I Wouldn’t Recommend Self-Financing a Movie, Unless it’s a Question of Quitting Your Dream and Doing Something Else by John Chi

John Chi (Filmmaker of Tentacle 8), John Churchill, and Rocky McMurray on the set of Tentacle 8


FilmCourage:  Where did you grow up? What was life like at home?

John Chi:  I grew up in Palos Verdes, a small suburb of Los Angeles, in a pretty stereotypical Asian-American household, where academic achievement was heavily prioritized over extra-curricular activities.  My parents both worked, so my grandmother had a huge influence on my upbringing.

John and his father
FilmCourage:  Did your parents lend support toward creativity or encourage another type of career/focus?

John:  My dad was an aerospace engineer and my mom was an accountant, and together they provided our family with a comfortable life.  Like all parents, I think they just wanted me to be self sufficient one day. While I don’t think they were unsupportive, they certainly tried to steer my career focus towards professions that provided a certain amount of financial stability. Prior to going to film school, I worked in management consulting for about 10 years.  Had I not done that, I wouldn’t have had the means/savings to go to film school, or had the resources to make my first feature film.  So their influence had an impact.

FilmCourage:   First memory of going to the movies?

John:   I don’t know exactly what my first movie going memory is, but I remember a very early experience, which as it turns out, had a profound influence on me as a filmmaker.  I remember sitting in a theater packed full with people, watching people who were whispering, and standing in shadows.  I couldn’t see or hear anything very clearly, and definitely didn’t understand anything that was going on.  I couldn’t sit still, and kept getting “shushed.”  It was the worst two hours of my life.

John:   Years later, I learned this movie was All The President’s Men, which was one my main inspirations behind TENTACLE 8.

FilmCourage:   What were your plans after high school?

John:   I wasn’t an exceptional student in high school, but I did well enough.  Probably the least gifted student in a class full of 5.0 over achievers.  I was good at sports, in a school known for its outstanding academics.  That kind of sums it up.

I made my first films in French class, as part of my “class assignments.”  Where most kids were giving lessons on how to make croissants I was doing Siskel and Ebert parody reviews of Bruce Lee movies, in French.  It was pretty ridiculous, but I had a ton of fun doing them.

I went to The University of California, Berkeley, where my dad earned his Ph.D in engineering, not really knowing what I would focus my studies on.  Not engineering.  I really had no strong desire to pursue anything in particular, but at that time, I didn’t consider a career in the arts.

Amy Motta, John Chi, and Brett Rickaby on the set of Tentacle 8
FilmCourage:   When you decided against medical school, what feelings arose?

John:   Well…it never came to that really.  If going to medical school is at the end of ten thousand steps, I gave up around step 1 or 2.  So no guilt, no regrets.

“I remember before my freshman year in college, I briefly considered becoming a doctor.  Then I saw what kind of commitment it required.  8:00 a.m. classes 5 days a week, labs every Thursday night, biology, chemistry, physics.  And that was just the beginning.  It would get progressively harder after that.  Those class schedulers were trying to weed me out, and it worked.” read more in John Chi’s Film Courage post here


FilmCourage:   What film in your mind is close to perfect which secretly you wished making?

John:   I honestly have never thought “damn, I wish I made that movie.”  The artists responsible for the movies that I love, are so uniquely the vision of the filmmakers that they wouldn’t be the same without them.  Envious of their success?  Sure.  All the time, I wish for that kind of artistic and professional success.

There are so many films I consider great/perfect, in every single genre.  But for purposes of brevity, I’ll choose just the ones that helped shape my own filmmaking style that specifically influenced TENTACLE 8.

Memento: Storytelling in Fragments

John:   Time is a major idea in TENTACLE 8, where history is constantly reverberating and echoing things that have previously happened.  Past, Present, and Future aren’t easily distinguishable without the benefit of history and hindsight.  In the moment, they can look and feel exactly the same.  Christopher Nolan does that better than anyone, where memory and time are always in some conflict.  I think movies are about moments and interesting fragments, not real life in real time.  Memento is the best movie I’ve seen that not only utilizes the fragmented story telling device better than anyone else, but also bakes that idea into the movie itself by making the narrator (Leonard) completely unreliable with a short term memory defect.  It’s a lot of fun.

