S1E1: What is Funemployment?
Adam Rani: All right, man. So here it is. This is the fun part of the podcast. First ever, Vlog.
First episode ever, that we’re recording. So you guys are probably wondering. Okay. What's this all about? What are these two doofuses going to talk about? So the Funemployment podcast is essentially about Christine Chen, my co-host of the Funemployment podcast. She wrote and directed a feature. Very first feature, right?
Christine Chen: Yes, very first.
Adam Rani: Very first feature called Funemployment and it was written by you and Daniyal Siddiqui.
Christine Chen: Yeah.
Adam Rani: There you go. So, what we are basically going to be talking about is Funemployment, the movie. Also, what we're talking about is being ‘funemployed,’ the lifestyle of being funemployed. The lifestyle of basically saying, you know what man, I'm gonna do the thing that I want to do and I really don't care about what other people think. F the rest. I might not make any money. I probably won't for a while, but I'm going to do stuff that I love to do. So, we're just going to jump in.
Christine Chen: Sweet. Let's do this shit.
Adam Rani: So first…
Christine Chen: Funemployment?
Adam Rani: So let's talk about the moments for you because you went to college at Rice University.
Christine Chen: That's right.
Adam Rani: Yes, cool. And how long were you there in Rice?
Christine Chen: So, I went to Rice for 4 years.
Adam Rani: Okay, man. What was your major for that?
Christine Chen: I switched around. So yet another funemployment thing. I thought I wanted to be a doctor. I went in being a biochemistry major up to my junior year and then I realized I really didn't know what I wanted to do. I just knew that I really loved anything with art, but I knew that I couldn't just major in art without getting some serious family repercussions. So I was like, okay. Well, I'll do… well at Rice, there's no minor. So I'll do a major in art. I'll also do these other majors as well. And I end up with an economics management and visual arts majors.
Adam Rani: Wow, so and you did that for three years?
Christine Chen: Well, I mean, I graduated in four years.
Adam Rani: You graduated in four years?
Christine Chen: Graduated in four years, but I was a biochemistry major until my junior year. So as I said, I have credits to… if I added like a few more classes I’d also be a biochemistry major.
Adam Rani: Wow, and then so from biochemistry, that's when there was a moment that you and I were talking about on set… here was a moment in between that time where you started doing,, you were in the film industry. And you were still in college?
Christine Chen: Yeah. So it was actually after I graduated.
Adam Rani: Yes.
Christine Chen: I knew that I really loved films when I took my first official film class, which is a documentary 101 class, basically, and I somehow… it's funny. I Look at this and I'm like, man… I had really great luck and I just never knew this, but I took one documentary film class and the school was coincidentally funding documentaries made by students in a different language as a way to teach people the language plus the culture of that country.
Adam Rani: Oh, wow.
Christine Chen: So yeah, so I had 2 friends, one of them did one in France, Jonathan Polenz, which later on I ended up collaboring with… and then there was another person who did one in Spain. And then they were looking for someone who could speak Mandarin. And I speak Mandarin. They're like, we need a mandarin-speaking filmmaker. And I was like, yes, I am totally a filmmaker. So, yeah, so I applied, I'm sure there are not that many Mandarin speaking filmmakers at that time, which was 2003… there was probably not a lot of Mandarin-speaking documentary filmmakers and I got to spend a whole month in Lijiang, China and made the documentary and loved it. The [documentary] class that was where I spent pretty much all my time in. 30% would be like all my ten other class. Adam Rani: Wow. Christine Chen: So yeah, so I knew I loved it but it wasn't until I had a real job. I was an IT consultant. Yes.
Adam Rani: For a company? What company?
Christine Chen: Hitachi Consulting was one then and then Quorum. So that was a really tech-based. We did ERP Consulting, Oracle SAP type stuff.
Adam Rani: That was a nice, cushiony job.
Christine Chen: Hey, it was great. It wasn't for me, but what it did you allow me to do was travel. So, I got to travel a lot, but I was really lost and of course, like all lost people, you immediately think…”Oh, I'm just going to get another degree,” and I thought, hey, I'm going to be a lawyer because…
Adam Rani: Because the world needs more lawyers.
