Crazy8s quarter century – Interview with Grace Chin

I gotta say, April is a real hectic month for me, I’ve got several events I’m attending, There’s so much going on, and so much has had to go into planning the Crazy8s for this year, but every year it’s always full of content, and there’s sure to be a lot going on. It’s not just Crazy8s, but Run N Gun, the wrap-up of The Good Doctor, and a couple of personal events I’m attending, as well as National Canadian Film Day.

As we all know, National Canadian Film Day comes before this and is always a big deal every year for us, and you probably already know why. So there are some special films that manage to make it into the spotlight. Some of the stuff we covered recently is on that list, and some other stuff has already been covered, and some events on the day have already been covered. There’s quite a few events going on around the different areas in Canada, here a few in Vancouver that are worth checking out. If there’s an area in your local community, you might’ve heard of it. Otherwise, check the official website to find a Canadian Film Day event playing near you. Celebrate, watch all the Canadian Cinema you can.

Now to get back to Grace the Amazing and Crazy8s in general. We all know Crazy8s is just as big a deal if not a bigger deal than everything I just mentioned earlier. Whatever keeps us busy, I guess. This year, instead of some event coverage, I thought why not do an advance interview kind of like the time I checked out film sets of these productions? Only this time, I didn’t tire out my legs, just my computer with a lengthy interview, but that’s because Grace Chin had a lot to say.

Grace says covering everything and helping the teams is no easy task. With every production being UBCP/low budget, every set has to be insured, every set must also have appropriate catering, and all the stuff. While it’s fun and exciting, people also lose sight of the fact how ambitious the films are. From paperwork, to start packs it’s an experience like no other. 

It’s not only the Crazy8s teams that have to deal with paperwork, a calendar, and even a special manual, the team in charge has all kinds of work to maintain, but stay strong thanks to great communication. Now speaking of communication, here’s how I communicated with Grace about Crazy8s. Prepare yourself, it’s going to get crazy!

Courtesy of Crazy8s Film Society ASTRONAUT – Beleh Garcia


Courtesy of Crazy8s Film Society WHAT ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO DO WITH YOUR HANDS – Bruce Yan


HNMAG: You’re the executive director. What are your prime responsibilities?

Grace Chin: As executive director at Crazy8s, this position has oversight of the entire program as well as the organization as a non-for-profit. That includes insuring we’re in compliance with whatever BC’s non-profit requirements are, as well as making sure the program runs smoothly every year. Which includes things like getting sponsorship, maintaining relationships with supporters, and also in terms of government levels, with Telefilm Canada, so doing things like selecting jurors for the selection process. That gos into determining the top 6 every year. Plus buying from various organizations so we can have producer mentors, director mentors, and different kinds of mentors for different teams, and ensuring that all the different workshops that we run for the teams , 4 or 5 workshops at least, ensuring they do have people who speak at these workshops and can address anything the teams need to know, whether it’s things like clearances and rights. Or really how to direct this difficult scene.


HNMAG: And how did you get this role?

Grace Chin: About 2 years ago, what happened was the executive directors Paul Armstrong and Erin Mussolum, were wanting to step down from their positions, and so they conducted an open search. The position of executive director was posted everywhere, all around town. I saw that, and I applied, then interviewed and got the job.


HNMAG: So you’ve had 2 years experience. Tell us about some previous experience you’ve had in this field.

Grace Chin: Yeah, this is my second year in this role. Prior to that, in terms of relevant experience, but I ran the VAFF for 5 years, and its annual short-filmmaking contest, MAMM for about 2-3 years prior. That would be the most directly relevant experience. I also presently do some administrative work with being general manager at Ruby Slippers Theatre. Back in the mid-2000s, I was also on the board of Vancouver Asian-Canadian Theatre. I guess if you think about it, I’ve been in administration for a little while. 


HNMAG: Given the high volume of submissions, how is it decided which films go to certain rounds?

