Dinh Thai Interview - Transcript

Masami Moriya: [00:00:00] Well, then, you know, just thank you so much for joining us on the strong Asian lead podcast. I’m so excited to speak with you. We haven’t had, like, we can just say we didn’t have this. one-on-one yet. So it’s going to be great to just hear about you or about your life, you know, what you’re working on and you know, how have your, how has your career just developed over time?

because I’ve been looking at your resume, it’s just incredibly, just dense and just so vibrant. So I’m, I had a great time, looking at your work today and just having a really good laugh. So there’s a lot, a lot of fun. So, let’s start off again. You please introduce yourself. tell us a little about your, a little bit about your bio and, where are you calling in from.

Dinh Thai: Cool man. David. Good to see you. Thanks for having me. It’s been a long time coming. I don’t think we’ve had a one-on-one before, so it’s good to see your face. It’s good to talk to you. my name is Dan Tai. I’m a writer director I’m based in LA and, like telling subversive stuff.

Masami Moriya: So it’s submissive stories.

Dinh Thai: Subversive.

Masami Moriya: First. I was like, wait. [00:01:00] Yeah, I didn’t, didn’t register. and where are you calling in from today? You all the way around the country. A lot of times. So where

Dinh Thai: Yeah. I live in Los Angeles. I’ve grown up here. here in 1980 Vietnam, a little stint in France when I was a kid. And, and I’ve been here ever since,

Masami Moriya: man? So, you’re you’re we went all the way around. I’ve seen you’re you’re always working on different stuff right now, but what is, what’s a normal day, like for den? What are you, what are you, what are you up to.

Dinh Thai: you know, I’m pretty laid back. I don’t do a lot of, activities at the moment. I used to be very active, but now it’s really just a lot of procrastinating, some writing and some meetings. I’ve what I’ve learned about this industry is, you know, staying in touch with people. It’s pretty important. And so I’m lucky to have, you know, meeting set up, watch some shows, study some shows, meet the executives and the writers on the shows [00:02:00] and, you know, potentially develop a relationship so that we can work together.


Masami Moriya: That’s yeah, I think there’s, there’s those ebbs and waves of how being, how busy you are and then being at home, doing stuff on your own. Like no one is seeing that you’re just, you know, Googling and watching stuff on your computers and stuff. When you’re watching TV shows and doing these studying, what do you, what are you studying?

Are you studying the directions? The people just,how it was made, where did.

Dinh Thai: it’s a little bit of everything, you know, my mind sort of drifts in and out of happening with the story what’s happening with the camera and how the cameras facil facilitating, facilitating the story, who. writing showrunning, who’s editing who the cinematographer is, excuse me, who the cinematographer is.

So it’s a little bit of just knowing and getting familiar with the creators and the creatives behind the show, [00:03:00] as opposed to like, when I watched this is a good example, I recently finished watching squid game and most of it was just enjoyment, which is a rare occurrence for, for me to just enjoy the story, watch the story, be involved with the characters, something that, that I encounter a lot with American TV or Western TV, is that I’m so more focused on the actual craft and the skill that goes into making it as opposed to really being, the sh the, the characters and with the story and, and with what’s happening in the series.

So I had a good time watching squid game, other shows in comparison, other Western shows, it’s more of a study. It’s like, you know, who’s making it. Who, who, what have they done in the past and how, what are they doing now and how are they doing it?

Masami Moriya: Yeah. I, I feel like I [00:04:00] that’s a good, distinction, like when you’re, when you have to switch that brain to enjoy, I feel like it’s filmmakers were like, I’m going for the extra mile to figure out how they did it. Instead of just like watching this entertainment as an audience member would, what have you found in that difference?

you know, as it becoming an audience member in this one thing, whereas normally your brain is switched. So it was something that you very distinctly enjoyed about being young.

Dinh Thai: Yeah. I feel like a kid. You know, I’m living reliving those inspirational moments, watching TV, watching film that, inspired me to want to tell stories, you know, when I’m, when I’m studying something, it’s, it’s hard to find enjoyment because I’m not lost. Right? I I’m, I’m sort of neglecting the magic that’s happening between the screen and my heart, but shows that are so interesting, like squid game, it’s hard to analyze it [00:05:00] because there’s so many interesting things that are happening beyond what I understand a filmmaking and squid game, as a great example, is intricate in the way it tells it stories.

It’s so specific. There are so many, there are so many details that you miss because you’re, so was so lost in the character.

Masami Moriya: Yeah. Layered. And you think even stuff, they didn’t point out like, you know, in the background they have the photos of what the games are and we didn’t notice until later it’s like, okay, can we start to see? And then they don’t even mention it,

Dinh Thai: yep.

Masami Moriya: think is cool.

Dinh Thai: Yeah. very slick, very slick.

Masami Moriya: Yeah. So well done. Who and or what were some of your inspirations growing up?

Dinh Thai: Well, I grew up in, you know, in the eighties watching film and TV, and there are a handful of things that stick with me. different strokes is a TV show that I loved. And I learned about comedy [00:06:00] in that sitcom. I think it’s called different strokes, not, different strokes. And, and then I also am very fond of the character Arthur Fonds rally from happy days.

is a very. Honorable guy who comes from a very rough pass. And I, and I always found that really fascinating to be on the edge of the law, but yet still have a very strong moral compass. I used to love watching Miami vice, which is a Michael Mann show. And, you know, you go back, watch it, in, in today’s times.