Christine Chen: Because it seemed like a great idea and to get into law school you have to take a test. And so I took a LSAT class and coincidentally my LSAT professor was a filmmaker and he was participating in Houston's 48 Hour film festival. He was like, hey, do you want to come on and be, you know, man the slate? I didn't know what that meant at all. Like, when you do documentary filmmaking, it's just you and one camera and there are no, you know, ACs, there's no AD. There's no, there's no positions. It's just you. So I got on set and I was just a deer in headlights. But it was the coolest thing ever. You know, I got to do this thing. I was like, oh my God, I'm this girl. Now, I know I was like the 2nd AC kind of PA thing.
Adam Rani: You were just a hybrid of so many different positions.
Christine Chen: Yeah. Well because this is guerilla filmmaking.
Adam Rani: Yeah, right. This is this is a like let's just shoot shit. Just fucking go. It's 48 Hours.
Christine Chen: Yeah, but I fell in love with it. And I did it just a light bulb clicked and I was like, of course, I'm just gonna be a filmmaker.
Adam Rani: Because that's not hard right? So after that project that was that the moment where you're like, all right, man... this is I need to pursue this like pedal to the metal. I gotta, I gotta go for it.
Christine Chen: But I had another problem, which was, I needed to figure out a way to pursue it, without letting my parents figure out that I was going to pursue it?
Adam Rani: Oh shit! Yeah, because they spent the money on you. You’re supposed to be…
Christine Chen: I’m supposed to be the doctor! I’m supposed to be the lawyer! Not a filmmaker that makes no money. Sorry mom! Sorry dad! Yeah, so I was like, how do I do this without my parents thinking I'm the biggest bum in the world...
Adam Rani: You could be their lawyer, after they kill you.
Christine Chen: So I had a great idea. I am going to go to business school because my logic you know that actually if I go to business school, I can always use that in other backup plan and business is universal. Yeah, and if I'm going to survive making films, I might as well have like a production company or something. So I'm sure whatever I learned in business school can probably translate to that and I was really strategic about applying to schools that were connected to really good film schools.
Adam Rani: Right?
Christine Chen: So I end up going University of Texas, which has a really amazing film department. And so I basically utilized my three electives and just took them all at the film school.
Adam Rani: Just at the film school. Wow!
Christine Chen: Yeah, so that was kind of my in, to film stuff. I basically hung out at the film department area more… often times, more than I did at my own school.
Adam Rani: Learning one thing at a time.
Christine Chen: Yeah, by myself. So so yeah, that's kind of how it went. And by going to business school, I kind of had a two years ‘get out of society for a lot of money’ card, yeah, like you at least I knew like hey my rent was paid for you know…because you know you it's part of your tuition thing.
Adam Rani: Yeah.
Christine Chen: And I knew that like I didn't I didn't have to work to survive like it was I'm on loans. I’m on loans and it was great. But yeah, I was just 2 years of just like I could just…I could reinvent myself.
Adam Rani: And you did.
Christine Chen: Yeah. I used that time and I basically just made a lot of… I started in sketch. comedy actually. SO this was when the whole YouTube thing blew up, I think, in 2005. Yeah, so when I was in business school, I just wanted to go viral. Yeah, so I just made a bunch of sketch comedy things.
Adam Rani: And that was the hub, like over ten years ago, was YouTube. Yes, if you guys don't, if you guys are young audience members, who don't remember anything older than 2005.
Christine Chen: What’s a YouTube?
Adam Rani: Like, here's the deal man, like 10 years ago, this was like the hub for people who just want to do guerrilla filmmaking. And just want to get their shit out.
Christine Chen: Yeah. Now it’s just cats.
Adam Rani: Yeah, now it’s just basically Ellen DeGeneres –
Christine Chen: And cats and dogs, I spend lots of useless hours watching cats and dogs.
Adam Rani: Right, but back in the good old days…that happened. Like you can actually have a bunch of people to… because that's what I did in high school was it was just an inspiration from that was we were able to just like we can do this.
Christine Chen: Yeah, we could put it out and somebody's going to watch it and then give us a studio deal.
Adam Rani: And that was a Resurgence back in the day. So you took that and ran with it.
