Born and raised from Hong Kong, Branton Choi is a New York based producer. Experienced in producing in New York, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong, he currently specializes in independent short films and music videos. He founded his production company Chalice Films in February and have since gone on to produce half a dozen of projects under it.
Branton has a knack for producing culturally and politically relevant projects. From a hockey film about the opioid epidemic to a period piece set in 90s Chinatown to an Amour-esque film about dementia, Branton always values the heart and message of a given project over the size and scope of the production value.
While attending New York University, Branton Choi has gained vast experience and knowledge in funding independent shorts through various crowdfunding sites and grants. His deep understanding of finding appeal for culturally relevant projects usually gone under the radar has enabled him to successfully find funding for three short all over 10K in budget through Indiegogo and Zhongchou.
NY Elite Interview with Producer Branton Choi
NY Elite: What made you pursue film making?
Branton Choi: I remember wrapping on the first film I ever produced, from start to finish. A rush of satisfaction came to me. I honestly think no other line of work gives the same feeling of catharsis. From that moment on, I wanted to chase for this feeling of knowing all the hard work done was worth it when it’s finished. More importantly, the extraordinary people you get to meet, collaborate, and connect with are among the reasons I keep making movies. Having friends around in your life who share the same passions and work as hard as you do is truly a beautiful thing.
NY Elite: Do you have your own production company? Tell us about your creative vision.
Branton Choi: My production company Chalice Films was founded by myself this year in February. My goal for this company is to officialize my line of work while in New York and more importantly to pursue more opportunities through developing a brand. The name of my company comes from an ancient Chinese poem by Li Bai, containing themes of predestination for the work you do and comradery with work companions. I want my company to represent those values, which is why I asked my trusted working partners Charles Dong and Stefan Nachmann to be part of this journey to pursue our passion for filmmaking. In the coming months, I hope to transition into working on more commercials and music videos to work my way up on the ladder of the entertainment industry. And I fully trust my creative team to carry all our experiences to make our first feature within the next two years.
NY Elite: What do you consider your greatest achievement till date?
Branton Choi: Till this day, I consider my greatest achievement to be first producing effort in high school, where I produced a short about the injustices of woman’s rights in America and Afghanistan. It was an ambitious effort, since we had little to no financial support and managed to recreate Afghanistan in suburban Los Angeles. More importantly, I self-learned producing through this experience and understood a lot about communicating and collaborating with creative individuals. In the end, the film was accepted into National Youngarts Foundation as one of the finalist in the film category and accepted to many independent film festivals. We were not 100% happy with what we ended up shooting, but the experience taught me countless lessons that I could not have ever learned in a classroom.
NY Elite: Tell us about your latest project.
Branton Choi: My latest project is a music video, titled the Bidder, sponsored by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention. I am extremely excited to be part of a project that has a goal of delivering a relevant political and cultural message, which is to raise awareness about suicide prevention. Recently Hong Kong has experienced an increased number of suicides by teenagers and students, mainly due to the constant pressure placed on our young adults to achieve an idealistic self and future. The music video follows a typical teenager navigating the harsh realities of social and financial insecurity, visualized through a mixture of everyday hardship and the abstract world of depressed teenager. Executive produced by HSBC and Jockey Club, we brought in talents from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Berklee College of Music, and USC School of Cinematic Arts to bring this script to life.
NY Elite: What other projects have you worked on?
Branton Choi: One of my favourite projects this past year is a short film titled Last Days in Chinatown, based on the true story of a Chinese Sino-Vietnam War veteran who was tragically shot by the chef of a restaurant he was working in. This project is particularly exciting because we had the great pleasure of inviting the actual person, who survived six gunshots, to play himself in the film. This is a story about immigrants made for immigrants, which is why we were confident enough to crowd fund our entire budget on Chinese fundraising website Zhongchou. We raised 15K USD, giving us full creative control during production.
