For many, the path to becoming a filmmaking professional is full of serendipitous twists and leaps of faith. Vincent Tang found his path with a combination of both and had the courage to take that leap.
After earning a Bachelors of Environmental Design and Masters of Landscape Architecture at the University of Manitoba, Vincent Tang decided to forgo a lucrative career in architecture to pursue his true passion: filmmaking.
He is currently a professional set designer and member of IATSE 856. Using his architectural background, he collaborates with filmmakers to help bring their vision to life on set. He is also a filmmaker and cinematographer himself with independent films that have been screened internationally.
When and how did you start in the film industry?
I was an aspiring filmmaker while I was studying at the University of Manitoba. During my masters program, I was taking evening elective courses in film production. During my days off, I did a few daily calls as a grip and once I graduated, I cold called local industry professionals. Eventually, I found myself on my first film set as a draftsperson due to my architectural background.
What area of the film industry do you work in now and why?
Currently, I work as a set designer in the local film industry and as an independent cinematographer producing short films and music videos. It’s very interesting getting to help design and bring sets to life for the camera, but my ultimate goal is to get behind the camera myself as a cinematographer.
I believe working as a set designer is helping me hone my cinematography skills because so much of what you end up framing on screen is dependent on the production design and art direction of the film, commercial, or whatever project you’re working on. I believe these two skills are intertwined, at least for me.
What has been a substantial change in the industry since you started?
From my work as a set designer, I believe 3D visualization of sets and photorealistic renderings of the production design are more in demand today. Now that technology is becoming more prevalent and programs are much more proficient in representing and designing sets in a digital world, skills in real-time 3D modelling are becoming more in demand.
As for independent cinematography, I believe technology like cameras , lighting, stabilization systems, as well as the advent of Youtube as a learning platform, have all greatly expanded our capabilities as independent filmmakers.
What we seemingly take for granted today used to take an extraordinary amount of labour, expertise, and cost to execute.
These new technologies make pursuing cinematography as a career much more easily accessible for people like me.
I believe the tried and true tools we use in the film industry are still very applicable today, but for many up-and-comers like myself, having these ‘alternatives’ helps us grow as filmmakers at an accelerated rate. It isn’t such a huge financial burden to purchase your own camera, lighting, and other equipment anymore.
If you could give your past self advice, what would it be?
Listen more to your instincts, you know yourself better than anyone else in the world knows you. For many years, I followed other people’s advice on what to pursue in my life. I always felt like I should have never went into architecture, but in a strange way, it helped get me into the film industry and I learned a lot in school — but there’s always a side of me that wonders what I could have accomplished had I listened to myself and went for what I wanted right from the beginning.
What advice would you give someone starting off in the media production industry?
Don’t hesitate. Don’t make excuses for yourself. Now is the best time. Watch films, absorb life. Learn and experience new things — you never know where your next source of inspiration comes from. Constantly chase and learn new things. Remember to breathe and don’t compare yourself to others. Be competitive but don’t take it personally when someone appears to be doing better than you. We are all on different timelines and if you work hard, you will be rewarded.
Why is learning and training important?
You cannot learn everything by yourself. You have to kick your ego out the door and learn from everyone around you. There is a wealth of knowledge in every corner of the film industry. Some of the most amazing and brilliant people I know I met in the film industry and it’s only a benefit if you act as a sponge and learn everything you can. Everyone has something to teach you even if you don’t think they do. You’ll be surprised, some of the best advice comes from the most unlikely sources.
What are some of the films, TV series or even books that have inspired you?
As a filmmaker, I’m mainly inspired by films. Se7en, Prisoners, Shawshank Redemption, Silence of the Lambs, Signs, Unbreakable, Green Mile, Midnight in Paris, Assassination of Jesse James are just a few of my inspirations.
Who is someone in the film industry you would like to work with and why?
Roger Deakins. If I could sit down for just one conversation with him, it would be more than enough.
Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
I would love to be a cinematographer in the future.