The Insider: Conscience and Integrity

John:   People always ask me, as a filmmaker, how do you know a film is well directed?  For me, it’s entirely about control over the audience.  When I’m watching a Michael Mann movie, I feel like he’s completely in control, where everything is very deliberately orchestrated: where to look, what to listen to, what the score is saying, what the production design is revealing about story or character, the positioning of the camera, the color temperature and design…all of it.  The Insider, for me, is Mann at his very best.

The parallels between Wigand (Russell Crowe) and the lead character in TENTACLE 8, are obvious.  Men of conscience up against incredible circumstances within powerful and dangerous mechanisms.  Courage of conviction, strength in principles, and unshakeable integrity are the armor of real heroes.  They are more heroic than any comic book super hero, for me, any day.

Mann doesn’t spend a lot of time (or exposition) hand holding.  It’s exhilarating filmmaking, where the audience is dropped into a world that few understand (corporate money, big media, Big Tobacco) and we get to live inside that world for a little while.

RED: Narrative Clarity/Certainty

John:   I love Krzysztof Kieslowski but I have to be in the right frame of mind to sit through his films.  I know going in, that it’s going to require effort on my part to engage in the narratives, and try to interpret and experience his films rather than understand them.  Sadly, RED was his last film.

I love RED for its universal themes, its humanity, for its cosmic optimism, and emotional poetry.  Present, past, and future converge without using flashbacks or flashy devices, to convey those very universal experiences like love, loss, fate, and faith.  Even after dozens of viewings, I’m not sure that I fully understand everything about the movie, but each time I gain a deeper appreciation for the craft and care that went into the film.  I leave that film moved, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually.  With TENTACLE 8, I similarly wasn’t that interested in providing narrative certainty, leaving plenty to the imagination as to what happens.  It’s more about the experience of the film than the absolute certainty of events, intentions, and outcomes, which I know really upsets some people.

FilmCourage:   How did the idea for TENTACLE 8 come to you?

John:   The film gestated over many years, but the initial seeds came to me after the 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush, and Al Gore, which was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court.  The entire process was so divisive and the country in its aftermath has never been the same.  Then 9/11 happened, which was horrific and traumatic to those personally affected, and to our national as a whole.  Shortly afterwards, we entered two wars, spent trillions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of lives were lost, millions displaced, and none of the objectives for waging those wars, were ever accomplished. I was consumed by these events, and knew that whatever I was going to do artistically, it was going to mirror the weight and gravity of our circumstances.


Please visit John Chi’s post (one of the most read for 2014) here!


“I left a moderately successful career as a Management Consultant to go to film school at USC, and quickly realized that crafting interesting stories based on made up stuff wasn’t that different than the movie business.   For me, the greatest thing about film school, no question, was the people I met.  It’s a place where you’ll meet your future partners and collaborators, and an opportunity to figure out what kind of filmmaker you want to be.  I met one my closest friends and my future producing partner, Casey Poh, in film school.  Together we developed a shared language, and a common set of experiences that I think all film school students can relate to.  Team building is one of the most important things you can do…” read more in John Chi’s Film Courage post here


FilmCourage:   After a decade past from your Master’s program at film school, what epiphanies, disappointments, hopes or misconceptions had arrived in your mind after these 10 years?

John:   I had finished several scripts, that had various degrees of interest from producers who had access to financing.  I spent about two years developing a project that had financing loosely committed (that’s never a good description), and then it suddenly went away over night when the producer got into some legal trouble (also never a good sign from your potential financier).  It was disheartening to have spent all that time working on something and have it evaporate like it never happened.  This was when I decided to just take control over my own career.  Of course, even after you make your movie, you’re still at the mercy of so many other things/people, but at least you have more control over your career than if you waited for someone to magically hand over money for you to make your passion project.  I know it happens, but it’s rare.


If I had any misconceptions, it was the idea that after film school, there was some flourishing job market and essential demand for my services.  That’s just not the case, even for a premiere program like USC.  If the statistics are correct, 50K films are made every year globally, of which only 1% get seen.  There are maybe twenty working directors in Hollywood?  So if you’re going to find work, it’s going to be something you generate yourself.  There will be occasional exceptions, but most don’t go to some imaginary front of the line to direct a movie, starring an A list super star, financed by a major studio.  Most have to find another path.  It can happen but you should also have a plan if it doesn’t.


