Saturday, October 11, 2014

2010 Demo Reel

Mu-Ming Tsai 2010 Demo Reel from Mu-Ming Tsai on Vimeo.

Demo Reel I edited for myself just recently. I really wanted to try to do something with a rapid editing style, playing with clip speed retiming, jump cuts and pacing.

The real challenge was how to present myself, and what clips to pick. I forced myself to edit to a 1:20 track, because I didn't want the reel to be to long, I wanted it quick and to the point. It felt really meaningful to put everything together because it was like a small retrospect of my work. Looking back at what I've learned and the talented people I've worked with there's still a long way to go. What I really want to try now is probably something along the lines of a thriller or Documentary. Stay tuned for more work!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Carwash: A 60 Second Documentary

Carwash- A 60 second Documentary from Mu-Ming Tsai on Vimeo.

And this is the documentary version of the car commercial which I turned in for a documentary class. I was debating about whether to put logos in since it was a documentary, but I figured it's personal so I left them in. It's interesting to put the same footage into two different contexts.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Honda Civic spec commercial

Honda Civic spec commercial from Mu-Ming Tsai on Vimeo.

A Spec Honda Civic commercial I did. Honestly, it was my love letter to Honda and my beloved Civic. A note from my classmates whom I screened the commercial too was that I was fetishizing the car, which I took as a compliment. I think maybe its from my love of industrial design that I really look at the details of my surrounding objects; which is good for making a commercial because it's all about making stuff look sexy and desirable. Although I love narrative filmmaking, I'd love to be a commercial director. I believe although it's really about selling the product, but at the same time how to put your personal soul into the beauty of piece.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Mu-Ming Tsai Self-Interview from Mu-Ming Tsai on Vimeo.

This was a video a did earlier for a production design class. The teacher was Michael Helmy was the production designer for the original Miami Vice and the hit series ER.

Acting has been something I've always been interested in, but not something I'd put efforts into pursuing. I guess some of us are simply more comfortable behind the camera? I wrote myself a little monologue about how I became a director, lit and shot it myself. The lighting setup was simply a DIY softbox made with cardboard boxes and a clamp light for the key, while bouncing the same light off a white foam core. A similar setup was used for the Cinepod commercial interviewing Iris as the camerahead, both which produced pretty satisfying results. The setup costs less than $20, and would work as a good setup for any interviews.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Thank you Actors!

I want to pay my greatest respect here to all of the hard working actors, especially those who dropped by and auditioned for "Plastic Revolver." I can only imagine how hard it is to make all the auditions, do the cold reading in front of all these strangers (oftentimes kids) and being rejected from time to time.

As I mentioned, last year I applied to 11 film Ph.D programs, none of those which took me. Not even a chance to meet the decision makers in person, it was really hard for me, considering the amount of money, time and hope invested in applying for all the schools. I had to wait half a year till I heard the negative responses.

That's why I'm completely wary when it comes to auditioning actors, because I believe that every single one of them spent a lot of time preparing and presenting their talents. The least I could do as a director is to treat them like human beings, let them feel respected and comfortable when it comes to the audition, and especially when they are rejected.

Casting actors is a very struggling process for me, just because I have to be the person to say no to so many great people. It's often times not about the acting ability or attitude, rather objective reasons like the chemistry between two actors or other reasons. A lot of times a certain person may not fit a particular role in this project, but would be the best choice for another character in another project.

As always, Plastic Revolver will not be my last project, the actors who have expressed enthusiasm and a positive attitude will definitely be the first to be considered in further projects among myself and my colleagues. Thank you and our paths will surely cross again in the future!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Casting for the thesis film "Plastic Revolver"

Hi, we are a crew of experienced and organized student filmmakers currently studying at the Academy of Art University seeking for talent. This thesis project will be directed by Cannes Young Lion award winning director Mu-Ming Tsai (, produced by feature producer Steve Everson ( and talented Russian cinematographer Vitalie Ungureanu (

Genre: Sci-fi, Dramedy TRT: 12min

Ben, a struggling writer who stays at home writing while his wife Joanne goes to work, suspects that his wife is having an affair. One day, news of the end of the world airs; at the same time, Joanne comes home and confesses to Ben about the affair. With no future ahead and no consequences, how will Ben react to the truth? “Plastic Revolver” explores how the apocalypse would impact middle class Americans in a surreal, dark comedic tone.

Compensation: food, credit , a copy of the film, possible festival exposure

Audition Time and location:

Thu. 9/9/10 7pm-10pm@ 79 New Montgomery, SF Rm.538
Fri. 9/10/10 12pm-3pm@ 79 New Montgomery, SF Rm.560

Available Roles (Any Ethnicity):
Ben: Male, visual age 30-40, stay at home househusband, failed writer; a bit neurotic. Has a sense of humor but can take on serious roles. Bald, slightly overweight are pluses, but not necessary.

