04.16.14 | Brian Jun
In preparation for our first deadline for the screenplay and film competitions we reached out to past entrants to find out how AFF has impacted their writing careers. This week Brian Jun, a former AFF Screenplay Finalist and Filmmaker tells us of his trajectory through submitting and attending AFF as a writer and filmmaker, and what he’s up to now. Ready to submit your film or script? Submit before April 30th, 2014 and take advantage of our early bird pricing. Click here for more information.
“Your life will never be the same,” were the words I heard when my film Steel City premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. The exact time and place evade me at this moment, but I will never forget the series of events before and after that experience.
The script for Steel City was a Finalist at Austin Film Festival’s Screenplay Competition. It was the first time my writing was recognized in any fashion, and the first film festival that included my work, albeit a screenplay. It was a badge of validation that I wore proudly, and always mentioned the honor during the two year struggle to get the film financed. Steel City would go on to screen at AFF in 2006, and my career was suddenly started.
I grew up in a small town in the Midwest, just outside St. Louis. I was a regular kid – played sports, navigated through the woods, snuck out as a teenager, and had crushes on girls that would never give me a second look. However, something changed when I began to realize that I had an intuition and desire to communicate ideas. I began reading plays and became interested in acting to escape the inadequacy I felt as an adolescent. My regime was to study as many playwrights, filmmakers and painters I could get my hands on. It became very evident that filmmaking entered my life with a vengeance.
After my early success with Steel City, I went onto field numerous opportunities; most of them were mishandled due to my inexperience, others due to not having the proper support system in the industry. Whatever the reason, opportunities began slipping away. I still managed to find work, doing a few gigs for hire – my second feature The Coverup premiered at AFF in 2008 – and I found other various writing assignments. However, I struggled to hold onto my identity as a filmmaker, sold a script that never got made, and reverted back to working odd jobs to pay the rent. I began to see many of my filmmaking peers achieve great things, get studio opportunities and all of a sudden, I wasn’t invited to the party. I was the kid from the Midwest who made Steel City, yet failed to live up to his potential.
Even though my career slowed down, I continued to grow as a filmmaker, but more importantly, I grew as a person and really learned what perseverance is all about. I promised myself that every day I would do something positive towards my career, or helping others with their career. There is a notion that we all can do it on our own, and I am here to say, we all need help. We all need a boost from time to time, and ‘what comes around goes around.’
When one dedicates their life to a particular profession they become involved in a community of like-minded individuals that can identify with their struggle and success. Film Festivals around the world foster this in the most altruistic fashion by showcasing and supporting independent films, great performances, and daring, bold new artists. AFF has been vital to my early development as a filmmaker, simply because somebody took the time to read a script.
The main dilemma that many filmmakers face is visibility. Making a film used to be a privilege before it became so ‘en vogue.’ Film cameras and film stock were an essential and expensive endeavor and took a great deal of discipline. The digital revolution has changed the way we make and watch movies. This enables so many more people to express themselves visually which is fantastic. The other side to this equation is exactly that – so many films are getting made, the divide between commercial studio fare and micro-budget features continues to grow. So, how does one gain visibility in a vast sea of content?
I have made four feature films and have been blessed to work with many great actors; many newcomers and many veterans. I have made the most of the opportunities I could grasp and have been grateful for every one of them. I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I consider every ounce of my success earned; I also earned all my failures, which is a strange thing to say. Opportunities, success and failure is very elusive in this industry. Ask those at the “top” why they are successful; it’s usually due to a mixture of work ethic and a defined break or opportunity, or being in the right place at the right time. They’ve also endured a lot of failure.
To conclude, did my life really change after my early success? My life is my life. It’s unique to me and nobody else. With the current climate of independent film, I have gone to Indiegogo to fund my next project – a low budget feature called In The Buck. Despite the struggles and financial hardships I’ve endured, I continue to surround myself with other passionate people, and I’ve never felt more excited about what my future holds. However, I still need help – and for those that support indie film to support me with my next endeavor. And if Hollywood ever comes calling, I won’t be difficult to find.