

Speaker 1: 00:00 KPBS film critic, Beth Huck Amando has been following filmmaker, Marvin Choi for more than a decade ever since she saw his inventive short film, said black at a UC SD student film showcase in 2014, she donated to his kickstart campaign. And last year that film a night tour finally got a digital release. She speaks to the UCS de alum about the journey of making an independent film. Speaker 2: 00:25 Marvin, I got to meet you through UCS D and a student film screening. So tell me a little bit about UCLA in terms of you went to film school there. And how did you feel about what kind of an education you got and how that prepared you? Kind of, for what you're doing now, Speaker 3: 00:45 Going to UCLA in general was kind of fascinating just because I actually didn't graduate with a degree in film. I had a minor in film, but my, my major degree was actually in, uh, cognitive science. Uh, there was a point in my life where I actually was trying to be a scientist. I'd always wanted to make films to some degree before though. So I just decided to casually kind of just approach the film department and they're like, yeah, sure. Just take classes. We don't care. And then two very, uh, helpful professors. There were, uh, JP Goran and w uh, Batman guilty. Uh, they kind of especially Babette. She was just, she was very much in the, the vein of you just want to make stuff. Right. And I was like, yeah, she was like, okay, you normally, we don't let people who take minors, do the production classes. But if you want to, you want to I'll authorize everything. It was very freeing in that way because it, because it wasn't like my major, it didn't feel like work. It felt a lot like I'm just having fun with friends. So that's, that's kind of how I got into filmmaking at UCLA. It was just like this environment where, because there were very supporting professors, like it was kind of just allowed to do whatever I wanted to do to some extent. Yeah. Speaker 2: 01:55 Well, it makes sense that you were going into cognitive science because your films seem to always be interested kind of in psychological processes and the inner workings of the characters. So you actually, kick-started a film, a feature film, which is now being released video on demand and streaming, and this is a night's tour. So talk a little bit about that process of doing a Kickstarter to try and make a film. Speaker 3: 02:25 A lot of people view Kickstarter as a, as a source of like, Oh, Hey, it's free money. But what it really is, is you're actually deciding to temporarily have a full-time job. And you kind of spend all of your time trying to make sure that this campaign that you're working on gathers enough money. And in our case, we had a very modest goal. The movie itself, wasn't going to be extremely expensive. We just needed enough money to cover the rest of it. So we were just only asking for $6,000. And even that's a lot of work, even when you're asking your various social networks and you're reaching out to like other forums that you think might be, and it's a lot of work, but, you know, it's gratifying because you start off knowing that you kind of have somewhat of an audience already built in. Speaker 3: 03:09 So you already are starting to make a film for somebody it's not just for yourself. It makes it a much more different experience. When, you know, especially if up to that point, I was making a lot of these shorts and random other little projects. Can I just for my own entertainment? And now it's like, Oh, I really have a commitment to these people. I really need to deliver for them. Uh, so we, we, it turned into almost like social contract where I'm trying to make this movie as good as possible for them. And I want that to be something that not only am I proud of, but that's something I, I know my Kickstarter backers would be happy to see how long Speaker 2: 03:46 Process was this from the time that you wrote the script and decided to make a Kickstarter to today when it's actually being, Speaker 3: 03:54 Oh boy, too long, because I, we ran a Kickstarter back, I think in, at this point 2013, this is actually for my thesis film at Cal arts. Uh, after I went to UCLA, I did my grad school at Cal arts, even though Cal arts is very freeing. Uh, there's not a lot of like most film schools there. Isn't like a lot of direct backing for, um, financial backing for your films. So we had to go to the Kickstarter route to try to close the rest of the gap. Um, but the process started in 2013 and we didn't really finish editing to a lock until 2018. So in the summer was basically five years. A lot of this has kind of been a labor of love of me and, uh, my partner, Sarah, who is my producer, we'll just kind of slowly chipping away at this movie, you know, going through all the motions in post. And like we spent the better course of probably four years between me and Sarah, just making sure this movie was okay. Speaker 2: 04:59 So this film started many years before our current pandemic head. However, it's a film that's very kind of claustrophobic two characters, pretty much in one location. So how do you feel about the film releasing right now and kind of tapping into some of the mood and anxiety of what people are currently feeling? Cause it's kind of a futuristic, post-apocalyptic kind of a format. Speaker 3: 05:28 So it's, it's interesting because I had originally written it that way, because back when I first wrote it, I was going through kind of like this bout of loneliness and depression, where writing the screenplay was sort of a bit of therapy. Um, if you took an extreme version of one of the characters, Henry, um, that would be me if you, if you took me and made it really extreme, that would be, Speaker 2: 05:55 What exactly were you doing out there before you stumbled my cabin? Speaker 4: 05:59 You mean like my job? Yeah. There still our jobs these