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AAIFF 2012: Interview with Supercapitalist Producer Derek Ting

By Maria Esteves – August 3, 2012

 

Extraordinaire Derek Ting (DT) is an Asian American actor, producer, and writer who lives and work in Hong Kong. Ting is a native New Yorker who started his film career after experiencing the aftermath of 9/11. He is one to keep your eyes on in the circuit of independent films.

In 2003, Ting became president of the Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF) collaborative group. As president, he renamed the group to Asian American Film Lab and established the AAIFF 72 Hour Film Shootout. In 2005, Ting became producer of CNN in Hong Kong.

Ting’s first financial thriller SUPERCAPITALIST premiered at the 35th Asian American International Film Festival and opens in the U.S. on Friday, August 10, 2012. Ting will be present for Q&A session on Friday, August 10, and Saturday, August 11 (after 9:50pm screening) at the Village East Cinema, New York. I had the honor of interviewing Derek Ting during the 35th AAIFF on Tuesday, July 31, 2012.

ME: What inspired you to write, produce, and star in SUPERCAPITALIST?

DT: First and foremost, I’m an actor. I was an industry professional who evaluated the market. I made the transition during the aftermath of 9/11. I experienced it and realized that life is too short not to pursue my dreams in filmmaking.

In 2003, I learned filmmaking and did several short films. In 2005, I moved to Hong Kong and became producer of CNN. It was great, however, I still felt the need to make a film. Therefore, I left CNN and began doing freelance roles and writing movie treatments.

The booming Chinese economy and the influx of people migrating to Hong Kong were mostly bankers with interesting lives. Some of them became my friends. While writing movie treatments and reminiscing about past finance movies such as Wall Street in 1987, and Boiler Room in 2000, the idea of writing a movie script about the financial market in Asia sounded cool. I wrote the movie treatment one year before the global financial crisis and decided to produce it. I had no idea financial scandals would occur, from the hedge fund side to the big tycoons, such as Sun Hung Kai, one of the largest family conglomerates in Asia. The company had a huge brother scandal. It’s something I wrote about that came to fruition.

As producer, I made the movie on an Indie Budget. I had a vision for the script that was unique since I lived in New York and Hong Kong. The story was well researched. The lead role was an Asian male who spoke English. Many people auditioned for the part but the cost was exuberant and raising the money from investors was unrealistic. Therefore, being an actor and wearing the hat of a producer, it made sense financially and logically to play the lead role.

ME: Briefly describe the film.

DT: The film is about a maverick hedge fund trader from New York who is sent to Hong Kung to orchestrate a deal because a lot of what happens in the U.S. market affects Asia. He’s a whiz kid who makes a prediction about the market that nobody else does. However, he needs to learn how to maneuver in a different financial world. It is capitalism but under a different rule set. The film is so relevant and topical. This really happened at Goldman Sachs. A guy forecasted a bubble to short the market and made a ton of money.

ME: How long did it take to make the film?

DT: It took about six years. One year for the script, two years to raise funds and complete cast and crew auditions. We shot six days in New York, twenty days in Hong Kong, two days in Macau. It took one year to complete post-production.

ME: How did you come up with the film title Supercapitalist?

DT: I read a New York magazine article and it mentioned supercapitalist was an industry term about New York hedge fund traders who do what my character does. It was perfect.

ME: Any relation between the definition supercapitalism and the film title?

DT: There is no direct co-relation. It goes back to the industry term what hedge fund traders call themselves. Robert Reich wrote a book called Supercapitalism and Beyond Outrage. Actually, I read his book after making the movie.

ME: Is Fei & Chang Enterprise a fictitious company in Hong Kong?

DT: It’s not a real company and definitely not listed in the stock exchange. I had fun with the movie. Fei & Chang is based on Hong Kong conglomerates. However, a friend told me he is currently building a social media system in supply chain management for a company. Again, it’s something I wrote about that came to fruition.

ME: What has been the audience reaction at the 35th Asian American International Film Festival world premiere?

DT: The world premiere was well received at the festival. It was a sold out screening. The audience laughed at the right spots. During Q&A session, the audience asked, “How did you write that?” “Were you in finance?” “I have friends that are like Conner. They would really appreciate this film.”

ME: What was the budget for the film?

DT: Normally, Indie films are shot in one country for two to three million dollars. We made the film under $500,000 U.S. dollars and shot in three different countries.

ME: Where will it screen next?

DT: We have a day-and-date theatrical release across ten cities in the U.S. (NY, DC, SF, LA, FL, Boston, San Diego, Philadelphia, Palo Alto, UCLA Berkley) on Friday, August 10, 2012. In New York, SUPERCAPITALIST is playing at the Village East Cinema. It’s also available on cable VOD and iTunes.

ME: Where and what year were you born?

DT: I was born in New York, in 1976, during the Year of the Dragon.

ME: Where and what did you studied?

DT: I am a graduate in Statistics from Cornell University, New York.

ME: At what point in your life you became interested in the film industry?

DT: In Cornell, I took an acting class and joined The Asian American Playhouse theater group. The experience was simply amazing!

ME: What was your involvement with the Asian American International Film Festival 72 Hour Film Shootout?

DT: That’s how I got involved in filmmaking. In 2003, there was a collaborative group at AAIFF and one of the presidents was leaving. He literally said, “If nobody takes over, the group will die!” I was an actor who began attending. Then the group looked at me and said, “Who can we get to do this?” I said, “Why are you looking at me? I’m an actor.” I immediately thought about it and decided to take over.

As president, I renamed the group to Asian American Filmlab (AAFilmlab.com). My friend Donna Sefora suggested the idea of the 72 Hour Film Shootout. She wrote the treatment and I produced the first and second year with ImaginAsian TV and MTV World Stage in conjunction with Asia Cinevision physical sponsor Risa Morimoto. In 72 hours, you write, edit, shoot, and produce a short film. We used the same formula for SUPERCAPITALIST. We had 30 days to shoot a full feature film. Our movie is approximately 100 minutes.

ME: What goals have you yet to accomplish?

DT: To continue to make films, to be successful at the box office, and on VOD.

Thank you, Derek.

For more information, visit: http://derekting.com.

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