Christine Chen: I ran with it.
Adam Rani: So how many episodes? Like how many sketch…
Christine Chen: We made a lot of stuff.
Adam Rani: Really?
Christine Chen: Yeah.
Adam Rani: Under your channel?
Christine Chen: You can find it. If you just go to YouTube. I had my own personal channel back then if you just go look for youtube.com/cchen428, you'll find all the old stuff that like nobody really knows about because I don't really tell people about it…where I was like…
Adam Rani: You should probably write that down. That website was talked way too fast. I don't know if anyone got that.
Christine Chen: Yeah, but like, yeah, we made stuff on that. And then then, then I started to think about, oh, branding. Like, you know, if I want to have a company that people take me seriously, they probably don't want to see like shitty, you know…
Adam Rani: You got something to back you up.
Christine Chen: Yeah. So so then I started making and branding myself as Moth to Flame and then I had a separate channel that was like serious stuff and commercial work. But yeah, I just started running with it…
Adam Rani: And that name came up on you?
Christine Chen: So Moth to Flame came… so it actually came a little earlier, in 2008. We had this fun idea to be like, hey, let's try to make a TV pilot, that we never finished. But what did come out of it was meeting lots of cool people and also my name of Moth to Flame. The guy who I'm still really good friends with, John Hale, was my DP. He's like hey, what's your logo going to be for the you know produced by in production right association with it. I was like uh… So I went back and I was like, okay…
Adam Rani: Shit I need to make something.
Christine Chen: Yeah, what do I want for my company name? And you know, everything I wanted was taken, basically. So that's that was great. I thought I was like, I want something that describes how I feel about filmmaking and like what the process of filmmaking is like. So I looked up like I think Enigma was one, jigsaw was one, and some other like shitty names.
Adam Rani: Jigsaw would have been pretty metal.
Christine Chen: Oh, yeah, totally.
Adam Rani: Pretty dope!
Christine Chen: But I went with Moth to Flame because Janet Jackson has a song and it's like, “like a moth to Flame.”
Adam Rani: That's right.
Christine Chen: Yeah, and I was like, yes, cuz I was like, that's me. Like, I'm trying to go to the flame for the next big idea. And then I want people to follow my stuff. Like a Moth to Flame.
Adam Rani: Yes. So right after Moth to Flame?
Christine Chen: Moth to Flame never ended. It just kept going.
Adam Rani: It never ended.
Christine Chen: Yeah, Moth to Flame started off with literally just me and I would just make stuff. Yeah, so it was a lot of, you know, taking a camera, going out and being like, hey, let's just shoot this thing and see what happens. And then practice. It was a lot of practice. It was like I had I had a whole, my whole class and whole MBA class free labor, who were just excited to be on camera and I was like, all right, you guys do this. I wrote the script.
Adam Rani: Wait, they were just signed up for it? They were like, let's do it?
Christine Chen: Most people thought I was crazy, first.
Adam Rani: Yeah, that sounds more like it.
Christine Chen: They were like, what class are you making this for? I was like, nothing. For me. But you know, there were a few that like got it. They're like, yeah, lets, you know, we want to make stuff too.
Adam Rani: That’s cool, man.
Christine Chen: Yeah, my friend Carlos Dinkins, David Isquick. They all were my first skits, basically. And then from there, I started to realize, hey, if I want to expand on the stories and stuff, I need to bring in more people, or… that's how it grows. You start off and I had some interns who are like I want to learn about film. I was like, I don't know if I'm the person to learn that from, but sure even want to be here.
Adam Rani: Let's just try!
Christine Chen: Right, let's try this, Kellie was one of them.
Adam Rani: Right on!
Christine Chen: My art director, Kellie Penna, production designer, she started and she just never left. She just stuck around. I guess that's good. You know, I'm doing something that she feels like it's worth her time.
Adam Rani: And you both met? Where?
Christine Chen: When I was going to business school. part of my interest. Because coincidentally, one of my friends at business school was friends with her husband, current husband's brother. And yeah...
Adam Rani: Right. Okay. Yeah boyfriend’s neighbor’s, lawyer’s cousin’s, second wife. Yeah, twice removed. So right? That makes sense man. That's awesome. So then once you guys once you have that brand and you started making something. So Funemployment then came about about when?
