The X1 Asian American destination will feature “Lion Dance”, co-directed by Tim Pattinson . You can find the film in the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival collection this April. We had the pleasure of asking Tim about his inspirations, and how the Asian American influences in his life impacts his work.
Tell us about your film featured on X1 this month!
Tim Pattinson: “Lion Dance” is an animated short that Zheng and I created for our MFA thesis at University of Southern California. We wrote it specifically to address the lack of lead roles for Asian characters in western animation.
How did you get into filmmaking?
TP: I had been working internationally as a creative designer for around 10 years, and the trend for online media (especially video) had grown tremendously during that time. I've always been a fan of narrative games and animated TV, and I realized that I had stories I wanted to tell outside of the corporate world, so I decided to go back to school and learn to be an independent filmmaker. That's how I got into filmmaking and met my co-director Zheng!
What are some films and/or filmmakers that have inspired you?
TP: I’ve always loved Wes Anderson’s cinematography direction, and I think the character design and storytelling in Laika’s “ParaNorman” is superb. And the artistry in anything that Taiyō Matsumoto touches is amazing to me. I use these as teaching examples for my students.
Do you have a favorite Asian and/or Asian American film?
TP: Amongst my favorite Asian cinema, I’d definitely include Chan-Wook Park’s “I’m a Cyborg But That’s OK“, Wing Shya and Tony Chan’s “Hot Summer Days“, and Gidden’s Ko’s “You Are The Apple of My Eye“. I guess I like romance more than I realized!
How does your Asian heritage influence your work?
TP: My own heritage is not Asian or Asian American, I am a white British citizen, but I have spent time working in Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore where I am fortunate enough to have many friends. Their experiences have definitely influenced my work, and I hope I do them justice. I actually started to write “Lion Dance” because of these friends, who were unhappy that America tends to remake Asian cinema with white cast members, rather than just screening the original with subtitles! I tried to develop a very uniquely Chinese story around a universal theme, and I tried to create 2 lead roles we hadn’t seen before in Western cinema (an athletic Chinese male, who is strong and not someone’s punchline, and an independent Chinese female who is responsible for her own actions and not just some white guy’s love interest).
What is your outlook on the state of Asian American cinema?
TP: This year has given me a lot of hope for Asian American cinema. The rise of Asian leads in film and TV seems to have gained a lot of ground, building on the solid online foundations forged by Jimmy and Freddy Wong, Wong Fu Productions, Eugene Lee Yang and so on. Mainstream successes like “Fresh Off The Boat” and “Crazy Rich Asians” have proven that Asian American-created/driven content can achieve Hollywood’s bottom line, and so I see no reason at all for these opportunities to stop. I think this generation of (Asian American) filmmakers are shaping amazing change, and I’m very excited to what they produce. I think this is why I love teaching film!
What’s next for you?
TP: After 12 years in the US, I’m actually heading back to the UK for a spell where I’ll be leading an animation program for Plymouth College of Art. I also have 2 animated shorts in development which will hopefully be hitting the festival circuit in 2020.
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