Producer Yayun Hsu talks new film ‘Next Door’

Taiwan’s Yayun Hsu sees her role as a producer similar to that of a magician; she is often required to make things appear out of nowhere, with the end goal of enthralling audiences and providing a temporary escape, and a source of entertainment. With each new project, this revered producer analyzes what she can do with the resources she has, looking to see how to make things happen no matter the budget. Whenever she wraps a project, she reviews what steps were taken to ensure everything is the best it can possibly be. Despite constant success, she always feels a slight sense of surprise and delight by such good results, giving her the positive power to make more movies and tell better stories, and audiences around the world are thankful for such a commitment to her craft.

Throughout her esteemed career, Hsu has worked on many films and various projects that exemplify what she is capable of. This year alone, Hsu worked on a series of successful endeavors. She created a video for the Westfield Century City Mall Grand Opening Event, made a national commercial for the Whisk Wiper, produced the inaugural American Influencer Awards, and worked on several successful films.

“I give myself the rule of ‘practice what you preach.’ For example, if I expect my actors and crew to be to set on time, then I need to be there even earlier; if I hold a vendor responsible for delivering a quality product, then I need to make sure I’m delivering the same quality both in my word and work ethic. I find this strategy pays off for everyone involved,” said Hsu.

This strategy has indeed paid off for Hsu’s most recent film, Next Door. It is a horror film that conveys the message to not always trust what you see. Next Door follows Lily and Earl, who have just moved into a new home and become Morgan’s neighbor. Lily makes Morgan think her father, Earl, is an abuser, but it turns out Lily has dark secrets of her own The script is what caught Hsu’s interest in the film, and she knows the importance of a good story.

“A good storyline and a plot twist will always make a film memorable. Leaving a lasting impression on an audience is of course the ultimate goal of a filmmaker. I prefer thought provoking storylines and I hope that this one inspires change after viewing,” she said. 

The film had its premiere at the Asian World Film Festival at the beginning of November, and impressed both audiences and critics. It is expected to make its way to several other film festivals over the next year.

“It was amazing to see all the footage we made come together into a real film. It feels nice that it is now doing well at festivals. Receiving recognition from the professional filmmakers is a compliment especially from people I admire. We worked hard on this project for almost half a year, so to see it on the big screen was definitely is a pleasure,” said Hsu.

In her role as Unit Production Manager on Next Door, Hsu was involved in casting, location scouting, applying for permits, arranging catering, controlling the budget, and working on set to solve unexpected problems. In one instance, the Director of Photography realized he forgot to rent camera batteries for the shoot. Hsu knew exactly who to contact at the last minute to help the shoot continue without delay. Additionally, before Hsu joined to the team, the director already had completed casting, but he couldn’t get the right actors for the performance. Hsu then was invited to take part in the casting process, and she posted casting information on different platforms, which led to the right actors being cast for the film. There is no doubt that the film would not have achieved what it already has without her extraordinary talents.

“Yayun is very well-rounded and able to help out the team in numerous different roles. As a producer, Yayun has a strong leadership ability to solve problems. As a partner, she is dependable and reliable when I need support. As a worker, she always does her best to find the best solutions in a time efficient manner. These are all very desirable qualities in a team member. Yayun gives every working partner a relaxed and happy environment, while also supervising the filming process. We have worked on many projects, and I foresee Yayun’s support as an advantage for any team she is on in the film industry,” said Mimi Masters, Producer of Next Door and CEO of IMC Production.

Masters specifically sought out Hsu to work as her partner, as she was working on several films at the same time, and she knew she needed someone like Hsu as an on-set producer to make Next Door a success. Hsu’s commitment to every project she works on was invaluable to not only Masters, but everyone she worked with.

Despite working on many acclaimed films, Hsu had never before produced a horror film. She says it was an adventure everyday on set. They planned many things ahead, but the plans could never keep up with the changes, which is where her ability to work under pressure and problem solve proved vital. After a long 12 hour a day on set, the cast and crew’s energy began to dip, and a happy crew is of course a first priority for Hsu. It was 7 p.m., and she knew the next break wasn’t until 1 a.m. Most of the restaurants were closed by then, and she thought, “How am I going to feed my crew?” Putting her strategic thinking abilities to use, Hsu contacted the catering person she worked with earlier that day, and they made a special hot and fresh meal at midnight and delivered it to set.

“A story about food may not seem too exciting, but I learned that as a producer, the key to any projects success begins with resourcefulness and a full stomach,” she said.

Be sure to check out Next Door and keep an eye out for Producer Yayun Hsu’s future work. It is evident with everything she does that she is a “magician” when it comes to filmmaking.

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