Dinh Thai: And you’re just like, of it is so corny, but there was just something really exciting about the way those stories were interpreted at that time. and then when I was a little bit older, you know, we used to smoke a lot of my friends and I used to smoke a lot of weed. We’d chill and watch handful of movies over and over again.

One of them was Goodfellas, obviously heat, which is another Michael Mann creation. Yeah, those [00:07:00] films lead with a lot of testosterone, but there’s a lot of interesting nuances and character development inside of those films. And those two films are very subversive, right? And he it’s about two sides of the law commonality, which is really tough because an audience member, we’ve been told to root for one side, but he doesn’t do that.

It versus that, programming. And root for both sides of the law, which is a fascinating journey for an audience member. And in Goodfellas, you’re just rooting for the bad guys the whole time, you know, and you know, and so this theme that keeps popping up?

in the things that I’m interested in.

One of the themes is that what is, what is the law and what is a country due to its citizens and how do they program us to believe what’s right. And what’s. Right. And in its simplest form, you know, someone [00:08:00] is to paint a curb red, and that tells you that you can’t park there. How, crazy is that?

Right? And then you elevate that to every aspect of our lives. And you start to think about, well, what is really right and what is really wrong. And what I’ve learned in the past few years is that everything is kind of right. Everything is kind of wrong. And we have to sort of tell stories. I like telling stories from that perspective to try to, layer in these other aspects of experience for an audience.

yeah, that’s like, I’m saying societal mirror within the film and television, I think that’s something we can learn. You know, what, what does the would do, where does it morally gray characters that we enjoy in Washington? It’s so,

Dinh Thai: For sure. Who do I got a question for you, David? W w when you you’ve seen star [00:09:00] wars, right? The original three, you know, when, you’re young and you saw star wars compared to when you got a little bit older and you look at the Darth Vader character, is there a difference in the way you perceived that character when you were young versus as a conscious adult?

Masami Moriya: Hmm. Well, yeah, I think I not,

Dinh Thai: more? I think you would see more of the character as an adult and understand more.

Masami Moriya: well, I think my perception is a little skewed mainly because I also grew up with the. So like having watched the first original trilogy, like it was like, okay, Darth Vader and then S empire strikes back. They still kind of the bad guys, like, I’m your father been in this thing? And then I understood a little bit on the return of the Jedi when he kind of redeemed himself, but because I also grew up, I grew up in the nineties as a young kid in Europe, 1 19 93.

I was also just so [00:10:00] very ingrained with Andy and Skywalker’s story that I, you know, we start to see, okay, this is how he grew up and you have to see his full arc. And so, yeah, as I look at it now, like you re I start to really see, his, his redemption Arpin. Yeah. There’s this other layer of it. And that he’s not just the bad guy.

And I think most, I think as we hear in a good storytelling, like the evil villains, aren’t evil villains in their own. Because in themselves, they are the, they’re the ones saving the world.

Dinh Thai: yeah. They’re the heroes.

Masami Moriya: I want to, yeah, I’m going to make more property on California, more beach, front property, like, oh yeah.

But you just like, no, you’re ruining lives for that. It’s like, yeah. Yeah. You’d have to see, layers of character that aren’t just archetypes. I think that’s really important.

Dinh Thai: yeah.

Masami Moriya: You know, what are you seeing that you see that same difference or what, what’s your perception?

Dinh Thai: I didn’t like Darth Vader as a kid, but as adult, I love that he represents. [00:11:00] And, and it’s because he’s so so he’s such a bad-ass right. And he’s got all these great powers, but he’s all, he was also somebody else before that. And that’s what we don’t realize. That’s what I didn’t realize as a kid, you know, we’re presenting these stories and they are exactly what you see on the screen.

But as, as I got older, I got to a chance to really explore what a person is. You know, who we are, who other people are, who strangers are, who our good friends are. And you get to really understand that. There’s just more to what you see. And if we can, as storytellers, try to emulate some of that, thoughtfulness in.

It just makes storytelling so much more interesting. when you look at squid game, it’s all about the both sides of a character, right?

Masami Moriya: Yeah, you have to see you wonder, I want to root for that guy, but he’s cause he’s smart.[00:12:00]

Dinh Thai: all bad, they’re all good. You know, and, and even, even the villains in game have two sides to their moral compass. They’re not just one dimensional and that’s what makes it so fascinating for me.

Masami Moriya: Thanks. I’d like to take it back a little bit and to, ask about, you know, where you grew up, you grew up in Vietnam. When did you move? You know, you had a little in, in France, you know, what was that like? And then moving to LA you mostly grew up there in LA. So what was that kind of journey like where

Dinh Thai: sure. thank you for asking that. my FA my family and I were all born in Vietnam. I was born in. At the fall of, a year after the, sorry, I was born a year before the fall of Saigon. And so I was just, you know, a little baby and I was in my mom’s arms when we fled the country. And when we found refuge in France, we, that was like a pit stop for us because the, my debt, my [00:13:00] family’s dream was to chase the American dream.

And so after about five years in VA, in France, we were sponsored to America by my uncle and in France, it was very blissful for me because I didn’t understand the struggle of what it was to, for my family to get there. and I don’t recall any really terrible times or personal traumas or most emotional traumas or family traumas in France.

and when we get finally got to America, I could see some of the stress and the pressure starting to pile up on my parents. And, and it started to become a difficult family life. and I don’t want to, you know, throw anyone of my family members under the bus, but, you know, we struggled with each other quite a bit and that.

