Getting To Know: Patrick Shen

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Patrick Shen made his feature directorial debut in 2005 with the critically acclaimed Flight from Death: The Quest for Immortality, which was hailed by critics as being “one of the most ambitious films ever made” (PBS 106.7 Australia). Patrick has traveled to India and Mozambique for AFS. Patrick’s latest project, In Pursuit of Silence, is a meditative film that explores our relationship with silence, sound, and the impact of noise on our lives. You can learn more about it here.

What’s your first memory of sitting in a movie theater?
I have a very vague memory of sitting in a theater watching E.T. and my eyes welling up with tears. I must have been 5 or 6 at the time.

What do you love most about being a filmmaker?
At the end of the day, filmmaking is a process of exploration for me. It is not so much a process of self-exploration, but more a process of self-alteration or discovery. When I find something of interest to make a film about it is often a direct reflection of who and where I am in my life at that moment. By the end of the process I’m inevitably a different person because I have given myself completely over to the process. For me, to encounter the world in such an intense, engaged, and focused manner is such a profound way to move through this life.

What do you like least about it?
Fundraising is in most cases the antithesis to what I love about filmmaking. It pulls you out of that focused engagement with the world. It takes an incredible amount of energy to identify sources of funding and then to convince those sources that what you are doing is worthy of their support. It involves a lot of paperwork and a lot of groveling.

What or who inspired you to be a filmmaker?
I can’t pin it down to just one person or experience but Jonathan Demme and his film Silence of the Lambs probably had a lot to do with it.

What is your favorite movie and why?
I have many favorites, which have earned that distinction for many reasons.

Karate Kid was one of the first films that I obsessed over as a kid. That film inspired me and a friend to start writing these stories that we’d then record ourselves reciting into a cassette recorder while another cassette player in the room played the musical score for each scene. It was an elaborate little set-up.

When I was about 16 I found myself obsessing over another film, Silence of the Lambs. I studied every nuance of that film and lived and breathed it for a solid 12 months. I ended up writing a screenplay inspired by that film. My friend and I bought suits and held a casting call where we auditioned all of these adult actors, got our hands on a video camera, and managed to shoot a few scenes over the course of a few weekends. The whole thing fell apart when our villain failed to show up on set due to being in jail.

If you weren’t a filmmaker, what would you be?
A writer maybe. Or a kindergarten teacher.

What has been your favorite project to work on?
My latest, In Pursuit of Silence, was the most rewarding artistic challenge of my career thus far. It stretched me and changed me in ways that I’ve only begun to understand.