The Night Tram - An Interview with Jason Wen

Please tell us about your background. What made you fall in love with cinema? How did you become interested in filmmaking and what did you work on before making The Night Tram?

I’m originally born in the USA, where I was raised in the suburbs surrounding Dallas. In 2001, I completed a short computer animated film, f8, which received quite a lot of recognition. At the time, there were very few independent computer animation filmmakers producing their own work. It was just at the right time when computers and software had become affordable and powerful enough for an individual artist to pull it off.

I used to want to be an animation filmmaker, but I got burnt out with animation after making f8 which took over 3 years, working full-time to complete. I ended up gravitating to photography, as it forced me to go outside and it’s feedback is much more immediate.

After f8, I found work as a visual effects artist, mostly on feature films in London. I began as an animator on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Eventually, I got into previsualisation (a kind of computer animated storyboard), which I enjoyed immensely, as I found it more creative than feature film animation. In previs, there is the opportunity to interact with the director and other department heads to help them develop what are typically rather complicated action scenes.

I decided to go back to film school for a year. So in 2019 we moved to Prague, temporarily, so I could attend Prague Film School, where I made two short films, Amanita and The Night Tram.

I became interested in films, in large part through my brother, who would take me along to the cinema in the 80’s and early 90’s. My mom used to own a shop in the mall and I remember somehow going into the cinema by myself and seeing Pink Floyd’s The Wall. I must have only been 6 at the time and I actually haven't seen the film since. But, it’s amazing how I can still recall a bit of the film. I guess this time was nearing the end of an era when films were really treated as a special form of entertainment, before the internet and digital television took off.

I’ve always been creative and filmmaking for me is the perfect creative outlet. I like interpreting a story the way I would imagine the world in the film and sharing my vision. I really enjoy the whole process of filmmaking. I like getting all excited about a story and then immersing myself in all the nitty gritty details in order to make a film a reality. There is also the social aspect which comes from the interactions with all the talented people. I also love the geeky tech side of filmmaking. With filmmaking, I’m allowed to completely engage myself. It’s the complete opposite of boring.

Which filmmakers influenced you and your filmmaking? Which films have affected you the most?

Kubrick’s a pretty easy choice for me. The director most directors respect, which is very well deserved.

I only started watching Kubrick’s complete works when I was a college student, and it was a huge eye-opener for me. Especially, A Clockwork Orange. His films have such strong and raw visuals and incredible psychology. As a small child, I very much remember seeing sections of 2001: A Space Odyssey when it was broadcast on TV. Though I was too young to really understand the film much, I didn’t hate it. Its visuals and music certainly left me with a strong impression. It’s such a gigantic leap that a filmmaker could imagine and create a film experience like that.

Some films I am particularly fond of are Mulholland Drive, Grave of the Fireflies, Days of Heaven, Rushmore, Alien, Blade Runner, There Will be Blood, Citizen Kane, Sunset Boulevard