By Katie Chambers
Let’s give a warm NYWIFT welcome to Kayla Sun! Kayla is a LA-based trilingual Asian filmmaker. She earned her B.A. degree for Studio Art and Economics at Vanderbilt University and subsequently worked in the art world before diving into the film world. She earned her M.F.A. for Film and Television Production at University of Southern California, as a Jeffrey Jones Scholar in writing, and is a recipient of the 2020 Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Production Grant for her film The Code of Family (2022). The film also received a NYWIFT Award for Excellence in Short Narrative Directing at last year’s UrbanWorld Film Festival.
Kayla’s short films have screened at award-winning film festivals and in gallery exhibitions. She currently focuses on TV writing, exploring how to write social topics in light-hearted dramedy. Her most recent drama Teleplay Choose Your Parents was a finalist in the 2022 Austin Film Festival.
Kayla spoke to us about her inspirations, love of learning, and why people of all ages should be encouraged to embrace technology.
Tell us about yourself – give us your elevator pitch!
Hi! My name is Kayla and I am a trilingual Asian filmmaker (English, Chinese, Japanese). I love storytelling and I write a lot, focusing on female centered stories with unique perspectives.
Congratulations on winning the NYWIFT Award for Excellence in Short Narrative Directing at the 2022 UrbanWorld Film Festival! What did inclusion in UrbanWorld mean to you?
Thank you! I believe inclusion means that no one is judged based on their appearances and everyone has an equal opportunity. I am very happy to see the film world becoming more and more inclusive.
What inspired you to make your award-winning film, The Code of Family?
Growing up in China, I’ve witnessed multiple families pressuring and dissuading the elderly from using new technology. I had to fight my own parents in 2014 to convince them to buy a smartphone for my grandma. Flip phones, or “old people phones” as we call them, are the only thing recommended for them. Thus, many never used smartphones or computers. But I feel very strongly that we are depriving the elder generation of a major resource that could be improving their lives as much as it has improved ours.
I was inspired by the story of Masako Wakamiya, a renowned 84-year-old app designer who had never touched a computer until she was 60. As an Asian filmmaker myself, the story formed in my head instantaneously. I needed to show this journey of how an Asian grandma could become a computer scientist. I want to show the emotions behind everything she represents: how the elderly feel left out as the rest of the population moves on.
In 20 years, everyone alive will be those who have known technology all their lives. The people who grew old without such tools, who have been discriminated against when they tried to learn, will have passed on, and the issue will die out with them. As a filmmaker, the least I can do is to tell their perspective now.
What do you hope audiences will take away from seeing the film?
I want audiences to know that age doesn’t stand in the way of learning. And hopefully everyone can spend a little more time with their parents or grandparents and help the elderly with modern technology.
What kind of projects excite you as a creative?
I am attracted to unique characters and unique situations. It might be true that “every story has already been told,” but there is always a new perspective to the same story. Female centered or Asian centered stories also excite me more.
I also saw your visual art on your website – wow! Tell us about your tiny sculptures!
Thank you! I studied studio art, so I can draw, paint, and make sculptures. It was my thesis project in undergrad at Vanderbilt. I made 300 little women soldiers in traditional Chinese clothing. I started making similar things when I was around 10 and kept doing different kinds of mini sculptures. I don’t really know why. I just love them.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Never stop learning!
And what is next for you?
I am developing a feature, an Asian love story.
Connect with Kayla Sun on Instagram at @sun_kayla and on her website www.kayla-sun.com.
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