Dinh Thai: struggle is still active today.

what I’ve learned about that experience is that [00:14:00] just because, you know, we as enemies, refugees fled and are alive and are thriving in another country, it doesn’t mean that those ghosts from that trauma doesn’t still haunt us. And that was probably one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned about myself and my family, and have that empathy for other immigrants and other people of war torn countries who, you know, to another country seeking refuge.

I just have a better. I’m just more compassionate about those growing up in LA, it was really interesting because I Al there was a point in time when I would think that it was predominantly traditionalist, you know? but when I look back at the photographs, w all these kids of color, and I didn’t understand why that happened.

And then what I realized was that the institutions were traditional, the commerce, the fire department, the [00:15:00] police department, the education system, were traditional, but a group of kids were in our, and these families were all international. and so that was a pretty profound realization. And my best friend in elementary school is, Hispanic, Mexican, and I, and I’m so thankful for that.

I got to learn so much about their culture, right. All of my other friends were of color. And, know, as a kid unit, I didn’t realize how important that was and I would never change any of that because that informs how I tell stories, how I feel about the world, how, who I associate with, who I get along with and, you know, and this is going to sound kind of egotistic, but it, it gives me a really interesting gauge for being a critic and a judge.

and I use that in storytelling, especially as a director, you know, you’re constantly judging what’s in front of you and hoping to have [00:16:00] notes and make adjustments to the performances. And so, you know, my, my upbringing sort of informs that

Masami Moriya: Yeah. That’s yeah. Thank you for sharing that story. It’s a lot, it’s a lot to handle, being so young and seeing your family go through all that. That’s it’s a rough. But when you, you know, going into like a multicultural community and being in LA and those spaces, and it gives that a very different perspective and a lot of people being, immigrants or children of immigrants, you see, I think that’s a different perspective than a lot of people, because I didn’t grow up like that at all.

A couple of friends, but I’m not a child of immigrants. And so, a lot of different empathy on different perspectives of what people have to go through knowing their traumas are similar. yeah.

Dinh Thai: yeah. And that’s, and I feel like that’s why, our, initiatives, our creative initiatives that are [00:17:00] happening right now for trying to get people of color into the industry is so important because you know, we’re really just, we’re not saying that we want. To work and you need to hire us. We’re also quietly saying, you know, there’s a way that you can understand us.

And, we want to be able to be in the space share the room with people so that we can quietly and gently educate others about how important everyone else’s stories are. There’s a journey that, that a lot of people go through to get to America. And it either happened in this generation or past generation or forgotten generation 5, 6, 10 generations ago.

But everyone predominantly, for the most part, everyone in America struggled to get here. And some of us have forgotten that. And we’ve been living in a world where it’s very sheltered. It’s very privileged. And we don’t, we lack the [00:18:00] empathy to, you know, say, Hey, you’re my brother. You’re my sister. you.

know, because just because we looked different from me,

Masami Moriya: Yeah. Yeah, I think it’s, well I think film, television and storytelling in general, it gives us that perspective in someone else’s life to see how similar and, and how different, but also the stories are really incredible grow wound, journeys of resilience, struggle. Passion and say, you know, safety, you know, caring for one’s family.

So a lot, a lot to handle and, and very, very much, layered.

Dinh Thai: Yeah.

Masami Moriya: So I really, I think that’s, to think about those things. yeah. Yeah. Thank you. I know it’s, I’d love to learn more about your, your filmmaker journey. So when did, when did that start? When did that become, you know, when you first pick up a camera or pick up the pen to start making.

so, you know, post high school, I was heartbroken. I was madly in love with. [00:19:00] My high school girlfriend. And we went through some really life-changing experiences and that sort of messed me up, you know, and, and I attach myself with my friends. And like I mentioned before, we smoked a lot of weed and, you know, listened to a lot of music, watch a lot of movies and seeing my friends who are All aspiring musicians run around playing shows, rehearsing, having this very passionate life

Masami Moriya: right.

Dinh Thai: sort of inspired me to want to do something.

And I started taking I was in my twenties when I was probably shot my first real photograph. And, and then. Worked my way into an art school. luckily I got in because my grades were terrible. And I look back at, I think back at some of the work that was submitted in the portfolio for the application.

And it’s awful, you know, especially compared to what people are doing today [00:20:00] to get into school or getting out of school, it’s not even close. Right. And, but luckily I was semi semi-successful in college. I got out and, studied, you know, studied film learned as much as I could. And, and in retrospect, when I look back, I didn’t learn enough.

There was just something missing. and I got into, some commercial directing and that was probably, I graduated in 2002 from art center. And 14 years later is when I wrote and directed my short film called Monday. and, and it took me that long. You know, to become someone else to become, to evolve, to essentially be, you know, a Pokemon character just hibernating for 14 years and then finally becoming, my next level.

And, and so it took a while, and I guess that’s the point of the story is that it took me a while to figure it out. You know, I could, I was in school for four [00:21:00] years learning about film and I still didn’t have enough to, to tell a really good story. took me another 14 years to figure that out.

Masami Moriya: Hmm. What was that thing that you, you felt like was missing in school?

Dinh Thai: emotional intelligence,

100%, you’re supposed to, for some reason, we’re supposed to figure that out on, you know, without any help. And, and I don’t, and this is, I’m not blaming my FA family’s journey. We didn’t have the chance to my family and I didn’t have the chance to explore emotional intelligence together.

