Audition

 

Directed by Richard Van

Shaquita Lopez, a single mother and an aspiring actress, is ready to nail her audition. Things fall apart, however, when her ex- boyfriend bails on watching their 3-year-old son Nezih. Cornered and unable to find a sitter, Shaquita drags Nezih to her audition where he proves to be more than a handful.


 

Director's Statement

I met Shaquita in 2013 in an acting class. I had just moved back to my parents’ home from teaching English in South Korea, and she had just given birth to Nezih several months earlier.

During one of our classes, she brought Nezih in. She tried to keep him busy, but he was a bit disruptive, blurting out during other students’ performances. Everyone was nice about it, but we could tell it was a bit awkward for Shaquita when when Nezih was affecting the performances of the other actors.

After the classes, we stayed Facebook friends: we saw each other at a theatre kid party every once and awhile, and she was a background actor in my entry into a beer commercial contest (which I didn’t win), but other than that, we didn’t see each other too much.

Years later though, during my first semester at CalArts, she commented on an image of me on Facebook, asking if I had any roles to play. Remembering the day she brought her son in, I told her that I would write a movie for her, and so started our year-long-collaboration that became Audition.

I wrote the script based on my interviews with her. She would tell me bits and pieces of her life, the challenges of being a single mother, her dreams of being an actress, her relationship with Nezih’s father, etc. In fact, one of the most touching moments I’ve seen in my life was a phone conversation between Nezih and his father; he was crying because his father told him to behave.

I encouraged my other collaborators to work with the same level of rigor. Jiaying Wang, my production designer spent much time interviewing her as well. Jiaying and Shaquita spent hours talking about her interests and what she likes to keep in the home. We used what we learned to turn my studio apartment into one that looks like it belongs to Shaquita and Nezih. Most of Jiaying’s elaborate design can’t be seen in the film, but it had the advantage of making Shaquita and Nezih feel at home in the space.

Nezih, to my surprise, was a natural actor—or just a natural child, which is sometimes harder to find in LA. I shot the film myself, mounting the camera on my shoulder, and much of my experience was chasing him around, just capturing him being himself. That kid taught me so much about film and possibly more about life.


Credits

Director | Richard Van

Producers | Sarah Suarez, Betty Hu

Associate Producer | Shaquita Lopez

Production Designer | Jiaying Wang

Art Assistant |Anna Kim

Day 1
Director of Photography | Richard Van
Assistant Director | Yuchen Zhou
Sound Mixer | Sara Suarez
Production Assistant | Anna Kim

Day 2
Director of Photography | Richard Van
Assistant Director | Hannah Peterson
Sound Mixer | Sara Suarez

Day 3
Director of Photography | Richard Van
Assistant Director | Hannah Peterson
Sound Mixer | Sara Suarez
1st Assistant Camer | Shuan Morris
Grip | Nicolas Savignano
Sound Assistant | Katherine Shea


About the Team

Richard Van - Director
Richard Van is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker of Vietnamese descent. He is currently working on a Master of Fine of Arts in Film Directing at the California Institute of the Arts. Before beginning his filmmaking career, Richard majored in philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley and has also spent several years teaching English in both the U.S. and South Korea. A firm believer in personal and intimate cinema, Richard often shoots his own films, beginning with the 16mm short Cookie. His work involves a rigorous collaborative process that his scripts are inspired and shaped by the actors themselves—organically changing until the moment of filming. His short film Audition has premiered at the St. Louis International Film Festival for its “Narrative Shorts: Feminist Agenda” program and will screen at the 2018 Slamdance Festival. His films often look at familial interactions within different cultural contexts, dealing with issues of memory, childhood, and representation.

