Reflecting on 2016 and Thinking of the New Year

2016 has been a great year for me as a filmmaker and entrepreneur. For the first time since I have started Moth to Flame in 2010, I feel like the core of what we have been striving to build is finally solid. The team we have is unstoppable. Everyone is talented, hungry, and eager to create. We have incredible clients and we have a great system in place. Of course there is always a lot of room to improve, but this is the first year for me that I did not feel like I was chasing everything. Projects and opportunities came and keep coming and I am going into 2017 stronger than ever. These were the highlights of 2016.

1. Creative Sustainability

Creative sustainability is the elusive holy grail of filmmaking because the definition of it morphs as we strive for bigger and better projects that require larger budgets. Though we have survived 6 years in the business, it is in year 6 that we are finally in a good place, a place where we have money to support a lot of the creative projects that we want to make. In the previous years, Moth to Flame focused on revenue and survival. This year we focused on projects that inspired us and we thrived.

2. Focus on the Creative

Creative projects are what keep our team members excited. I think it is also the easiest to sacrifice when most creative projects require a lot more resources than they actually bring in. Hence, in the previous years, this was the easiest to overlook. Luckily, as the team has continued to hone our skills, we have been able to decrease our turnover times without sacrificing quality. It is an amazing feeling when you can hang out and chat about an idea and see it come to life in a matter of days. That is what happened with 3-4 shorts we created, one of which took a week and earned us a trip to Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal, Canada!

One of my company goals for 2017 is to continue to focus on creative storytelling and most importantly to encourage clients to take risks and do so as well. This may require that we do some spec projects on our own to show clients the possibilities.

Shot Put

Beetle Juice

Stranded

3. Power to the Moth to Flame team = More Time for Me

Personally, each year my goal is to give more power to my team. Though Moth to Flame started off as pretty much only Christine Chen, branded Moth to Flame, I always wanted this company and brand to belong to those who want to be a part of it. I am surrounded by so many talented minds and I know only together can we build something better than what I can build alone.

 

Unfortunately, being a perfectionist and a semi-control freak, I had to learn a lot these past few years about feeling comfortable with trust and not having to be in a state of full control. Last year, I was forced to do so in order to be able to spend 2 weeks abroad for my best friend’s wedding, and after I realized that nothing exploded upon my return, I knew it was something I could really get good at.

 

This year, several of the creative projects we worked on were pitched by people on our team and I am hoping to expand even more next year and help to support and collaborate on other projects. I also stopped having to edit and film every single project, unless I really want to. My team members handle most of the corporate work we have these days. The great thing about relinquishing more of my responsibilities to people that I trust is that I now have much more time to pursue my own personal goals as a filmmaker. This year I was able to travel for work more, take on other work on other creative projects, and find time to work on myself.

My number 1 goal as a filmmaker this year was to perfect the art of telling a simple story very well. By simple I mean, a story without a crazy plot twist, or special effects, or anything shocking — just an every day seemingly mundane story about humanity, but told in a way to make someone feel something. I really believe I achieved this goal with “Ya Albi.” With Ya Albi, everything was planned with a lot of time to anticipate and pay attention to details. Unlike my previous projects, which sometimes were rushed to make deadlines, I wanted rehearsal time. I wanted to think carefully about the wardrobe and how it would affect each scene. We did so much research to ensure authenticity of the story. It was my greatest achievement of 2016. I owe the ability to do this, to the time I had from better delegation of my company work.

Ya Albi Trailer

Goals for 2017

1. Episodic Storytelling

My goal next year is to take a stab at episodic story telling. Seeing the current trend of content, it seems the best storytelling is migrating to TV. Amazon and Netflix really have created some incredible content. Black Mirror being one of my favorites of this year. I dabbled a long time ago in webisodes, but nothing longer than 3-5 minutes. I’m hoping to find a project that will be doable on a smaller scale budget.

2. Period Piece/Creating a World

I would not mind exploring a period piece or something highly stylistic like Mad Max. We briefly did this with “The Earth Below,” our first sci-fi, which we are working to turn into a feature. The difficulty of creating a world is budget constraints. I have not really figured out how to get around this, but this is definitely something I want to work on.

3. Shorter Shorts

I have had quite a pattern of writing scripts intended to be only 15 minutes long and realizing that they would be better paced at 25-30 minutes. I really want to be able to give myself a strict 8-minute maximum time limit and see what I can do. I think there is a lot to learn being able to effectively tell a story in a very short amount of time. That is why I have been so fascinated with storytelling in commercials. What Wes Anderson accomplished with his H&M spot, or Amazon accomplished with the story of the Christian and Muslim old friends, or Kodak about what it is like to come out is absolutely incredible. Tiny 1-3 minute films that break hearts. I want to do that.

Wes Anderson H&M

Amazon

Kodak

I am not sure what will be in store for us in 2017, but I am very excited to continue to build Moth to Flame and tell great stories. Thank you to everyone who continues to support us. Happy New Year! Let’s make it a great one.

Behind the Scenes

View stream on flickr

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