Joanne: Female, visual age 30-40, a strong career woman. A mother to her husband but still a girl inside. Has comedic ability but is able to pull off a layered performance.

Both leads have wide emotional ranges, subtext and humor, which would be a great challenge for actors and great material for demonstration of the actor’s ability. The visual style will be very stylized but internal, if you are interested in films like “Requiem for a Dream,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” or work from Terry Gilliam (12 Monkeys, Fisher King) this is the role for you.

Shooting Dates:
9/17-9/20, we should be able to finish within two shooting days in 1-2 locations near downtown.

Please feel free to e-mail us your resumes/headshots/reels if interested or for any additional questions; however we strongly encourage you to meet with us in person during the auditions. Even if you do not get into this film you will definitely be considered or recommended to other filmmakers for other projects; we are eager to know and work with talented actors like you. Thank you!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Matter of Time

A Matter of Time from Mu-Ming Tsai on Vimeo.

A short film I directed for an editing class. The original assignment was to just come up with anything that's two minutes long and edit it, but I figured why not just shoot something myself and edit it? That thought quickly turned into "Why not work with a full-sized crew and shoot a short film?" Plus at the time I was itching to direct something, so I conceived and shot "A Matter of Time" in less than two weeks.

After doing "The Human Cave," I wanted to do something that "Took it's time." It was also relevant to the whole theme being the weight of time, I wanted the audience to physically feel the time that was happening on screen. I remember my editing teacher and classmates commenting that the pace was too slow, but after they saw the whole thing they understood the idea. In film school (Especially in the States?) it's always about "what happens next?" Honestly I was really insecure in the editing process, for fear that the audience would be bored, but turned out it was a good choice to stick with my intuitions. I mean, even if it is the wrong choice, I don't have producers and financiers looking over my head and making decisions for me, I'm proud of the outcome.

Technically, the most difficult thing was shooting by the beach. Ocean Beach, SF, especially during spring is just not the ideal place to shoot a film. I had Vitale, my very talented DP do a long Steadicam shot of people collecting packages in the water, but there was just too many issues so we had to cut it out. The extras were freezing, they wore too less, lens were fogging, the wind was so strong the softie hardly worked, I'm really grateful for even finishing the shoot and for the actor's and crew's hard work. Daniel, my editor and who served on the shoot as the script supervisor, told me as a friend: "Mu, don't shoot at the beach again, ok?"

At the very least, we got the money shot of the film, a.k.a "The Giant Clock." Jack Perez, my directing mentor who directed "The Big Empty," "La Cucaracha" and "Mega Shark V.S. Giant Octopus," (Yes, the trailer that was a YouTube sensation) showed us how he did a forced perspective shot in MSVGO. I thought that was super cool, and did a homage to that, and put it in a different context. We only had like 5 minutes to do two takes of that shot because my actor Author had to leave early, I was yelling to my actor, the wind was gushing... it's still a miracle we pulled it off. In this day and age of special effects and CGI, it feels great to physically see your creation happen in front of you!

All in all, it was a great experience, 1st time I tried to tackle a semi-fantasy film. I was satisfied with the outcome. Next on I will be shooting "Plastic Revolver," which is a super fast paced film. It's good to switch between paces and genres from time to time.

Makeup Artist Showreel for Civa Chen

Civa Chen - Makeup Artist from Mu-Ming Tsai on Vimeo.

My long time friend Civa who I've known for 15 years is currently a freelance makeup artist. Alvina, the still photographer in this shoot came up with the idea to do a promo reel for her. This was the first time I shot a short documentary promo; the idea was to incorporate still photography, make up and modeling in the shoot. Usually I do narrative shoots with designed lights, this time I wanted to challenge myself to run-and-gun shooting with minimal preplanning. Plus, I have zero knowledge in makeup and the process, so I had to capture moments that I thought were interesting as an audience, and edit it with voiceover so that it's concise and to the point. The results were satisfactory and Civa loved the final product. Another happy client!

Cannes Young Lion award winning short - WaterAid

WaterAid For Dennis from Mu-Ming Tsai on Vimeo.

Cannes Young Lion award winning short I directed. I remember getting a call from Sean the producer one Friday night about needing a director Saturday morning, between two days of my shoot on "A Matter of Time." I thought that since I was in the mood of shooting, I might as well shoot another short commercial in between. As the saying goes in the film business, "showing up is half the success," who would've known that this ad we did in 48hrs. got screened at Cannes?

Special thanks to Dennis, who was actually on the streets and let us interview him. Working with a creative team from Crispin Porter Bogusky, the idea was to give him a hotel room, let him shower and have "clean water" for a day; at first I had ethical concerns about the idea but after interviewing him and seeing how clean water made a big difference for him, I was moved. I think the best thing about filmmaking is when you learn or gain empathy about subjects you never would've understood or thought you could identify with. This was a memorable and rewarding experience for me.