Grace Chin: It’s a three-step selection process, so the first step is there’s a jury of 4-6 people that determines the quarter finalists. First pass when people submit to Crazy8s is they have to submit a up-to-three minute video pitch and also submit up to three script pages of the project they’re pitching. The video pitch jury will assess both the video pitch and the 3 script pages, then from there we’ll whittle down anywhere from over hundreds to 40. These 40 will go on to make a live pitch in front of a separate jury, so it’s a completely different set of people. They’re all drawn from professional fields in the industry, and that also includes our filmmaking community. This live pitch jury will assess the live pitches. Everyone is given 5 minutes to pitch live, and 5 minutes to answer questions. From there, the live pitch jury whittles it down to 12. The top 12 finalists will go on to a story development phase for about a month with professional story editors, by that I mean those who work in the business or used to work in the business and now teach. At the end of this process, they deliver a final script draft in early January, the live pitch jury will read, and from there partly based on what they think of these final scripts, they select the top 6 and it’s off to the races. 


It’s an interesting process for sure, as Joel Reimer and I were involved in a pitch of his own concept. He got an opportunity to work on one of these films (What Are You Supposed To Do With Your Hands?), but he’s planning to do his own film at Run N Gun instead after he didn’t get past Top 40 but that’s another article for another day. Ultimately, after the top 6 get selected, they shoot throughout March or mid-April, depending on how things are scheduled for the year. 


HNMAG: Do you ever wish you could accept more than just 6 submissions?

Grace Chin: Ah, yeah, I do. Part of it is what we can realistically sustain, while at the same time, maintaining the level of support we can give to the teams. Partly because it’s a bit of a funding thing, and partly because we do receive a lot of kind support from the industry and our community partners which we are hugely grateful for. We could NOT do this without them. It’s increasingly challenging every year. As you may know, there’s a lot of consolidation going on of what’s happening in the industry, and the industry has seen a lot of challenges as well, so we want to make sure we’re supporting the teams adequately because many of the teams come to us with highly aspirational and very ambitious projects. We’re not about saying no to anyone just because of that. It is very challenging, I will certainly tell you my goal is to see what we can try and do to not only maintain but increase any type of support we give to the teams. This year we tried to increase mentor support, I don’t know how often the teams have had a production design mentor but we didn’t have one this year. We’ve also increased support for our stills photographers because Crazy8s provides every team with a stills photographer and they get mentors from Fiji 669. We also have a dedicated producer workshop just for producers as well. We’re trying to increase that sort of level of support and we did increase the funding that the Crazy8s provides the teams. We used to provide them with $1000 per team which we hope will at least cover crafty, which is the #1 rule of Indie. If you can’t pay them, you have to feed them really well. This year, we were able to increase that number by $2000. The goal is to increase that and get it to 8 teams, but can’t promise anything. Definitely the goal is there.


HNMAG: What are you looking forward to most of all for this year’s Crazy8s?

Grace Chin: I’m really looking forward to everyone, and you could say it’s the same for every year: How audiences receive the films. I feel sometimes as a producer, you get very close to the process and after a while you’re not really sure your perception has been tainted by the fact that you’re so familiar with the films themselves so it’s always fresh and new when a completely new audience reacts to the stories on the 40ft screen there. That’s always the part I look forward the most and as a producer it’s one of the most rewarding things.


HNMAG: Tell me a little more about this year’s theme, being about Reach for the Stars.

Grace Chin: We felt that theme would be appropriate considering this is Crazy8s 25th year of existence. But also we try to relate the themes as closely as possible to the zeitgeist of the film in the top 6 that we have every year. Last year’s was a little more surreal horror so the theme of the gala was Through the Looking Glass so that mirrored a little bit of what was going on in the spirit of the content of a lot of the 2023 films. This year a lot of the films are highly personal about their aspirational struggles to overcome various personal challenges. So we thought, “Yeah, Reach for the Stars would be an appropriate theme”


HNMAG: How involved did you get into the productions?