Another favourite project of mine is a New York University advanced thesis shot in Boston, Massachussets. It’s a hockey film about the opioid epidemic, backed by an insanely talented crew of graduated students, some of which took a week of work six months in advanced just to shoot this project. We spent a week in the cold winter in Boston, shooting on ice, involving many stunt work. It was an absolute blast and an unforgettable experience for sure.
NY Elite: What films have been the most inspiring or influential to you and why?
Branton Choi: A recent film that inspired me is La La Land which I deeply connected through the story of perseverance in the entertainment industry. There was so much effort put into every frame of this film that I was absolutely dazzled the first time I saw it a year ago. Since then, I have seen this film twelve times, simply adoring its melodic beauty. The reason La La Land warrants many repeated viewings for me is the last ten minutes, as I turn to it again and again to be dazzled all over again by it. I remember being glued to the seat of the cinema just completely floored by the sequence and wanting to go straight back in right when it ended. The success story of director Damien Chazelle is among the many reasons this film is so inspiring to me. Just thinking that this film is only his third feature makes me want to sit in a corner and weep.
NY Elite: What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?
Branton Choi: The most important quality for a film to be considered great for me is having genuine heart. Be it an empathetic protagonist or a heartfelt message, a film has to be genuine in order to be considered great for me. I am a sucker for a tradition three-action-structure film that has an underlying moral value at its heart, having the ability to change me in any shape or form. Moreover, the score of the film is also one of the qualities I look for in a great film, as I absolutely adore music that could transport me back to the feeling of seeing it the first time every time I listen to it. Scores that I could listen to over and over again without being sick of it is a plus for me. Films such as Cinema Paradiso and, of course, La La Land are among those films that have those attributes.
NY Elite: Which book would you love to make a film out of one day?
Branton Choi: Although not necessarily considered an official book rather than a collection of essays, This is Water by David Foster Wallace is one of those books I consider unadaptable. I remember reading it a few years ago, which changed my outlook on my existence and surroundings completely. Its themes are so emotionally affecting to me where I find it hard to properly adapt. I have made many attempts to write a short or a feature based on the themes of the book but have failed to bring the source material to justice. Hopefully, I could encounter a writer could do it, while I would be in the position of producing it.
NY Elite: Can you tell us about the greatest moment in your film career?
Branton Choi: After I launched the crowdfunding campaign for the short Last Days in Chinatown, I remember sitting at the director Charles’ apartment for hours on end witnessing the amount of support we got in real time. Our campaign reached over 60% of our goal and raised 10K USD within 8 hours. It was an emotional night, to say the least. There were also many words of encouragement by complete strangers who just so happened to stumble upon our campaign. They left comments along the lines of, “keep fighting for your dreams, support young filmmakers, and thank you for telling this story.” Charles and I were completely floored by the responses, which made us extra determined to make this film great no matter what.
NY Elite: Which particular film maker has influenced you the most?
Branton Choi: It may be a cliché to say, but Stanley Kubrick is still the most influential filmmaker to me. Understanding that I may never have his creative genius or his authority in the language of cinema, his unparalleled work ethic will always be the quality I strive to achieve, no matter what position I am in. Kubrick is so incredibly hard working and uncompromising outlook have motivated me to do my job well to the fullest extent.
NY Elite: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to have a life creating film?
Branton Choi: My advice would be to make an effort to surround yourself with the right people. Mking a living out of films is not something that can be achieved alone. I am very lucky to have very supportive parents that gave me the opportunity to surround myself with people who has similar values as I do.
NY Elite: NY Elite: Can you tell us more about your upcoming project(s)?
Branton Choi: My upcoming project after the music video is a short film funded by a grant by University of Southern California and ShanghaiTech University. The story follows a little girl faced with childhood trauma and the process of rehabilitation. It is slated to be directed by Charles Dong and shot by Stefan Nachmann, both associates of my production company. Shoot in Shenzhen, China, this is an exciting opportunity for me as it would mark my first time producing in China, as I would be able to familiarize myself with a system completely different from the US.