We were preoccupied with surviving, physically surviving, you know, so especially my parents, you know, they worked, they worked a few jobs. when we were in France, I remember hearing stories about both my parents being,[00:22:00] either janitors or, you know, people cleaning up after others. When we got to America.

I remember, we, my parents ran a small little grocery store. I could still see their cash register and see some of the Isles. And then, my dad figured out a way to get a little Chinese restaurant called China in which was on the south edge of temple city right next to a bowling alley. And then eventually my parents opened up their own restaurant supply warehouse in Chinatown and north Chinatown.

And there was now that when I go back to that warehouse, it’s, you know, super gentrified, there’s a bunch of artists in it. It looks awesome. Cool. Yeah.

we were, you know, we were distracted by the struggle, the chasing of the American dream. And so what I felt like was missing in my, in my existence was just [00:23:00] emotional intelligence.

And, and that’s what I’ve learned in the past handful of years was to really be more aware of people are, are thinking and feeling without them saying anything, you know, and reacting to it and embracing it and, and imagine, you know, imagine a, a storyteller who’s in a room. Full of people.

And that storyteller is at 0% of emotional intelligence. are they interacting with those people? Right. And now compare that with a storyteller who’s in the same room, but has an abundance of emotional intelligence. And how is that person reacting with the people in the room? that for me was a big difference.

It’s really changed my life.

yeah, I think having that and not even the empathy, but the understanding of other people. Brings us a lot closer and, you know, [00:24:00] understanding where their, where their decisions or how their actions might be coming from. And that it’s not about you.

Dinh Thai: Right.

Masami Moriya: know, not only does it help within like screenwriting and understanding your characters, multiple, emotional intelligence, but when you’re on a production crew, when you’re working with actors, it’s like all of those things start to come to play, because we’re all human, but we’re all very different and unique and come from everybody comes from a different background in every single way.

So, yeah. you know, show intelligence, where do you, you have a, a moment in your life. Do you feel like this was a really big breaking point of understanding that emotional challenge.

Dinh Thai: I wish I wish I had one, dude. I wish had that epiphany moment and I could probably pinpoint it to a couple of moments a few years ago, but it’s, it was a gradual, it was a gradual progress, you know? I’ve made a lot of mistakes emotionally,[00:25:00] with friends and strangers and, and I’ve learned to not like those parts of myself.

And so I think what I try to do. learn from my mistakes. And then, you know, when I encounter a new, experience that I want to be very emotional about, I, pause before I react and that has sort of me develop into a, more of a listener and in that, and I think stop, I think pausing and listening has, has been the foundation of my, emotional intelligence development.

Masami Moriya: Hmm. That’s a really good lesson to take away. Yeah. And part of that is, you know, there is no one, there might not be one single point, but it also takes many years to, to develop that is not going to, you know, and you can’t do it without, making, breaking some eggs and making some failures

Dinh Thai: For sure.

Masami Moriya: yeah,

Dinh Thai: [00:26:00] Lots of, lots of omelets women, lots of others.

Masami Moriya: yeah, I think, it’s a common phrase, but F fail F a I L first attempt in learning

Dinh Thai: I love it.

Masami Moriya: right.

Dinh Thai: I love it. That’s great. I’ve never heard that one before. That’s good.

Masami Moriya: Yeah. no, that’s really good to think about. So, your, your first short, Monday taking so long, I just watched it and it was like such a great, beautiful thing.

Dinh Thai: thank you, brother.

Masami Moriya: so emotional, funny, I thought the character was so real immediately. I was immersed within the characters and their storylines so that it was,

Dinh Thai: Well, thank God. It still holds up.

Masami Moriya: Yeah. Oh, for sure. It’s going to hold it for years. no, super cool. So, you wrote that direct to that. What was a little bit of that journey of making your first? You said your, like your breakthrough, short film here. and then it went on to win awards, get you into APA visionaries with HBO, other competitions you’ve done so much with all those, all of that, from just generally just that one [00:27:00] short, but also you did many years of other shorts that weren’t so great that you’re failing at, to then learn how to make something like this.

So, I’d love to hear a little bit more about the process of making that first short film and then the after effects of, getting that kind of success and making it to all these different, competitions and festivals.

Dinh Thai: sure. you know, I’ve always thought that I wanted to be a storyteller college. And when I made my first short, which I never finished in college, it was terrible. It was complete trash. And went to, I found my way into making content and, and doing some commercials and that. That industry allowed me to develop of the craft and refine some of my tastes.

Right. because in commercials and content, things are really quick. You shoot a lot. I, I used to have a love for [00:28:00] editing. I mean, I still kind of do, but I spent a lot of time editing. I would, you know, operate the camera and I would try to do a little bit of the bigger aspects of filmmaking by myself and get a chance.

And I, when I look back, I’m like, I really got a chance to learn about, how to tell a story with a camera and then how to work with people. And so when I was doing that, it felt like I was distracted by this bigger goal of making more, commercials. projects such as, you know, film and TV, but it was a good place for me to, to essentially shoot my free throws, you know, swing at, know, be at the, the batting cages and just keep swinging at the ball.

And so I’ve met a lot of great people along the way and who are all my friends now. And, and so it was like a serendipitous [00:29:00] journey towards making the short. I met a group of friends who are all filmmakers and they inspired me, you know, specifically friend of mine. Fidencio Casas and Greg , they’re these great indie filmmakers, and they’re always making something.