Grace Chin: Last year as well as this year, I definitely go out to all the productions. That would usually be on the final day of filming, and part of the reason for this is because somebody needs to be in the office to wrangle things in case anything comes up. We do have a core production team consisting of a line producer (Nick Algebeldi) and 2 production managers (Cody Kearsley and James Mann) and they are going out to all the teams every shooting day. Our coordinator Lucas Zipran, he also goes out just to tour and we do have a vendor and equipment manager Eric Portinson, and a program coordinator, James Proctor. They also are going out to all of the teams every shoot day, and in case of the vendor guys, they are present during equipment pickup and drop-off.

Courtesy of Crazy8s Film Society OUR LONG GOODBYE – Aza Deschamps


Courtesy of Crazy8s Film Society TOE PICK – Jamie Poh

As the teams go through their final stretch on Sunday, Grace comes by one last time to cheer them on, because if there are any fires that need to be put out, she’s there to save any productions going through them. Usually things go smoothly. 


HNMAG: What is your biggest hope for all the members of each team?

Grace Chin: My biggest hope is they’ve learned something from this process. It’s a really tight timeline and I know that many of the people that arrive at Crazy8s arrive from any filmmaking program here can understand that it’s pretty tight. It’s about 6-7 weeks of pre-production, you shoot for 3 days, in post-production for 5, and then you screen so I think it’s a tremendous potential learning opportunity even for people who have made many short films. What makes it challenging is that we are really attempting to help these teams do things by the book while still maintaining the spirit of Indie. I also hope people really enjoy themselves, especially at the gala. There isn’t always an opportunity for a filmmaker to get an audience of 1700 people. That’s something we love to offer, and we hope that these films go on to more and more audiences as well. I’m happy to say that many of them do.


HNMAG: How do you manage to keep things going so smoothly?

Grace Chin: A big part of it for me is listening to the Crazy8s team. We do debriefs as a team, and individually at the end of every season. We do a  post-mortem, after putting the gala to bed as it were. We also do an anonymous survey of all the participants every year. A big part of it for me is listening to people that have worked with Crazy8s and been part of the program. Another big part of it is just being part of our community, and I say this because it is, and understanding what the community needs now and what it’s like now. Then trying to ensure it will fit with what the community is now and where they’re going, what they’re looking for and what they want to do with their art. You just need to have enough people, as a non-for-profit, I’m happy to say we do provide a lot of honorariums for everyone who works with us. But obviously the non-profit sector makes like 30-40% less than the corporate sector. We can’t always pay what people should be paid and that includes myself (laughs) then the answer is that everyone has enough support. We try to ensure that our own team has enough support. In the past, there wasn’t always as many positions in the core production team. Now we have a line producer and two PM’s. But it would be great if we could expand that even more in the future. 


HNMAG: When do the plans for next year start?

Grace Chin: In terms of just getting things ready for submissions and things like that, they start almost immediately. As you probably know, it’s easy to think the events done and you don’t have to worry about it for the summer. We have to file reports to our various funders, so we get to doing that and then we start budgeting for the next year and thinking in terms of venues like The Centre in Vancouver and Science World, they book up pretty fast. We actually need to think about things like key dates, budgeting, and fulfilling key roles for the coming season. That starts almost right away.


HNMAG: If you were to submit something to Crazy8s and you got the opportunity to make a short film, what would it be about?

Grace Chin: I think what I would do is something that was personal to me but something that would appeal to more than just me, if that makes sense. But sometimes I feel like what can I do that’s not just feeling relevant as me but to many more people. I’d probably do something about our indie community, it would be funny and not sure exactly what it would be about yet. But I want to write from a position of where I know, and this is what I know.

Courtesy of Crazy8s Film Society DTF? – Lila Ferradans


Courtesy of Crazy8s Film Society GONE ABROAD – Borja Moncunill


As long as they continue reporting and applying for more funding there will be more Great Crazy8s to come. Networking with the community is what they also do to establish partnerships while planning logistically. When it comes to planning logistically, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish. I recommend booking both tickets for a National Canadian Film Day Event (some of them are free which is an advantage) and a ticket for Crazy8s. You can get them here.

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