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SBIFF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts and education organization dedicated to making a positive impact utilizing the power of film. SBIFF is a year-round organization that is best known for its main film festival that takes place each year in February. Over the past 30 years the Santa Barbara International Film Festival has become one of the leading film festivals in the United States – attracting 90,000 attendees and offering 11days of 200+ films, tributes and symposiums. We bring the best of independent and international cinema to Santa Barbara, and we continue to expand our year-round operation to include a wide range of educational programming, fulfilling our mission to engage, enrich and inspire our community through film.

In June 2016, SBIFF entered a new era with the acquisition of the historic and beloved Riviera Theatre. The theatre is SBIFF’s new home and is the catalyst for our program expansion. This marks the first time that Santa Barbara has had a 24/7 community center focused on the art of film and is an incredible opportunity to expand our mission of educational outreach. Particularly important to SBIFF is making available high quality learning opportunities for underserved and vulnerable populations. Our programs and reach are more robust than ever before.


Interview with Clifford Miu for 'Bargain' (2017) at SBIFF

Interview with Clifford Miu for 'Bargain' (2017) Interview with Clifford Miu for 'Bargain' (2017)

Director/writer/producer Clifford Miu's short film 'Bargain' (2017) is a bone-chilling paranormal thriller about a young Chinese woman Li who moves to NY to live chic Manhattan style with a birdseye view of the city; but just when she thinks she's living the dream, she realizes she has stepped into someone else's nightmare. The film is a paranormal excalmation point that leaves you wanting more, much more. 'Bargain' screened at the 2018 Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

I interviewed Clifford after the festival. Here is what he had to say:


What inspired you to write this? Was it a real event?

CLIFFORD: I first started working on this film when my friend Ozzie (also one of my associate producers) told me that he was going back to Asia for summer vacation and his lovely New York apartment was going to be completely vacant. I knew I was going to make a film there, and it was around that time that I saw a blog post about a woman who bought a house in West Village New York only to realize that the house was previously the site of a homicide. It got me thinking about how I would react in that situation or how my relatives (who can be quite superstitious) would react. That's when I decided to come up with a Chinese student as a protagonist and explore how this particular student might handle this somewhat unusual situation.


Why do you think paranormal films speak so deeply to our unconscious?

CLIFFORD: I think paranormal films speak so deeply to our subconscious mind because we all have our fears. Everyone has different fears and that's why different paranormal films speak to different people. Personally, I always found that some of the creepier and more affecting paranormal films are the ones that we could relate to, ones that we can imagine ourselves as the protagonist. In other words, I think if paranormal films can communicate to the audience a real sense of fear or a situation where we would fear for the protagonist because we feel like the situation could really happen, that's usually the most impactful. 


The production value was fantastic. Was it hard to make?

CLIFFORD: The apartment itself comes with a view of Time Square and a pretty large scale living room and bedroom (for New York standards at least), so that part of the production value was there early on which made things relatively easy as a producer. However, the apartment was also quite empty, so the production designer and I did have to dress the entire apartment up in a way that would come off as the apartment of a Chinese girl who just moved in not too long ago. That part of the film took quite a bit of time during pre-production, and as with any film we did encounter some unfortunate issues (i.e. our camera crew getting the flu, our hours cut short by constraints, etc) but generally speaking the film was always designed to be a relatively not-too-complicated one day shoot and it did mostly happen that way. I must also thank Patrick Wang (the producer of the short "A Test" which played at Sundance last year) who took a lot off my place as an AD and associate producer and also another one of my associate producers Brenden Hubbard (a producer on the Oscar-winning short "Curfew") who was a great assistance to me during post-production.


How did you find your lead actress?

CLIFFORD: I had met my lead actress a few times here and there at gatherings with Asian American filmmakers, but it was when I saw her in a short film called "Joy Joy Nails" at the Tribeca Film Festival last year that I really knew she could carry a picture on her own and that she'd be perfect for the role. 


Can you tell us what she sees at the end?

CLIFFORD: The ending is open to interpretation. I will say, however, that we had shot a version where she turns around at the end and the spirit is gone, and we also shot a version where the spirit is still there and actually moved a step closer. In the end, I just felt it's important for the audience to decide on their own whether or not the "bargain" worked (as in the spirit actually left) since this has to do with the audience's personal beliefs and interpretation, so I opted for what's essentially an open ending.


Will you use this film to make it into a feature?

CLIFFORD: Honestly, when I first wrote and directed the film, I didn't really think about how the story would be extended to a feature and was just trying to tell a short story that stands on it own. However, I'm happy that people have reacted positively to the idea of the film being extended into a feature, and I'm certainly open to the possibility.


How have audiences reacted to the film?

CIFFORD: The audience have reacted extremely positively and have expressed to me their love for the film, which I find extremely flattering. I'm happy that the audience were creeped out by it and even connected to it on a personal level (the audience including a few Asian Americans have told us how much they connected to some of the themes presented). 


What will you be working on next?

CLIFFORD: My buddy and business partner Linhan and I try to rotate our duties, so with Bargain I wrote and directed while he produced it with me, and then he wrote and directed a film called 'Dinner with Stranger' that's going to festivals soon, which I produced. We recently produced a short together, a documentary called 'Death Metal Grandma' that's going to SXSW, and we're working on a new short that I'm writing and directing which Linhan will produce. 


You both live in different countries but produce together. Does that get difficult?

CLIFFORD: I think the long distance does get difficult as with any relationship (including a producing relationship) since we do have to actively make an effort to coordinate our schedules and various timing so that we can make sure we're always on the same page. But otherwise, besides these obvious obstacles that comes with being in different countries, our relationship of working together has been as smooth and enjoyable as it's been when we were both in New York. No matter the distance, it has always been the greatest time working with Linhan on making and producing shorts (including 'Bargain', 'Dinner with Stranger', 'Death Metal Grandma', and few more shorts coming up) that we feel a strong passion for at our company Bering Pictures Inc., and I do believe we will continue to work together for a very long time. 


You recently attended SBIFF. How was that experience?

CLIFFORD: I actually had a short film called 'Porcupine' that also played at SBIFF last year so I already had a great impression of the festival, but it was definitely a wonderful experience to come to the festival again. I think the programmers have wonderful taste and a real passion in curating many great shorts that I'm humbled to be in the company of, and I also love that the audience really show up to watch short films and take the time to interact with the filmmakers and let them know how much they enjoyed it (which doesn't always happen at festivals).

Interview with Clifford Miu for 'Bargain' (2017)

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Interview by Vanessa McMahon

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