And when we became friends, they sort of re inspired me to try to write and try to make my own thing. And so. one of my good friends, Josh Falcon, and I started a production company a few years ago, which is we’re no longer operating, but that was like the entryway into this three or four years of just making a lot of stuff together.

And fit and Greg and I, and our good friend, Chris Gonzaga, we were all just making stuff together and they were making their own thing. they’d come and help and, you know, make things for us with the production company. And then suddenly this APA visionaries, [00:30:00] HBO visionaries contest presents itself.

And of course fit and Greg are on it. They’re like, they’re, they’re making their thing for it. And I’m like, they sort of inspired me to try to do something for that. And so we, so I had this production company, we have insurance it’s towards the end of the year. There’s money in the bank and you know, how, what money, you know, what, what happens when you have money in the bank at the end of the year, it goes to the IRS.

So w so Josh and I were like, well, maybe we should just spend some money and make something. And, to make a long story short, I brainstormed Monday from a very old idea. And in four weeks of writing it, we were ready to shoot it and we shot it, four days. And then we cut it in two weeks. And then I literally were, you know, Matt data, rich, editing friend, and I were at the office exporting the video and uploading it before midnight of the deadline.

Yeah. So it was very, it was [00:31:00] a very lightning in a bottle Right. How things came together. Like there are so many little pieces that led to those modes. you know, imagine if we didn’t have the production company and we didn’t have insurance. if my friends, weren’t filmmakers.

Imagine if Josh never approached me to start a production company. you know, and so it was very, it was a very magical time to make that short and then months passed. And I didn’t think anything of it, none of us really, you know, had the goal of trying to make this to win it. We were just making it, but after we watched, after I watched it, and a handful of other people watched it, they were like, this is, this is really good.

And, and then, I forget what it was January or something of 2017. I’m getting these calls on my phone. I’m like, I don’t know who this is. I keep ignoring it. And then I finally get an email and explaining that, Hey, we’ve been [00:32:00] trying to reach you this third party company that it’s working with HBO.

And, and they were like your potential finalist. And I’m like, holy shit, how’s this what the, this is insane. and we go on to premiere the short at,Los Angeles, Asian Pacific film festival. and then gave me a lot of confidence to pursue television and film. was at that point, I was before that I was pretty like tired, you know, cause it’s a grind in this. It’s a CR it was a grind and it still is a grind. But, but I was pretty tired and that film was kind of like my last. Shot of just getting whatever I thought I needed to do post college out of my system. And I got really lucky. We all got really lucky. Like you take any one of those elements away, right.

David, and then it wouldn’t have happened.

Masami Moriya: Yeah, that [00:33:00] serendipity of everything was pulling together is right. It’s the right time, the right people, the good people, everything was, you line it up ahead of time. You don’t try to wait for the moment. Then all hit at once. You gotta keep slowly building that thing. And I laughed so hard when he said that we were posting it up and uploading by midnight.


Dinh Thai: Yeah. Everyone’s been there.

Masami Moriya: Yeah. It’s like this 48 hour film festival. You had to rush it in. And but to, to see you go through, you know, four days of writing or couple of days of writing four days of shooting, two weeks of posted

Dinh Thai: Yeah, for sure. You know, something, something I realized about that experience with. A lot of the times we as storytellers have a script and everything else is missing. and what I realized in the, in the handful of years in working with, Josh and having this production company, we sort of slowly built the train, track, the train tracks the [00:34:00] trains to get us to the destination, as opposed to showing up and being like, okay, you know, who has the train and who has the train tracks?

And who’s got, the stuff to help us. It was like slow progression into that moment. And if you asked me to do a short today, it would be starting from, you know, essentially ground zero, because we’d have to get insurance, we’d have to get, you know, a script we’d have to get crew and cast and, you know, it’s, it’s, it could evolve that short could have only happened in that.

Masami Moriya: Yeah, I think one day we’re off to talk about, you know, the whole business part of making a production. I think we all think about like scripts and creative stuff, like insurance, location, management, paperwork

Dinh Thai: all that stuff,

Masami Moriya: but it’s important. All that stuff needs to kind of happen. Someone’s got ahead at all.

Dinh Thai: just a quick little, just a little quick lesson from that. We, our producer, Brian Berget, who’s a close friend of mine is a fantastic line producer. And [00:35:00] So he dotted all of his I’s and crossed all of his T’s. And when, when HBO asks, when you, when, when you’re in that finalist position with HBO APA, they asked for the paperwork so that they can license your film for two years.

And if you have any part of that missing Donesville, you know what I mean? You got light music, licensing, background artwork, licensing, location releases, You can see where it gets really complicated because it turns into a business immediately.

Masami Moriya: Yeah. I even think about that part. Like you just think maybe film festivals, you can get away with that, but,

Dinh Thai: a lot of film festivals want also for you to have releases for the other piece of other pieces of art that you have inside of the film.

I need a, I need a lesson on that. I think a lot of people wouldn’t need a lesson on that because I don’t think, you know, I’ve definitely been, I’ll just go make a short film. It’s just like, if you’re in New York, like no one gives a shit. You just want to make it, you want to put it online, but yeah, like going to the festival route and those things [00:36:00] like, yeah,

Dinh Thai: Once, once your art starts to hit the commerce, that those contracts, all those releases need to be accounted for. and it’s, it’s a very simple, I mean, inside of the process, it’s very intricate because of the contracts, but from a conceptual standpoint, it’s very simple. Get people to say yes, make sure they sign something.

