NAME: Cinder Chou
LOCATION: Brooklyn, NY
ORIGIN: Holmdel, NJ
ART: Narrative Filmmaker
MAIN GENRE: Comedy
TRAINING: BA’s in Visual Arts and Art History, Fordham University
ARTS AFFILIATIONS: Filmshop, IATSE Local 161, Producers Guild of America, The Artists Forum
BIO: Cinder Chou is a Taiwanese American writer director originally from the oft maligned state of New Jersey and currently resides in Brooklyn. An early love for comic books turned into a passion for visual storytelling. Her work explores themes of otherness and is imbued with a comedic and surreal style. After studying Visual Arts and Art History at Fordham University, Cinder entered the film world in New York, working as the production coordinator on acclaimed indie hits The Big Sick and Can You Ever Forgive Me?. She has taken this professional know-how to get her own films off the ground.
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Cinder’s feature script, Missus Softee was a finalist for the Outfest Screenwriting Lab in 2020. That same year, her film Ernest Messages was nominated for Best Actress (Kaylan Pedine) and Best Festival Theme Short: New York Stories. In 2019, Cinder was one of eight projects to participate in NYWIFT’s development lab “From Script 2 Pre-Production.” In 2018, Cinder’s award-winning film, The Man with the Western Hat, was selected for inclusion in The Artists Forum Salon, held at Magick City, Brooklyn. In 2017, her short film The Man with the Western Hat won the Audience Award at The Artists Forum Festival of the Moving Image.
LATEST WORKS: Her latest work, a feature film titled Artist Unknown, follows Juniper (an insecure martial artist) who must find out the origins of a painting after two thieves try to steal it from her. This film is beginning its festival run in 2023.
WORK SAMPLES: The Man with the Western Hat (2017), If the Shoe Fits (2018), Ernest Messages (2020).
MEET THE ARTIST: MEET Cinder Chou (2017)
Please describe your artistic themes
My characters struggle with identity and the tension between who they want to be and who they are told to be. My films often begin with a seemingly insignificant moment such as finding a shoe on the street or impulsively purchasing a painting. These events cause them to question their identity. By confronting the beliefs and perceptions that hold them back are they able to break free to become the person they want to be. It is a surreal experience to have your core beliefs shaken up. This shift in reality takes on an offbeat or comedic quality in my work.
Please describe your creative process
When I start writing, an image or scene is a jumping off point. From there I build outward. World building begins with the characters. Their wants and needs inform the story. In other words, the characters tell me what the story is. I give the characters their own wants, needs, and arcs. Yet underneath theirs are my own subconscious desires for myself. It’s not until much later after the script is written that I discover the true meaning of what I wrote.
What are your artistic goals? What do you need to achieve them?
I’m looking for partners: a distributor for Artist Unknown, funding for Missus Softee, and an agent to get the word out. Barring that, I’ll happily accept positive vibes and words of support like “Don’t give up!” and “Keep going!” – Come at me!
What are your views on the industry?
When I started working in 2009 I saw technology shift the industry. Netflix led the charge of streaming services disrupting traditional models of distribution like theatrical and DVD. In the beginning, they took more risks on independent films but are now functioning like Hollywood studios.
Now all the players are in the streaming game and have commissioned slates of original content that competes for eyeballs. It is much harder for any film let alone independent films to stand out. Social media does help to get the word out, but even so it’s an uphill battle. Fewer films are being seen in theaters because they don’t have the marketing budget to get butts into seats.
Theaters are such a sacred place and I hope they can survive. I implore everyone to watch an indie movie in theaters every once in a while. It’s actually good for your health to put your phone down and focus on a dark screen for an hour and change! And, it’s fun!
What advice would you give to emerging artists?
Make it a practice to face your fears. One by one. Making art is leap of faith after leap of faith. Better yet, face your fears by making art that scares you. It gets easier the more you do it. Confront your beliefs and ask whether they were put there by someone else. It is our job as artists to question everything we were taught. Honor the very specific things that make you you. Our individual tastes make us unique. Bring that to your work. Honor the very specific things that make you you. Our individual tastes make us unique. Bring that to your work.
FILM FEST: 2017
FILM FEST: 2020 / Noms & Winners 2020
ONLINE SHOWCASE: #06 -Celebrating Pride
MEET THE ARTISTS: 2017
FILM FEST GALLERY: 2017