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Interviews

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An Exclusive Interview
with Director Victor Vu
(Part I)


  Interview


Foreword

Victor Vu is an up-and-coming director, producer and writer from Southern California. Vu is on a whirlwind promotional tour for his third film, Spirits (Oan H?n), which has already met with considerable success. Spirits is a ghost story that takes place in the remote outskirts of today's Saigon. The film premiered to rave reviews and audiences at the Edwards South Coast Village Theater in Santa Ana, California, and has been on the film festival circuit for over a year. It was an official selection at the Hawaii International Film Festival and the Fantasia Film Fest in Montreal. Cinespot was able to sit down and chat with Vu at the UCLA Cinema Symposium 2 in November 2004.

Please enjoy the interview!

* The interview was conducted by Cinespot writer Jenny Cho. Many thanks to Victor Vu, Nguyen Hoang Nam (co-writer and co-producer of Spirits), the Vietnamese International Film Festival, the Vietnamese American Arts and Letters Association (VAALA) and Vietnamese Language and Culture (VNLC) at UCLA.
* The interview was conducted in English.


Who is Victor Vu?

Vu is a Vietnamese American director who was born in North Hollywood and currently lives in Orange County. His parents fled Vietnam before the fall of Saigon in 1975. Vu graduated from the School of Cinema and Television at Loyola Marymount University in 1998. His thesis film, Firecracker, received the Student Showcase Award at the Hampton International Film Festival and Best Short Film at the Newport Beach International Film Festival.

In 2001. Vu and fellow LMU alum Philip Silverman founded Strange Logic Entertainment and produced his second film, First Morning. Vu was named an “Emerging Director” at the 2003 Vietnamese International Film Festival for First Morning. First Morning also won the Best Narrative Feature award at the 2004 San Diego Asian American Film Festival.

Spirits features many of the same actors from First Morning, including Tuan Cuong, son of Vietnamese actress Kieu Chinh, and Kathleen Luong. The crew recreated the moody atmosphere of the Mekong Delta on sets built in Santa Ana and the Bolsa Chica wetlands. The film is in Vietnamese with English subtitles.

For more information about Spirits or to order the DVD, visit its official website here.


  Victor Vu  


Spirits

Cinespot: What inspired you to create the movie Spirits?

Vu: Vietnamese people are really spiritual. I think, for us, spirituality and the physical world go hand in hand and that is why ghost stories are so popular among Vietnamese. In many ways, it's embedded into our culture. It's the idea that everything you do in this life will follow you in the next life, so the main characters are aware of the role that fate plays in their lives. I grew up listening to these ghost stories and they really intrigued me.



Cinespot: Describe how the movie came about from initial concept to final product. What was your vision of the film?

Vu: The original story took place in three separate cities, Los Angeles, Toronto and Saigon. But we decided to set everything in Vietnam, to give a real authentic Vietnamese feel and therefore, we can really call it a Vietnamese ghost story. We built the set in Santa Ana, California and shot the film there.



Cinespot: What has been the response to Spirits?

Vu: The response has been great so far. Ghost stories are quite popular, especially Asian ghost stories, so people have been really intrigued and entertained by the film.



Cinespot: How was the experience different from the production of First Morning? Were there mistakes or experiences you made on other films that helped you learn more about the process?

Vu: It was a little different because we were basically making a foreign film in the United States. So a set had to be constructed and that was exciting. First Morning was more difficult to shoot because of the budget, so I think there were more compromises made. Between First Morning and Spirits, I learned so much.



Cinespot: You used a lot of the same actors from First Morning. Can you tell us how about the casting process for that film? Did you write the script with those actors in mind?

Vu: The script was written by three people. Myself, Peter Vo and Nguyen Hoang Nam. Some actors fit the characters from the beginning. It's something I discuss with the other writers constantly. Some actors really impressed us in their auditions. I really liked working with the same actors again. They're very talented and brought a lot to the film.



Cinespot: What were some of the challenges you encountered in making Spirits?

Vu: Budget is always an issue. But sometimes, a lack of resources makes you a little more creative.



Cinespot: : What has your life been like this past year, promoting and marketing Spirits?

Vu: : I'm on a promotional tour right now. The film has been in several film festivals. We're talking to a few distributors right now for a release outside the Vietnamese market. It's a lot of work, but definitely exciting. It's great to see the positive responses from both Vietnamese and Non-Vietnamese audiences. And it's a great learning experience for me, especially on the producing side.



Cinespot: What are your goals with this movie? If this is an audience's first Vietnamese film, what do you hope they get out of it?

Vu: I would hope that audiences walk away with some insight on a unique side of Vietnamese culture. And of course, I hope they are entertained.


  Katie Luong, Spirits  


In Part II of the interview, director Victor Vu talks about his filmmaking career. Please click here to go to Part II!