And hopefully you can convince them that you want to be able to use their art in your art in perpetuity, so that when the time, you know, two years later, someone wants to.

license the film, you have clearance to use their art, their music in your film.

Masami Moriya: Yeah. Great, great lesson to take away from that, especially for new

Dinh Thai: It’s wild. It’s crazy.

Masami Moriya: When you, when you don’t have to deal with it on a, on a film, Sam we’ll get into right after, on a, on a production that already has all that in process and things. But when you’re making as a filmmaker, yourself, really got to think about having that line producer, someone to [00:37:00] go take care of that while you think of the creative.

Because if you start thinking of all the other stuff, it’s just taking away time.

Dinh Thai: for sure. For sure. You can only focus on, you know, a handful of things before you get.

Masami Moriya: Yeah. So tell me what, what’s it been like? going from short films and commercials, to then doing like TV episodes. I mean, that’s a different, it’s a different beast of everything. And now you’re working with, HBO and NBC on projects now how’s that? How’s that been? How’s that.

Dinh Thai: It’s, it’s been very, a very powerful experience, working in television and there are some parallels crossover from the commercial world there is this hierarchy that, is, is happening in, TV, right? You have the network, the studio, the production company, the show runner, the producing director, the executive producers.

And so that hierarchy sort of translates from the commercial world [00:38:00] because you have your clients. You’re an ad agency, your copywriter, your art director, your agency producer, you know, and then the production company, the executive producers, and then director. And so there’s a lot of, there was a lot of lessons that I learned in the commercial world that translates into the TV world, which one of the ones that I can share is you have an idea, you have to pitch it to the people who are in charge.

And that’s, you know, that happened quite often in the ad world. And that happens quite often in the TV world. And, and so there was familiarity for me in dealing with the logistics of making. what’s great about TV making is that very opposite of indie filmmaking that, TV making crew have all been vetted.

They’re all professional. They’re all much more experienced than. Than me.[00:39:00] and so you get to work with people who are super smart, very critical, and very creative. And, and what I’ve learned about TV making is that may have an idea, but my idea is just like a blueprint, you know, else such as, the DP or even the editors, or even, you know, the show runners or the writers, when we’re all sharing these moments together, they’re inspired just as much as I’m inspired.

And my voice isn’t to be purpose. Isn’t to be the loudest and strongest voice. My purpose, we talked about before is to listen and to feel and go, those are good ideas. Let’s try it. what’s great about filmmaking is that, you know, you get a handful of takes. So there’s really no reason to not take on someone’s suggest.

Right. Unless it completely disrupts flow and the flow is a whole [00:40:00] other topic, but know, you set up a camera, the camera is going to do a specific thing. you can make adjustments inside of that setup, you should, right. But if you’re saying, Hey, this camera’s not working, we’ve got to stop down and move the camera and create another move well that that’s disruptive to the flow.

So there’s, there’s an ebb and flow to the flow and in TV, making, working with these incredible professionals and, and taking the time to hear them out has been a great experience for me.

Masami Moriya: Yeah, no, I think that’s, that’s something to take away is that, that, that crew, your collaborators, your people on set and, you know, I’ve been there. So it’s like, even if you’re the director showrunner that they might be in the industry for a lot longer than you have, and, and they have the experience of, they are going to tell you, like that’s not going to work or this might be a better way to do it.

you know, they have that professional background, which is another reason to just thank the crew. Like they’re the ones who are really pulling these [00:41:00] together. They, as much as he might be a director that screenwriter you, which you’re, maybe it’s your first time, they’re the ones who have been at for 30 years who are making a, your project work.

Masami Moriya: And so, you know, think that all the unions are keeping that, keeping that going. And,

Dinh Thai: yeah,

Masami Moriya: you know, as we see like this week, this is the recording of, you know, end of October 22nd, where the, I heard the Alec Baldwin, you know, and, and, oh, I feel terrible for not knowing her name. w.

Dinh Thai: Yeah, The DP of rust. yeah.

Masami Moriya: yeah. DP abreast. and I’ll be like, find her, her proper name.

Hi. Hi, you didn’t Hayden. I think your name, but, you know, I heard that they, those, the prop masters and we’re not a union and I think that’s, you

Dinh Thai: Oh, wow.

Masami Moriya: that’s what I, that’s a variety said, like they weren’t union, they weren’t vetted. And so, you know, mistakes, terrible mistakes can happen when you’re, when you’re working with very, on a film set.

Cause that’s, that’s a dangerous place. It’s a dangerous work environment. that’s why the first ad was invented because [00:42:00] someone’s head was decapitated by helicopter. And so it’s like, you got to know that these people are really they’re sticking, they’re sticking their guns out and really try to keep a safe, but also bring in the professional creativity into our set.

I think that’s really important to

Dinh Thai: Yeah. no, it’s, it’s sad. What happened to it’s it’s sad when anyone gets hurt on a set, cause it, shouldn’t happen. and sometimes speed and the, sometimes the budget and urgency or this false urgency that is put upon us as storytellers gets in the way. And so, yeah. It’s it’s sad. And I hope that hope that we, we learned from this, you know, Brent, we lost Brandon Lee years ago to the same type of, firearm accident on a set.

And you know, some people are saying that there should be no reasons why you’re loading half loading, real guns. You [00:43:00] should just use VFX for every gun thing. And I think this will be, you know, a reason for us to go back to that. And it really comes down to whoever has whoever is financing and making and producing the film to spend that money so that the cast and crew, especially the crew feel like their lives are not at risk, whether they’re working long of hours, too many days, enough sleep.

