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Conversations with Shaun Vivaris

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shaun Vivaris. 

Hi Shaun, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I started out the way a lot of my friends did, working whatever random positions would get me on a film set while doing my own projects on the side. I did that for a couple of years until I built up the confidence and the relationships, I needed to make my first feature. It’s a quirky, dark comedy called Lisa Mania that got picked up for distribution by Freestyle Digital Media and recently released. You can watch the trailer for it and see all the platforms it’s on here: https://linktr.ee/lisamaniafilm 

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Definitely not, and it still isn’t. Making a film of any length is such a herculean task with different variables that make it a unique experience each time, so it never really gets easier. I’ve definitely become a much more efficient storyteller over the years, whether in writing or how I manage a set. But with that experience comes an inevitable growth of creative taste and ambitions that are their own mountains to climb. I think just like in any field, if you aren’t learning new things or pushing yourself regularly, your creative sensibilities can stagnate and deteriorate very quickly. So, you need to make sure your most challenging film is always the one you’re about to do. 

Thanks – so, what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I’m primarily a narrative director and writer but I’ve worked on everything from music videos to commercials for various organizations. I also do editing and script consultation work. So, if you need a script doctor, hit me up. 

For my personal projects, someone once told me my films are “genre-arthouse,” which I take as a compliment, so I guess that can be considered my specialty. I’m definitely of the opinion that in any narrative medium—story, character, and artistic fingerprint are always king—but accessibility and entertainment value should never be too far behind. 

I’m really proud of Lisa Mania. Aside from being my first feature, it’s probably one of my more idiosyncratic films so I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of how it would be received or if it would find its audience. But we sold out our festival premiere at LAAPFF 2021 and ended up getting picked up for streaming by FDM, who loved the film. And since then, a pretty wide spectrum of audience members have dug it. So, despite all the ups and downs, the whole journey with this film and the scrappy team I made it with has been such an experience for me. 

But in taking my own advice, I’m even more excited for the two new projects I have in development right now. They’re both larger in scope and overall, more ambitious than any other narratives I’ve done to date, so I can’t wait to get those off the ground and into production. 

Do you have any advice for those looking to network or find a mentor?
I wish someone would give me advice because that’s something I’m still trying to get better at. I know what advice I’d give my younger self though: don’t be afraid to reach out—to people, organizations, etc. I used to be really self-conscious about that, but you’ll never know for sure what is and isn’t out of your reach unless you’ve tried. Also, attend as much of the festivals you get into as you can. While it’s nice having festival names /awards on your resume and credits, the real prizes are the cool people you meet and the relationships you forge along the way. Plus, it’s always inspiring to see all these different passion projects people come together to create, and maybe you’ll find new recruits to join your bowling team as well.

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Image Credits

Glen Vivaris
Mark Cruz
Minji Chang
Jason Walton
Steven Lam

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