Christine Chen: So Funemployment came because…
Adam Rani: And this was your original idea.
Christine Chen: It was not, but funemployment has morphed significantly. So what had happened was, I took a graduate-level screenwriting class. It was one of my electives that was allowed to take.
Adam Rani: Right.
Christine Chen: And I was like, most of those students have been writing forever and they had like, five, ten different scripts they were all like workshopping. And I had no script and I was like, I need to have a script. But my friend, Daniel Siddiqui had sent me this giant. I think it was like 250. It was stupid. It was like 250 Pages. That's like for a script… like stupid.
Adam Rani: Was it too long for script?
Christine Chen: Yeah. A typical script is a hundred like a 90 pages. Yeah, that would have been like a 3 hour movie. He wrote this thing and I saw it, but the concept was there, but it was the idea of a dude who didn't like his job and decided to pursue other things that completely obviously morphed significantly, but I took that and workshopped it in the thing.
Adam Rani: Right.
Christine Chen: I had the worst script by far. Let's be real.
Adam Rani: And this is your first draft.
Christine Chen: First draft and I took the essence of it and pretty much rewrote it. Yeah, so there's nothing that is similar to that first script at all. I rewrote it because right after I graduated, I moved in with my really good friend Suma. And I knew that I was going all in to Moth to Flame and therefore, wouldn't have any kind of income. Therefore, I downsized significantly and I moved into her dining room. Basically, right next to the kitchen. And we were watching a movie and those, you know, if you're there early, AMC or something, there's always trivia that plays, right? And one of the trivia things was like… So and so lived in somebody's closet. It was like George Clooney or something. And she started laughing. I was like Suma, you know, I'm living in your dining room? And that’s not much better. And we just started bursting out laughing. And then I was like wouldn't it be funny if a group of people just all moved in together and tried the whole Funemployment thing. And that was a huge common thread, especially when I went to business school because a lot of people were trying to do their startups, were trying to get big ideas and everybody wanted. It was cool to be poor. It's cool to be called poor in Austin.
Adam Rani: Which ladies and gentlemen, is the main plot.
Christine Chen: Yeah, like yeah, like, I live for like $300. Yeah, so it was like startups are cool thing, and I loved the vibe of it and I was so deep in the startup community because so many of my friends were trying to start companies. And so it's a whole different culture and I was fascinated by it. And that's what ended up being what Funemployment the movie is about. So Austin Startup Life.
Adam Rani: So you essentially took something that was primarily nothing and then it was just kind of like a fun idea.
Christine Chen: Yes.
Adam Rani: That was just a really fun idea of just like going for what you think is going to scare you. Yeah, and then you just said, fuck it.
Christine Chen: Yes.
Adam Rani: Fuck it, let’s just do it.
Christine Chen: And a lot of it was, I heard that to be a legitimate filmmaker, you had to make a feature film, basically.
Adam Rani: Most would say.
Christine Chen: I hadn’t made any shorts or anything. But Robert Rodriguez made his feature for…
Adam Rani: $7000
Christine Chen: Right, so I can totally do it. So then…
Adam Rani: That’s how I felt about Clerk’s too.
Christine Chen: So I was like, I can totally do that. And so I was like is filmmaking hard?
Adam Rani: It’s not! Clearly [sarcasm]. You just point a camera at someone’s face. Say lines. And that’s it.
Christine Chen: It was really stupid of me to think that. But I learned so much. But basically after I made Funemployment, nothing scares me. Because ignorance is bliss. Like right now, if I were to look at the script again, I would be like hell no… we’re not doing 50 different locations, we’re not casting 50 different people, we’re not shooting 3 giant scenes in the water. We’re not… there’s just so many things that were stupid ideas. Like why! Why did you do this? But it was because of that…
Adam Rani: Or the fact that the actors were drinking and driving…
Christine Chen: Yeah! So many good ideas. But that’s what I love about the film. I’d do it all over again.
Adam Rani: Yeah, man.
Christine Chen: Because every single scene within the film has a story. That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to break down this whole movie.