Not enough pay, like all that stuff, into these mistakes that happen. and so we should, know, our industry needs to embrace people who are the laborers.

Masami Moriya: yeah. And going back, her name was Helena Hutchins. I hope I’m saying that correctly. I’ve never heard it been said, but yeah, really important member. Sarah Jones too. And that was an independent set. And even for independent people, it’s like, [00:44:00] it’s even more because you’re independent. You don’t have all the unions to get that.

It’s like to think about the safety over everything else, because they were not that it’s not worth risking. The

Dinh Thai: it’s not, not, it’s not, it’s not worth it.

Masami Moriya: making entertainment and fun here. So yeah, it’s not worth it. so, going to bigger industry ideas, you and I are part of this AAPI creatives club group, whenever we want in college and a group of people.

and we really want to try to look at the industry, change it, you know, work with other people and figure out what, what needs to be done and how to, what can we do about the industry about Asian, Asian, and API creatives, really making a living and really telling the stories in the right way. So I’m curious, what would you like to see changed?

Masami Moriya: Is there something more specific besides just representation, but you know, what would, is there something that, what keeps you up to like that needs to be changed? And if you have a [00:45:00] potential solution, for that mission, you know, I’m curious to what you think.

Dinh Thai: sure. I think that it’s a very, first of all, I want to preface the topic with that. It’s a very complex and complicated journey that we’re going on in film and TV in regards to. trying to equalize the playing field for of color this predominantly very traditional And there is no one solution.

We are, everybody does their part in every way they can, whether it’s part of our creative whether it’s,network, fellowship directing fellowship, whether it’s a network writing fellowship, whether it’s a production company fellowship, everyone’s doing their part. my, focus in my participation in this is befriending people in [00:46:00] every aspect of this industry. you know, just like me growing up with, my Hispanic best friend, I learned so much about the Mexican culture. And if I could be someone’s friend who is from the traditional side of the industry, I know that I can influence them as a real human being, as opposed to, an initiative that’s being pressured on someone.

And so again, my angle is to be kind compassionate and fair and befriend people who,in every aspect of the industry and slowly, quote, unquote, part of their lives. Right. And I think.

that for me, that’s how I want to participate. and I’m not taking away from anything that any other initiatives are doing.

but that’s what I know that I can. with my free time. And I know that I can do it in a, in a genuine way. Like I try [00:47:00] not to ask for things. I try not to ask for favors. I just try to be the person that I aspire to be, and hopefully that, affects others.

Masami Moriya: Yeah, really just being, being the team player, being with everybody, showing up for work, doing the work, doing, working hard and hopefully, hopefully gain gaining their curiosity to learn more about your background, learning

Dinh Thai: for sure.

Masami Moriya: stuff like this. You know, I, I, I it’s some of the other vineyards I didn’t hear about, you know, w what it was like in Vietnam and you know, how that background to figure out, you know, that’s, it’s a big part of your life.

It’s, it makes it, you know, makes decisions and, where people come from as, physically, but then where are they coming from that emotional intelligence that going back to that, you know, how does what’s playing into today? And I think that’s really, really valuable.

Dinh Thai: Yeah, You know, and, and it takes a, it’s going to take awhile. It’s not, if if we were to fix [00:48:00] the diversity equality, inclusion, challenge, w what’s if we fix that today, what’s the point of us right now? What’s what else? Why are we here? So I, I feel like the challenge me value. And, and if I, if from a personal standpoint and a single single-step individual standpoint, I’d never achieve it, if I’m never the wall of DEI, I would be happy because that means I’m constantly, still have a fight.

Right. and that’s something that, we should talk about, like what, what does it matter? Why do, why are we here as people, you know, why are we here as creatives in the industry? Yeah. To tell our stories, but also. The layer of it is to face this challenge. And I would always prefer to have the challenge in front of me as opposed to, to not have it.

Masami Moriya: Yeah, we can’t even [00:49:00] imagine what that world world would look like. If we didn’t have this challenge, didn’t have these barriers. I think, you know, winning, we’re talking about the other day, just like, what would the world look like if it was all very equal, would we Phoebe doing and how would that, affect the, our differences?

And, now we’re all similarities is like, what would be, what would that be? And I think it’s very far off that if that never happens, it’s so far, but I think we’re in a good space that, we have a lot to learn and share with other people. I think it’s

Dinh Thai: Yeah.

for sure. For sure. something that I think about is what is it, what does it look like when we crossed the cross, the finish line of diversity equality and, is it equity or equality? Okay.

I think likable, like, yeah, I think a lot of people, equity, equitable, equitable things that everything has not equal because you want to give five people $5, you know? Cause they can have, they can do many different things with $5, but you know, who needs it more?

Dinh Thai: Right. So, you know, when we crossed the finish line, what does it [00:50:00] look like? Does it look like we, does it look like the people who tell stories doesn’t have to come from background? Because right now what I’m hearing is that, you know, people of color are telling stories about people of color, right.

And people who are from the traditional aspect can tell stories about people of color. So I wonder what it looks like when we crossed the finish line. Does it look like we’re starting to come back to this, intermingling of who we are in the stories we can. And do, and they don’t necessarily have to match.

