Jason Lee’s foray into filmmaking happened through Closer Apart, a short film project he made in junior college. It was a well-loved family drama that has travelled to film festivals across Asia and was also an audience favourite on Viddsee.
He was 17 years old then. Today, he’s a 22-year-old sociology student at the National University of Singapore, with two other film projects under his belt: ‘The Buddy’, a popular film about autism, acceptance and friendship, and a commercial short film shot for Whisper titled ‘Always There’ about a young woman at the cusp of adulthood.
He speaks to us about his journey thus far, on balancing creative and commercial ideals, how he perseveres, and on diminishing the ego for better outcomes.
Do You Need To Go To Film School To Be A Filmmaker?
Jason grew up fascinated with the idea of make-believe and how we fit it into our reality. Pursuing sociology as his major helps sharpen his observations on how human relationships in the context of society: the individual versus the social.
“Sociology looks at society on a scientific level. We study why some people might commit crimes, or about issues relating to inequality and how it is perpetuated, and so on.”
“By understanding this relationship, I hope it helps me understand the human condition better as I believe films delve into the human condition. We never really look at characters alone but rather how they interact with the world around them. I see a lot of sociology in films.”
It Doesn’t Always Have To Be Business Versus Storytelling
As all his three films had a paymaster, Jason has grown accustomed to balancing between his clients’ vision. “It is important to work with the clients closely to strengthen the story and characters.” He has also had the luck of having clients who give him the space to create and trust his vision.
When asked if he’s ever had to compromise creativity with commercial ideals, Jason says he would never have had the chance to make short films in the first place without a sponsor.
Most of his work was financed in exchange for a product-placement scene or to create a branded film. “This is the way to go now – telling stories that represent the brand yet respecting the audience. It’s easier said than done, but let’s try, and keep trying!”
(And we find that this keeping-on, can-do, optimism is persistent in our interview with him!)
My Team And I Are A Bunch Of Friends – Not Colleagues
Ask anyone in the industry and they will tell you that a great film is the work of great collaboration – Jason Lee is no exception. He stays motivated with the support of his financiers, his cast and crew.
“You need someone to believe in your vision enough to finance it, and a cast and crew who share that vision enough to want to see it come alive as much as you do.
He found his team members through shared connections and Facebook groups. “My team and I are like a bunch of friends. We meet up for supper or drinks and talk endlessly. I’m thankful to have them with me on this journey.”
He believes that it’s important to “open the ears” and listen to suggestions despite having a set of his own standards he would initially want to impose.
Ditch The Ego, Embrace Rejection!
Rejection is one of the most common issues challenges filmmakers face, especially when they are first starting out. It’s upsetting and deters many aspiring filmmakers from making their first film. However, Jason says it’s important to persevere no matter how many people turn you down.
“It’s really tough, especially for someone like me who isn’t established at all. But I like films and want to make them, so I’ll have to carry on. If one door closes, I’ll have to look for another.”
And If You’re Thinking Of Making Your First Film
He has one word of advice for those toying with the idea of making their first short film. “Don’t worry too much and just go for it. Gather the resources needed and get the film rolling. There will be challenges but that’s just part of the process.”
If anyone is interested in a collaboration, this helpful and humble young lad is happy to be a part of it. “If anyone wants to make their first short film, give me a call and let’s work on something together!”
Click here to watch Jason Lee’s films!