days. Yeah. It's still jobs. Mine was, uh, working as a scout. And what does a scout do? For example, say I come across, uh, an old store or a house that hasn't really been touched since the outbreak. I of course take what I can for myself, but obviously it's too much for just me. So I keep track on how to find it. And when I come across an interested party, I make a trade it's, it's usually a good way of helping a local community find more supplies. I never returned. They give me protection and shelter. And that works. Yeah. When you're as good as I am. It does into living, tell people a little bit about what the storyline is in the film. Speaker 3: 07:04 So basically it's, it's a, it's an, a post-apocalyptic setting where it's not clear what the source of the post apocalypse has been, but it's been some sort of outbreak viral, viral outbreak, which has oddly prescient. Uh, it wasn't expected to work out that way. And it's sort of in a future where nature has kind of re overtaken what a lot of civilization used to be. And the movie starts off with this character named J D who's just running through the mountains, running away from something. And he ends up in front of a cabin. He had never seen before. He thinks it might be empty. So he tries to go in and it turns out to be occupied by a man who has been living there by himself for a very long time named Henry. And even though there's a lot of contention at first, you know, Henry's desire to finally have a friendship with someone along with JDS, innate curiosity about why Henry is here and how long he's been here starts, but, uh, starts to create a friendship between the two of them. Speaker 3: 08:08 But as human nature sometimes comes to head for, there's a lot there's feelings of paranoia about who JD might be on Henry's part. And there's always the threat of other people coming from the outside world, right. Because Henry hadn't really ever seen anyone who's sitting a long time. So that's kind of what the setting is. It's these two characters who are very different, um, cause J D is a lot more outgoing. He wants to be a traveler. He is younger. Whereas Henry is an older guy who has basically been living by himself in isolation for a number of years. And if you put them together, I wanted to see what would happen if these two extreme types of characters are put together. And that's essentially the movie. And how do you think the film is Speaker 2: 08:56 Playing now while so many people are sheltering at home and quarantine, it's been Speaker 3: 09:01 Interesting. Uh, a lot of people, uh, have been saying like, it's like th the there's a lot of similar feelings of loneliness. They identify with the Henry character because he's been living alone for so long. But I think it's also nice for a lot of people because they see that even under trying circumstances, like at least from the feedback I've been hearing from people is like, uh, it's interesting how, you know, uneven under trying circumstances, these characters want to kind of form a friendship together. And even though there are circumstances that kind of forced that apart, human nature is unnecessarily just entirely about breaking down. There is some aspect of, we can try to make better out of it. Um, it's just interesting watching people react and see how they are watching, um, these two characters interact in such an extreme way under such extreme circumstances. Speaker 2: 10:07 Now, one thing that I admire about the way you approached the film is that when you're making a first feature, sometimes you kind of conceive of something that's bigger than what you are capable of doing. And you smartly decided to create a story that allows you to stay in a fairly limited location and not have to tap into a lot of actors. So was that something that was the practicality of making a first feature, something that you were considering when you were writing the Speaker 3: 10:38 Oh, for sure. We were definitely considering the practicality of it being a first feature with such a limited budget. So the Robert Rodriguez had this really good book rebel without a crew where he describes the way he made his first feature, um, El mariachi. And it's very much along the lines of, okay, what do you have access to? And what do you find most valuable in a movie and you, and you put that forward for Robert Rodriguez. It was a lot of like, he wanted it to be cool with lots of action, with great editing and sound design, right? In my case, the thing that I value the most from movies, the movies I love the most are the ones that have performances that are gripping and make you almost forget that you're watching a movie and that you're kind of stuck with characters and following their psychology and their motivations and their feelings. Speaker 3: 11:24 So luckily that type of motivation is easy enough for a budget film if you have the right actors. So the, the actual script itself was an idea I've been throwing around for a while. It's just, when it came time to make it the first feature, I was like, this is doable. And it also helped that I had Sarah with me, my producer, who was with me every step of the way and made sure that all of my weird shortcomings and neuroses about logistical side of things, she could stay on top of it. And, um, that the actors I was choosing was right. All right. Well, I want to thank you very much for talking about your film and night's tour. Thank you so much for having you Beth. I really appreciate it. Speaker 1: 12:08 That was filmmaker Marvin joy, a UC San Diego alum, speaking to KPBS film critic backpack. Amando his film a night tour is available to stream on prime video, iTunes, Google play, and YouTube.

Ways To Subscribe
KPBS film critic Beth Accomando spoke to UCSD alumni and filmmaker Marvin Choi about the journey of making his independent film “A Knight’s Tour.”
KPBS Midday Edition Segments