VOD (Itunes, Google Play, Amazon Digital,
Vimeo on Demand, IndieReign) June 25

SVOD (IndieFlix, Roku, and Xbox 360) July 14


FilmCourage:   How long did it take you to write the script?  Did you show it to anyone for feedback?

John:   I didn’t really know that much about our intelligence community, the different agencies, and how they were all interconnected.  So I needed to research all that stuff to ensure the framework of the movie was accurate, where everything in the movie was more than plausible.  No one really knew what the NSA was all about, who they were, and what their purpose was.  This was years before Edward Snowden, and Bradley Manning (Chelsea).

I wasn’t going to make a movie that explained everything to the audience.  It just wouldn’t ring true to have these people spelling things out in their conversations with one another, when so much of who they were, was about discretion and economy.  But that approach was going to turn off a lot of people who just couldn’t keep up.  So there had to be a balance of exposition and authenticity, which just takes time to get right.  My initial drafts were awful, and I knew it.  Initial feedback was generally the same, in that it was far too ambitious for a small budget film, and trying to shoe horn a global espionage film into the framework of a microbudget film wasn’t really a good idea.  Early drafts over compensated with too much talk, and talk that was too on the nose.  As a writer I don’t have too many rigid rules I swear by, but one of them is to always show more and talk less.  And if your characters are going to talk, then make it visual, make it compelling, make it layered with subtext.

I have my inner circle I share my work with: my producing partner Casey, my wife Bonnie, and some of my close friends who aren’t in the film business.  Then, if I can get some industry people to read the script, I will.  But no matter what the feedback, agree or disagree, you need it to see what’s resonating, good or bad. Then you go back and rework it until you get it right.

FilmCourage:   Why is TENTACLE 8 a timely film for today’s geo-political landscape?

John:   We have a presidential election around the corner, where issues concerning the livelihoods of millions will be spun around like a roulette wheel by people who want to rule the world.  It’s kinda like the Olympics, where you don’t put too much energy into it until it happens.  So all the issues we poke at and hypothesize about in the movie, like Corporate Interest/Influence in Big Government, Secret Military Detention, Mass Surveillance, Technology Corruption, Media Manipulation, etc. are all at the forefront of the political discussions we’ll be debating for the next two years.  The failures of past administrations will all be dug up and re-examined, but sadly little will be done to remedy the mistakes that were made.  TENTACLE 8 can and should spark some lively debate and be a catalyst to a broader conversation about these issues.

FilmCourage:   Which character in TENTACLE 8 is most like you and why?

John:   As creator of the material, I take on all the characters, and try to give them life.  So I’m all of them…even those characters who I don’t like.

Ray, the lead character, is probably mostly influenced by my dad.  He was the person I most admired and respected and he gave me, and our family everything.  He loved books, he loved the spy genre, and he was just the best man I knew.  I didn’t set out to write a character who was like my dad, but it obviously seeped into my conscience.  I dedicated the film to him at the end of the movie, but sadly he never got to see the film.  But I think he would have liked it…and in his words, he’d say, “it wasn’t bad”.

FilmCourage:   How did you raise money for the budget for TENTACLE 8?

John:   Our investors were mainly family friends that helped us get the film off the ground.  But it’s always tricky with family and friends because it’s just not good to mix family with business.  But we were grateful they offered to help, under very generous terms.  There really wasn’t a lot of pitching to investors, because we were going to make the movie one way or another, so we didn’t focus a lot of time on refining a pitch.  I ran it by a few potential investors, but there wasn’t anyone who stepped up and said, here you go.

FilmCourage:   You’ve said previously that despite a few initial investors, you liquidated your retirement savings to partially fund TENTACLE 8.  Do you remember the day of your final decision to do this?