Right. That’s where it gets interesting for me because, I was lucky enough to work on tenure and you look at me and you’re like, well, from the surface, I should not be working on, we’d say, but if you, you know, if you understand what I’m saying, it’s across the Eastern west. And I [00:51:00] grew up in the music, I understand there, know, resists philosophy about life and the music and it’s a good fit.

But do I still look like someone that should be telling the story or be part of the, of the Wu Tang TV series, some would say no, and I wouldn’t challenge them. would, you know, say that that’s, okay for them to have those feelings. you know, does it look like I should be, directing TV that focuses on traditionalist story?

Does it mean I can’t do that? you know, it gets really weird when we were, when we’re binary about stuff.

Masami Moriya: Yeah, I see that. I kind of think of it as, you know, a little bit on it. It’s kind of like the talk about I’m not racist, but like who, who holds the power? Is there a traditionalist have been having the power to tell our stories, but we haven’t. So then we can tell ours, but I also see, like, when you’re, you’re telling w [00:52:00] a wilting client stories, like, was it, it’s a different perspective that also had a big effect on you?

Philosophy isn’t owned by one person, like where someone who is, from another community who really grew up on Bruce Lee or something like his philosophy, could they do, I’m like, I would want to know your perspective on that. Cause your life background and with his philosophy very different. And there’s going to be, it’s going to give me a different perspective on the philosophy itself.

Dinh Thai: for sure.

Masami Moriya: that’s, it’s a long conversation. Be conversation. Talk about some time. yeah. What, what’s the biggest lesson or most challenging lesson you had, you, you had to learn yourself, but what would you like to pass on to other filming.

Dinh Thai: you know, that’s a good question. And I don’t, I don’t re don’t have a concise answer for it, but that I deal with that I’ve dealt with is the, how loud is my ego. [00:53:00] That’s what I think about, sometimes. And when I go back my teenage years and my twenties and my thirties, my li my ego is pretty loud.

and in comparison today, my ego is, I would say that learned to control it a little bit, and that’s the lesson. That, we were really, I was never, I never really was taught because to, to be, to want to be a director, comes from a, I believe comes from a place of ego. You know, you want to put yourself first, you want to tell your stories.

Dinh Thai: You want to tell other people how to do something. You want to, grab the camera capture something. You want to get the footage and edit something. You want to grab this music and put it in there. But what I’ve realized about filmmaking and storytelling is that if, if I have successfully controlled my ego, [00:54:00] the process is much more fluid.

And in a L it allowed me to to other people. And I know we’ve talked about this in the past, but really listening to other people. And, and that has, you know, that’s been a big lesson for me is controlling my ego, and not letting. Myself think that I’m that much more important than anybody else.

Masami Moriya: Yeah, I think I’ve had to learn that in the past. I’m still learning that.

Dinh Thai: We all, we learn it all the time,

Masami Moriya: they go a long time to learn that and to feel like we’re not on top of the world, but that we also don’t know everything and that we can learn from people. And

Dinh Thai: Yeah.

Masami Moriya: yeah, it’s such a big ego. Someone said it’s just not a fun time.

Dinh Thai: It’s, you know, and unless their ego comes from a very delightful and empathetic place, but I think sometimes the ego, [00:55:00] the stigma is that it’s always about I, as opposed to us. Right. And some people have really big egos, but it’s about us because that’s the right.

Masami Moriya: Yeah. I think there’s there’s ego in itself is not inherently bad. just like, how do you, how do you control and tame that ego, to be not about yourself?

Dinh Thai: Yeah, for sure.

Masami Moriya: Great lesson. Even off on that. Me. It’s all good.

Dinh Thai: I got a little siren here.

Masami Moriya: Let’s give it a second.

No, that’s really cool. no, did, one last question, if you weren’t filmmaking, you weren’t doing the business that you’re doing now, what do you think you’d be doing?

Dinh Thai: I don’t know, man. I don’t know how to do, I don’t know how to do much else or want to do anything else, but if you forced me, I would love to work with dogs. I love dogs. If I had one, had [00:56:00] one wish I wish dogs live longer and healthier. and so maybe it would be something with, you know, animals or.

Masami Moriya: That’s cool. All right, man. Dude, Dan, it’s been a fence, dude. Chopping it up with you. It’s so cool. And you know, the end of this podcast is not like an hour long, but

Dinh Thai: you gotta see, you gotta split up the episodes and, you know, make little snippets cause this isn’t, there’s a lot to sit through, but thank you, David. It’s good to finally get a chance to hang with you. And I hope to see you in real person and I can buy you some delicious food and we can, you know, not record some of the more candid stuff that we can talk about.

Masami Moriya: for sure. For sure, man. And I’m in LA, so just let

Dinh Thai: Yeah, me too.

Masami Moriya: or here, but before we go, you know, what are your social plugs? Where can people find you find your work? And I’m sure it will put all the links in the show notes where people can find us on the TV shows. But

Dinh Thai: Instagram is a great place. denester D I N H S T R you know, hit me up there. I like, I [00:57:00] like connecting with people. I like helping people and, and I like hearing from people.

Masami Moriya: Cool man.

Dinh Thai: Yeah, Instagram,

Masami Moriya: Fabulous. All right, dude, I will catch you later. Thank you so much again, it’s

Dinh Thai: my man, brother. Thank you very much. It’s an honor to share this time with you, man. Have a good day and I’ll talk to you soon.

Masami Moriya: right on.

Dinh Thai: Peace, homie.


Masami Moriya: All right, let me stop it. Oh, stop anymore. Give it a second. 


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