Filmmaker Chat

Penny Chen

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We spoke to Penny Chen, director and writer of Second Parent, about her

graduation film, writing real-life characters and duck permits in LA!

Watch the whole interview with Penny here.

 

How did the idea for Second Parent come about?

I think about 3 years ago me and my girlfriend were interviewing a few lesbian

couples with kids for of one of my assignments in a documentary class. We

found this couple through a Facebook group. The way that they created their

family really fascinated me  and hearing the non-biological mum talking about

being a second parent really inspired me to write the film. I wanted this story to

be seen and heard. I’d say about 80% of the film is based on real life. 

 

What challenges did you face shooting this film?

I have the three most challenging elements all in one - kids, water and animals! Everything needs a permit. I needed a permit for the duck I was using! I remember filming that duck scene, that one shot cost me a lot of money. We filmed this in a 6ft by 6ft fence. We had to put the actors and duck in the fence so that these ducks don't interact with the duck in the park! 

 

In LA, it’s very strict to work with kids. I can’t cast a 4 year old as she could only be on set for 3 hours a day. I had to cast a 6 year old to play a 3 or 4 year old. I spent a long time trying to find the right kid. I think Anneka, who plays Becca, did a wonderful job. I could sense it. She was so natural. She’s coming from a heterosexual family but she never questioned why in this movie she has two mums. We spent some time reading books that talked about two mums or two dads. I’m very fortunate to have found her.

Would you like to make Second Parent into a longer project?

Yes, I am planning to make Second Parent a feature but I’m still in the process of re-writing the script. Right now I’m taking my time to relax back in Taiwan but I’ve got ideas!

 

Any advice for new filmmakers?

I’m still learning this myself, but you just have to trust yourself! Trust your heart, trust your gut. A lot of people will tell you what to do, or not to do, but this is your story, it's your voice - you have to give it a try!  

 

Do you have any favourite queer creators or characters?

Portrait of a Lady on Fire has become my favourite film of all time. I watched it 4 times in the theatre before everything shut down. Celine Sciamma is my goddess! I want to also recommend One Day At A Time. It’s a sitcom about a single mum family, a Latinx family in LA. There’s one character in this show whose name is Elena, I feel very related to. She’s a high school student, but I related to her a lot. Looking at her storyline I thought about a lot of stuff from when I was younger.