Adam Rani: Every single scene.
Christine Chen: And I’m going to tell you… how it happened, why it happened the way it is. And all the crap that happened to get it the way it is. I mean everything that could possibly go wrong with this film, went wrong. Even after we finished shooting. There was this point when drives died. I lost the whole edit project.
Adam Rani: Wait, what?
Christine Chen: Yeah, dude.
Adam Rani: Just randomly?
Christine Chen: It corrupted! The whole thing corrupted. It was like fuck you, I don’t want to make this film. This film should not come into existence. And just self-destructed.
Adam Rani: How did that happen?
Christine Chen: I don’t know! To this day I still don’t know! I was so depressed! So I took a break.
Adam Rani: So you had to reshoot how much of the film?
Christine Chen: No, I didn’t have to reshoot. Luckily, I was smart enough to back up everything. I just had to recut everything.
Adam Rani: See man… that’s filmmaking. You gotta be one step ahead. Always.
Christine Chen: Ya dude. We rewrote the whole last half of the film, while we were still filming. It’s got this documentary film style because half of the stuff was very documentary-isque.
Adam Rani: Which if you do watch the film, it does have this… there’s a lot of moments when it feels like it’s shot like a documentary.
Christine Chen: Yeah because it kinda was. Cuz obviously, this is a startup thing.
Adam Rani: Natural lighting.
Christine Chen: So, I had a plethora of startup events in Austin. Real ones. And I basically threw my actors into these real startup events.
Adam Rani: Those are real events?
Christine Chen: Most of them were.
Adam Rani: You got them sitting in on one of them.
Christine Chen: No, there were several. There were several of them where they basically just lied to everybody that they were making this app.
Adam Rani: At the end of the day, some of these startup companies… they’re not going to startup anything.
Christine Chen: Yeah, that’s the world of Funemployment.
Adam Rani: Taking that risk and hopefully there’s an award or…unemployment. Actual unemployment.
Christine Chen: So yeah. That’s why I made Funemployment. To see if I could do it. It’s done! And I knew what it was. I knew it was a low budget film and a not serious film festival film. I made it to try to sell it. And you know…
Adam Rani: But here’s the thing man. The film itself. If you haven’t seen the movie, what are you doing? Just watch the film. Stop what you are doing, watch the film. It is a great little flick. It has so much charm in it. It has a ton of charm. When you watch it, it’s almost like I’m watching Clerks again, or for you like watching El Mariachi. Well, fuckin’ A I can do that! I can absolutely do this. I can write something halfway. Shoot it. Write the rest of it. Write the rest of it, while shooting it. And if you can do that. Anybody can do it. And that’s the creative industry though. The risk is actually just doing it. That’s the point of Funemployment. The risk of you know what…
Christine Chen: I don’t know what I’m doing.
Adam Rani: I don’t know what I am doing. And the same thing for every single director, every single writer. Like well, I don’t know what the fuck this is, but hopefully it makes sense. And some win Oscars. Some of them just fall flat. And that’s the kind of the beautiful risk of the film industry… is just doing that.
Christine Chen: But I would.. I mean… I look at it and I’m like.. this is not bad!
Adam Rani: It’s not a bad flick.
Christine Chen: it’s not a bad flick. And I watch it loving and knowing all the memories that were associated with it. And those are the things we are going to tell you about.
Adam Rani: And with those memories, we are going to share… not only with Christine, but with other guests, cast, crew… everyone who was involved in this sweet sweet sweet little flick that should be celebrated everywhere because let’s be honest… independent filmmaking should be celebrated every single fuckin’ day. Always. No matter what. So, we’re going to break down every single scene of Funemployment with the cast and the crew and we’re just going to have fun with it. There’s going to be drinking involved. I hope. So, yeah! Stay tuned for that. And stay tuned for the next version or next episode of the Funemployment Podcast.
Christine Chen: And make sure to watch the film when it comes out. It’s coming out… we will announce the date that it will come out. Very soon. Very very soon. And if you want to learn more about it just go to areyoufunemployed.com or mothtoflamefilms.com. And look at all these posters.
Adam Rani: Beautiful posters.
Christine Chen: So Funemployment. Bye!