“Not My Age” set to screen at the 2022 Vancouver Short Film Festival

Learn how these student filmmakers developed their award-winning project

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Two Asian women, a granddaughter and grandmother, sit in a green field with the sun setting behind them
Jennifer Cheon (left) and Maki Yi (right) play a mischievous familial duo. Image courtesy of Kaitlyn Lee

By: Luke Faulks, Staff Writer

Fresh from winning Best First Time Director for Short at the Vancouver Asian Film Festival, Kaitlyn Lee’s student film, Not My Age, is headed to the Vancouver Short Film Festival (VSFF).  

Not My Age follows a granddaughter and grandmother who, after the latter suffers an injury, bond over an evening of spray painting. Kaitlyn helms as director, but the short film also features a collaboration between SFU students Cathy Huynh (producer) and Peter Lee (director of photography and Kaitlyn’s brother). 

Kaitlyn’s inspiration for the film came from her fascination with the coming-of-age genre and her desire to do something new with it. The theme of young people in reckless situations was something she felt was a key component to the genre. What she hadn’t seen were the circumstances that would lead a grandmother to repeat her own coming-of-age moment. 

The film highlights a positive intergenerational relationship in a Korean family, which Kaitlyn says pushes back against stereotypes. 

“There’s so many stories about the disconnect between generations in Asian families and Asian cultures,” Cathy added. “I think what’s beautiful about what we’ve done with the short is it’s not about conflict, but it’s about coming together and finding joy within each other and enjoying each other’s company.”

“As I kind of explored the idea of youth and aging more, I saw that it was a more universal idea and wanted to focus more on the grandma and what it would be like to see her doing some of that [wildly] reckless stuff that we see commonly in coming-of-age movies,” Kaitlyn said. 

Although working during a pandemic was challenging, the Not My Age team says their experiences on student film sets helped inform the project. Peter believes the supportive environment among cohorts in SFU’s film program also helped. “Not only do you get to learn a lot of skills from being on these upper year sets [ . . . ] we get to see all sorts of different scales of projects,” he said.

On top of “organizational aspects, making sure the shoot happens, getting locations together, and working through finance,” Cathy found Zoom auditions presented a hurdle. She lamented the process, saying auditions are scary enough without the added stress of having to do them “in such a weird format.” Fortunately, the actors’ chemistry, even over Zoom, shone through. “When we saw them just interact and read through the scene, we were like ‘we’ve struck gold,’” said Kaitlyn.

For students looking to get their own projects off the ground, Peter said, “don’t be afraid to take the first step, and if you can do it with a partner, even better.” 

VSFF 2022 is available online January 28–February 6. For tickets to see Not My Age, and more, visit VSFF’s website.