Exclusive Interview: Christine Chen (Director, “Blind Date Rules”)

The second in the Blind Date Rules interview series is here! As you might recall, I’ve spoken to co-writer and star Brie Eley, and today, I’m sharing my interview with the director of the short film and founder of Austin, TX-based Moth to Flame Films, Christine Chen.

In this interview, Chen talked about working with the cast, what she’d like to change about rom-coms and the importance indie filmmaking has when it comes to changing Hollywood’s status quo. 

How did you come to Blind Date Rules?

It was…through Facebook. A friend who’s an actor had posted that Brie [Eley] and Angela [Bennett] were looking for a director and I submitted[.] They sent me the script and I loved it, and that’s how I got involved with Blind Date Rules.

What was it like working with the cast and crew?

Most of the [crew] there, I’d worked with previously. I’d brought my own crew there, which was a lot. The cast was terrific. It was a lot of fun. It was a very comedic short film, so people are cracking jokes, there’s a lot of improving, it was a very creative and fun process and very lighthearted set. I had a fun time.

One of the things Brie and I talked about was that the film itself breaks a lot of conventions of rom-coms and movies in general, what with having women working at all levels of the film, and having Brie herself as the lead character. Rom-coms don’t typically have non-white actresses in the lead roles. What was it like working on this film that shook things up a bit?

You know, I’m super excited that there are more films like this coming out. I’m glad that part of Hollywood is moving towards including more ethnic [actors], more culture and more women in general. It’s nice that you’re seeing it, specifically in indie filmmaking, that you’re seeing it branch out. I myself am Asian-American, and you don’t find many Asian-American female directors, either. It’s great that this film has such a strong female character and that so many characters in [the film] are played by a diverse cast[.]

I knew what Brie’s vision was and we worked well together. It was neat to see that there was a team that wanted to push the boundaries. I think you really see it in indie filmmaking. Maybe less so in big, corporate Hollywood because they have several layers of red tape, but in indie filmmaking, people really want to stand out and make a difference.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that it seems like films that do seem to engage in whitewashing and whatnot are beginning to not do well in Hollywood, like with Aloha and Emma Stone playing a native Hawaiian even though she’s not Hawaiian. It seems like those people are beginning to realize that those types of films aren’t going to fly anymore. 

Yep. A part of the reason is that, with the big budget Hollywood has, there’s a lot of people that the directors and producers probably have to listen to as well. You see this not just in film, but in the corporate world. It’s always the startups, the smaller people that disrupt what has been done all the years before.

I think when we get to something so big and unwieldy, decisions are based on what has worked instead of setting trends or doing something different. Economically, it’s risky to take a risk. Indie filmmakers—that’s what were all about. We’re there to take a risk. You’d think having a lot of money would allow you to do that, but it keeps you from it because you have so many people that you have to listen to. Brie and myself…we had a lot of control, and we wanted to make it something that we would both enjoy and love and I think other people will, too.

Along this line of thought, if you had the power to change anything about Hollywood, particularly with rom-coms since Blind Date Rules is a rom-com, what would you change, whether that’s dealing with who gets cast or what the story’s like?

Rom-coms—everything—follows a very distinct structure. I think the typical rom-com lead is that they’re very beautiful, they have everything together, they’re white, and all they care about is the guy. It’d be nice in a rom-com, like Bridesmaids and other rom-coms, that you see that the girl has other aspirations aside from the guy. I think that’s important, especially as more and more women choose to stay longer in the workforce or get married but continued to stay in the workforce, that it’s displayed that way in Hollywood films, that [women’s] sole purpose isn’t just to find a man. That’s maybe part of their lives, and that’s totally okay; it’s a part of life. But they are more than just that. Giving female characters depth is something I hope can continue to happen, and I think it is, especially as more and more female directors and producers become involved.

I’m glad Hollywood is getting away from the Doris Day model of rom-coms. I’ve watched some of them and I’m like, “This is horrible!” But then I’ve looked at rom-coms from the ’90s and I’m like, “This is almost just as bad.”

We’ve really progressed as a culture, but it takes a while, especially when moving from something that’s…always been done the same way. It is up to, I think, the start-up indie production companies and indie filmmakers to write things and produce things and to always want to be involved in projects that uphold what we believe is progress. That means making sure we cast people who are diverse. We also need to write stuff that isn’t shallow; we need to write things with depth. We need to write women who are strong. It takes multiple people to make change, and I’m glad we’re seeing that, especially in the indie world.

When audiences view Blind Date Rules, what do you hope they take away from the film?

I hope that they’ll just watch it and enjoy it and have a great time. I don’t want them to watch the film thinking, “Oh, look they cast an African-American[.]” I want them to watch it like how they’d watch any other movie. It’s got a great storyline, great characters, it’s funny; [I don’t want them] to watch it as if it’s different from anything else. If we make it something special…then we’re not really progressing because we’re seeing it as an abnormal thing. So I want them to watch it as they’d watch any other film. It’s a great film with strong characters, very funny characters, it happens to be ethnically diverse, which is great, but it’s not changing how I’m seeing it. I’m just watching it and enjoying [it]. Hopefully getting accustomed to seeing that, more people will want to see that so they will be more drawn to films like this.

Does Moth to Flame Films currently have any projects in the works?

After Blind Date Rules, we started another short film called A Bird’s Nest, which we filmed in Shreveport. We recently just started our second short film called Two Roads which is in post-production right now. Hopefully, it’ll be done in the fall. There’s also a film [Funemployment] that’s in the last part of the post-production process and will hopefully be out in the fall as well.

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

EDIT: Updated to reflect accurate movie title. The title of one of Moth to Flame’s films in development was incorrectly labeled as Mars 2278. The accurate title is Funemployment.

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