January 11th, 2007 - Panasit Chaiyanan
I had it saved on my laptop. I had it on my best friend's computer. I had it on a CD. I had it on a Zip disk. I had it on my external hard disk. I uploaded it to YouTube. I even attached it to an email and sent it to myself. I was screening my very first short film in class on that day.
Nothing was going to go wrong.
As a film buff, I always had this fear that if I ever try my hand at making a movie, I might be bad at it. I had a history of trying something new for the first time, even something I looked forward to, and discovering that it just wasn’t for me: driving, basketball, knitting and Mario Kart.
So on that day, when I pressed play on the Quicktime player in front of the the Video Production class, I believed how my classmates’ reacted to my movie was going to determine whether or not I was destined to make films.
At 23, I had never touched a movie camera until that point. My family didn’t even have a camcorder like other families that could send clips of children and pets getting hurt to America's Funniest Home Videos. 10 years ago we didn’t have phones that can record high quality movie clips like we do now. Steve Jobs had just announced the first generation iPhone on the 9th of January and it wouldn't be available for purchase until June. At the time, the only cameras that could film HD footage were big and expensive. This class was my first chance, and it could have been my only chance. Armed with only my desperate need to not be terrible and the knowledge that the red button means record, I went all in.
My movie was about a boy who had to sneak into his teacher's office and slip in his late homework without her noticing. I didn’t know about the 180-degree rule, dramatic irony, Hitchcock’s bomb under the table theory, the Kuleshov Effect or the three roadblocks; I just wanted the audience to root for my main character to not get caught by his teacher. My classmates’ faces while watching my movie were hard to read. Only a few close friends and the professor actually praised my movie. The responses that I got were not, “Wow, that was really good,” but more like, “Wow, you are really serious about making movies”. Later that day, I got calls and emails from people asking to see my movie. Someone must have spread the word about it. The word was not that my movie was fantastic, it was just something people should see.
The school I went to was not a film school. Most people just took this video production class, which fulfilled a curriculum requirement, and then went on to do something else. So when I came along and put in an uncommon amount of effort, I stood out. And people started asking me my plan for my next movie. I don’t think they thought it was going to be good. Some probably hoped that I would fuck it up (and I did). I think that they noticed my passion for filmmaking, and they just wanted to see the fruit of that passion.
Ten years later, one of my film students messaged me asking to drop my film class and start over next semester. His first movie was done but he didn’t want me to see it. I asked him why, and he admitted that he didn’t want me to think he doesn’t have a talent for filmmaking. He planned so much, but everything went wrong. So I told him about how 10 years ago, when I screened my first movie, I was afraid that its reception was going to determine whether I was going to become a filmmaker. But in the end, it was never about being perfect or great right from the start. Whether or not your last movie was well received, it’s your passion for the craft that will keep you going, keep the audiences coming, and keep pushing you to become better.
Panasit Chaiyanan is a graphic designer and a filmmaker. He shamelessly told people that he grew up in Washington DC, but in truth, it was a nearby boring city called Silver Spring, Maryland. He was coerced into getting a Master of Science in Design Management at School of Architecture and Design, King Mongkut University of Technology Thonburi. His GPA was 4.0, and it meant nothing. He now spends most of his time at Assumption University mastering the art of telling his students their movies are bad without hurting their feelings.
Panasit encourages you to learn more about the Foundation for Children in Thailand. The FFC provides children with shelter, care and education, supporting their emotional and physical needs. Donations can be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.