Vietnamese Australian Min Tran was born and bred in the West Melbourne suburb of Sunshine North. Min has had a passion for filmmaking and cinema since his early teens. Awarded a scholarship to complete a two-year course at the Footscray City Film School, Min has successfully and independently written, directed, shot and edited many short films (funded from his job as a projectionist at the local Village Cinemas). One of these shorts, The Projection Room, won the award for Best Foreign Student Film in the 2008 Action/Cut Short Film Competition (California, USA). Between 2008 and 2010, Min wrote and directed Roses Are Dead, a 50-minute feature that became an official selection of the 2011 Pittsburgh Horror Film Festival.
Being a faithful and dedicated fan of the horror genre, Min’s inspiration comes from the dark realms within his dreams. Mintyland Pictures, his production company, was set up in 2008.
As a long-time horror fan, I was excited to find an Asian Australian Melbourne filmmaker who focused on this genre. Min has a knack for making polished and effective films where the shoe-string budget doesn’t show, a very useful industry skill! I really wanted to hear more about his creative experiences and future projects, so I quickly volunteered to interview him for this special issue.
1. I first heard about Roses Are Dead just before it was premiered in Melbourne in February 2011. What were your expectations for the film, and have they been realised? How have you chosen where to submit the film internationally?
Roses Are Dead acted as my calling card and a foot in the door of the industry. Upon meeting producers, I sent out the DVD so that they knew what I was capable of doing as an indie filmmaker.
What took me by surprise was the number of people who came to the premiere of the film, so it was quite a success for that to happen. It was a wonderful night to celebrate with the cast, crew and guests.
Being a horror film, if it was to have a chance anywhere, it’d be in the horror film festivals, local and international. After doing a bit of research, I found that most of these festivals were held in the US and that’s where Roses Are Dead ended up as an official selection for the Pittsburgh Horror Film Festival in June 2011.
2. What is it about the horror genre that appeals to you as a filmmaker? Do you think the appeal of horror films is timeless, or possibly diminishing?
Horror has played a large part in my life, from my DVD collection (soon to be Blu-ray) to the wild dreams my imagination has to offer. I think this is because I was exposed to the content as a child, and have grown to appreciate its dramatic values.
Being scared is an addiction. Watching something that offers excitement and nerve-wracking material makes me feel alive; I’m transfixed by the extreme emotions, but create and view them from within a safe environment. There have been films that portray dark and disturbing subjects from the early days right through to today’s modern cinema.
Horror will never diminish entirely. There may be a few months without horror on the screen, but there are always going to be horror fans out there, and there will always be horror films.
3. What is your dream project? Have you ever considered non-horror themes or other genres?
Would be awesome to do a zombie film! I always have zombie dreams, so there’s already a lot of inspiration.
Moving away from horror is definitely something I’ve been considering for a while now. Not so much abandoning it, but just skipping horror as a genre for a project one of these days would be refreshing. I’ve been thinking of something along the lines of a drama-comedy that’s loosely based of my life experiences. I think I’ve got a good story to tell.
Right now, I’m writing a feature called The Hospital. Yes, it is a horror film! It’s still in the early stages, but I’m planning to shoot a 10-minute short film version of the feature mid-year. It’s a low-budget project, and I’m hoping to raise funds to make the short film through crowd-sourcing sites such as Pozible. It’s a fun film that plays on people’s existing fears about hospitals, such as organ harvesting.
5. What’s the most important advice you would give to someone who’s thinking of creating in the Australian film industry? What opportunities have been significant for you in building your career so far?
This advice applies to the creative business world and it is: Never use your own finances. If you have an idea, sell it to someone and make it happen. There’s nothing worse than finding yourself in major debt with a product that won’t sell.
Opportunities for me to meet people working in the professional film industry have been substantial. I’ve had a lot of great advice shared with me, which feeds me the inspiration and motivation to succeed.