Telling Honest Stories: An Interview with Filmmaker Roxy Shih
Roxy Shih likes to laugh. We spoke on the phone a few days before this interview, and she is a delight. She’s also an actor, director and producer. This year, Roxy is also one of the founders of the first ever Taiwanese-American Film Festival in Los Angeles, opening on July 8th! Tickets are on sale now, and Roxy was kind enough to answer some questions for me!
- There's so many types of storytelling, what intrigued you most about filmmaking?
As an artist, I've always found empowerment and clarity in collaboration. Not all artists prefer to work in this way, which is what makes filmmaking such a standalone form. I love that it allows you to incorporate so many mediums of expression: acting, music, cinematography, design...etc all together as one. All of these departments create storytellers in their own form, and for all of us to come together to tell one story using our respective skill sets is the most rewarding way to do so (albeit the most challenging). It's like... we're all planeteers and when we come together we form Captain Planet! (probably not the best analogy but you get the point ;))
- What have been your most meaningful projects to work on?
Oh man, there's so much. Every single show I've worked on so far has taught me something... but I think the most meaningful has been my directorial feature "The Tribe," which has allowed me to confront some of my deepest fears and challenges as a director and producer. Some other ones include the series "Voices" that I collaborated with Jubilee Project, where we explored Asian-American themes with millennials from our community, and a non-profit short I produced this year called "The Plural of Blood" where I worked with primarily women in the key departments. With the latter it just goes to show that sometimes you may not be aware of the impact of your decisions, and how just choosing to hire a female gaffer instead of a male gaffer can be a complete game changer. The work, both on screen and behind, should empower inclusivity.
- What are your goals as a director (and not just as an Asian Female director)?
I just want to tell honest stories. I have a reputation for being a genre director, but genre is just the seasoning on top of the main course. It's what makes it fun - that comedy, musical or horror romp seasoning to give you some more flavor with your meal. It aligns with of all the "seasonings" in society: race, gender, religion...etc, we all have universal stories and struggles. I just hope that through my work, audiences can be challenged to think a little bigger, with their hearts and minds a little more open.
- What inspired you to create the Taiwanese American Film Festival, and what is the objective of the Festival?
As a Taiwanese-American filmmaker I always wanted to know who else was in my community, I don't get to meet very much of them! I really wanted to bridge the gap and had no idea how- I wanted to know who shared a similar life story with shared cultural roots. My really good friend Anthony Ma is on the board of TAP-LA (Taiwanese American Professionals) and him and the president JC Chang have always been passionate filmmakers and film lovers. TAFF is their brainchild, and they brought me on to help make it happen (and secretly I've been waiting for something like this to happen for a long time) I'm on the filmmakers side, and it has always been my desire to recognize other filmmakers in my community.
After being in the film industry for some time, I found that there is no use in competing with one another, and the only way we can go up is if we support each other, and continually do so. So far, I'm thrilled with this year's program and support! The filmmakers have such unique voices and I hope that with this festival we can encourage the development of more cultural festivals and continue supporting and empowering diverse filmmakers around the world.
- What is on your Craft Service table (aka what is your favorite food)?
I wish I can be fancy and say something like lox or caprese bites, but honestly, I'm super basic and just want LaCroix.
- What are you reading right now?
I visited Savannah last year for the Savannah Film Fest and the ghost tours scared the shit out of me so now I'm reading "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil."
- What is your social media?
@roxyshih on instagram and fb! x