Betty Hu - Producer 
Betty Hu is a Chinese film and theater producer based in Los Angeles. Born and raised in China with years of living experiences in Hong Kong and the U.S., Betty is interested in exploring how globalization influences the perception of female identities. A member of China’s ‘loneliest generation’, Betty wishes to bring work to the world audience that shed light on nuances of gender values in Asian families, especially the bias and expectations towards women. Betty produced AUDITION in 2017, a realist short film by Richard Van, which won the Best Live-Action Short of 2018 Santa Barbara International Film Festival and was screened at many others. Besides, Betty also produced Richard’s most recent short film HIEU and an animated documentary short BLACK HAIR by Adele Han Li. Before residing in Los Angeles, Betty was a project manager for award-winning marketing and advertising campaigns in APAC. Betty holds a MA in Integrated Marketing Communications from Hong Kong Baptist University, and is expecting her MFA in Creative Producing and Management from CalArts in the may of 2018.

Sara Suarez - Producer 
Sara Suarez is an artist and filmmaker from Virginia, currently based in Los Angeles. She works with others as a producer and sound designer, and her work has been heard at Atlanta Film Festival and Viennale. Most recently she worked as an editing assistant to Lee Anne Schmitt on the documentary Purge This Land, which screened at CPH:DOX. As a director, Sara's work examines the interactions of the natural environment, spirituality, memory, and history; her upcoming film, Water Stains, concerns a Virginia river marked by ghosts of the Civil War era. She studied literature at College of William & Mary, and uses poetic narrative techniques to illustrate supernatural phenomena. Sara studies Film Directing at CalArts and will receive her MFA degree this spring.

Hannah Peterson - Assistant Director
Hannah Peterson completed her BFA at the New School in New York where she studied documentary and experimental film theory. She worked as an apprentice to Alex Gibney on the feature documentary Going Clear, the Amazon series the New Yorker Presents, and the Netflix series Cooked prior to coming to California. Additionally, she served as a staff member for the 2015 Flaherty Film Seminar. Most recently she worked with writer and director Sean Baker as an assistant and researcher on his feature, The Florida Project which had its world premiere at Cannes Director’s Fortnight and was recently acquired by A24. She also worked with Baker on his award-winning short film, Snowbird. In addition, Hannah has worked in various roles such as cinematographer, AD, and producer in several short films. Currently, Hannah is completing her MFA in Film Directing at the California Institute of the Arts, School of Film/Video.

Jiaying Wang - Production Design 
Jiaying Wang is a scenic designer and visual artist. Profoundly influenced by her father, a Chinese antique collector, she started to appreciate the beauty of movement, simplicity, and representation. She loves to excavate stories and implications under the surface of the objects. Influenced both by Eastern and Western Art, such as traditional Chinese ink wash and Plein Air Painting, when she grew up in Shanghai, she is always interested in expressing emotion through marks and brush strokes as a painter. In December 2017, she finished her BFA in Scenic Design at the California Institute of the Arts. Trained and educated in theater, Jiaying combines her artistic style with her scenic skills to discover media from a two-dimensional surface to a live installation. Her recent design productions include Terra Incognita (a walk through media installation mixes toy theater, live performance, and virtual reality, directed by Ilana Kirschbaum); Anatomy of a Struggle (a physical theater piece directed by Anthony Nikolchev); The Tree ( a magical realist film directed by Chu-hao Liu); and Audition (a realist film directed by Richard Van). The goal of her career is to use visual and sensory storytelling to create experiences which can engage, surprise, and connect the audience from different cultural backgrounds emotionally and intellectually.

Shaquita Lopez - Associate Producer
Shaquita Lopez (Herself) is an actress based in Fremont, California. She was first introduced to drama and acting in middle school when her teacher noticed her powerful voice. She had an on-and-off relationship with acting until committing to it while attending Ohlone College shortly after having her son Nezih. Besides acting on the new plays developed through the New Playwright Festival of the Ohlone theater department, Shaquita had a part in Ohlone College’s most recent play The Illusion, directed by Michael Navarra. Audition is her screen debut.

Nezih Lopez 
Nezih Lopez (Himself) is an energetic four-year-old who loves dinosaurs and hamburgers. At the age of three, he made his debut in Audition, acting alongside real-life mom Shaquita Lopez. He will be joining StarStruck Theatre at five.

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