MEET AN AWC 2017 FELLOW: Alice Hsieh

by Reynaldo Culannay

In the spirit of Women History Month, we asked Armed With a Camera (AWC) 2017 Fellow, Alice Hsieh, to share some of her words and wisdom.

What is your film about? What inspired you to create it? What do you hope it will achieve?
My animated short "The Cogmill Kids" is set in a fantasy universe and is about people who are abducted from their homelands and forced into labor at a factory called the Cogmill. My main inspiration came from other animated works, such as "Avatar: The Last Airbender" and Studio Ghibli films, which all explore topics surrounding politics and society. What I admire greatly about these works is that they’re not afraid to criticize society or highlight the injustices of the real world, and they do so whilst keeping their content appropriate for younger audiences. That is something I strive for as a filmmaker because children are an important part of our audience and learn from us. I hope that my film, as well as other AWC films, can inspire others to assert themselves and make their voices heard. I also hope that my film will encourage others to try animation and use the medium for their storytelling and craft. I lose ten years of my life every time someone tells me that animation is a dying medium!

What was your experience like being an AWC Fellow and producing your film?
Being an AWC Fellow has been an amazing experience and I’m extremely grateful to have participated. My works have always been just personal, experimental films created with peers and seen by close friends. To be able to learn from professionals, work amongst other filmmakers, and screen my film publicly is an exciting opportunity.

What were challenges faced in your filmmaking process?
My main challenge was managing my time and workload. There were times when I would miscalculate how long a certain scene would take to animate, which would push my whole schedule back. I also had to plan my schedule around the availability of my voice actors and production team, which was also challenging. Luckily, everything was completed on time.

Biggest takeaway(s) from being part of the AWC Fellowship - working amongst AAPI filmmakers?
Working exclusively with AAPI filmmakers has been very inspiring. We share similar struggles and aspirations as Asian Americans, but our different experiences and skills create a lot of diversity and uniqueness to each of our individual works. This year, we also had the opportunity to take a trip to Portland, which gave us time to bond and become closer. Being a part of this fellowship was like being part of a family and was truly an enriching experience.

What advice would you share for future AAPI female filmmakers?
Definitely stay political. Try and find a cause or issue that you’re passionate about and pursue it. If you have a unique vision and consistently work towards it, you’ll eventually find support from those who share the same vision as you and from those who see you as an inspiration.

The 2017 AWC Fellowship films will screen at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. Click here to buy tickets.

To learn more about the AWC Fellowship program, click here.

Reynaldo Culannay is a college student graduating from Pitzer College in May 2017 with a BA in Media Studies and Asian American Studies. With interests in community activism, media, and arts, Reynaldo works towards utilizing the power of storytelling to create difficult yet necessary dialogues within his communities. His goal is to work on projects that address the following: the Filipino diaspora in America, queer identity, class issues, and intergenerational trauma.