John:  Self-financing isn’t a good option unless you’ve got the funds to do it, which I didn’t.  But I had waited a long time for someone else to finance my projects, and for one reason or another, those opportunities never fully materialized. It was strictly a time vs. money decision, and I took a huge risk financially.  As soon as I decided to make the film, I committed to it, and it was really about convincing others to come on board, for little money, to make this film because I promised this would be something really special.  I would never say I would never self finance again, but hopefully the next film won’t require it.

FilmCourage:   Had you made any short films or other features prior to this decision?

John:   I had made several shorts in film school, and helped produce a feature before I graduated.  I never considered making shorts after film school because I didn’t think there was a strong market for shorts.  But I think that might be shifting a little with these proof of concept shorts making the rounds on the internet, and landing studio deals to turn them into features.  I’m skeptical, however, that this will become the norm, because 90 minute or 2 hour features require more than dazzling imagery to sustain interest. That “proof of concept” demonstrates what the filmmaker (and film) is capable of, but it’s not “proof” that the feature will be as engaging as the short.  In general, for the same amount of money and time spent, I’d make a feature.

FilmCourage:  If you recommend this self-fund method to other filmmakers, what also has to be present in order to take this risk?

John:   Again, I wouldn’t recommend self-financing, unless it’s a question of quitting your dream and doing something else.  If that’s the decision, then you have to decide what’s more important.  It’s reckless and foolish to think you’re going to spend your retirement money and become successful enough to overcome that kind of risk.  Chances are you won’t.  But sometimes you need to go out there without a safety net, in order to pursue something with that kind of live or die desperation and relentlessness that’s necessary to succeed.

Tentacle 8 Producers (Alex McCullough, John Chi, Casey Poh)

FilmCourage:  Most challenging moment in the process of making TENTACLE 8 where you considered abandoning the project?

John:   I never considered abandoning the project.  I don’t think that can ever be an option.  You just push on, no matter what.  We had a really difficult time with our distributor that really frustrated me.  I did a presentation at USC on indie film distribution, and the last slide is a list of the top 50 (highest box office gross) indie films of 2014, and the distributors that distributed them.  The majority of those 50 films were distributed by 3 or 4 distributors.  Fox Searchlight, Sony Picture Classics, Weinstein Company, and maybe a handful of others..  There might be another 10 or so distributors that weren’t on that list, that put they films into theaters and/or spent real marketing money on VOD releases.  But everyone else?  I think you’re probably better off self releasing.  I don’t begrudge anyone from trying to make a buck.  But it’s predatory, in my opinion, to solicit filmmakers and take their work, for little or no money up front, make promises they never intend to keep or aren’t competent or conscientious enough to follow through on.  So if you sign on with a distributor that isn’t well known, representing movies you’ve never heard of, expect to be disappointed, or seriously lower your expectations.  Make sure there’s a performance clause where you can exit if you’re not happy.

For whatever reason, our VOD release just never happened, or took an inordinate amount of time to happen.  I never got much clarity from the distributor as to what happened, but It was a very unpleasant experience that tested me in many ways.  In short, I took back the film from the distributor, per a clause we had in our agreement (a performance clause is a MUST FOR ALL CONTRACTS), that allowed me to take back all digital rights if they failed to get us on digital platforms within 1 year.  When that year lapsed, and emails and phone calls went unreturned, I exercised that clause and made the decision to self-release to VOD.

FilmCourage:   Explain the themes of father and son in TENTACLE 8?  Why is this important to you?

John:   I talked about this earlier, but my dad was the single most important influence on my life.  Storytelling in many ways, is about the passing of myth and tradition, from one generation to the next.  In a global sense, what this generation is doing is going to influence our children, so there’s a huge responsibility to do the right thing, and be both conscious and considerate of the consequences of our actions.  That’s our story in a nutshell really, preserving some integrity and conscience in our actions today, so that our children can have a chance at a better life than their parents had.  So the idea of fathers and sons is a literal and figurative metaphor for the passing of wisdom/experience/sins/sacrifices from one generation to the next.

FilmCourage:   How much are you willing to change in a scene to save money in the long run?  What factors come into play?

John:   As the writer, I knew what was essential and what wasn’t.  As the producer, I also knew what could and couldn’t be executed on our budget, regardless of what was on the page.  In almost every instance, we made the decision to save money if we could.  But really, these decisions were made long before we ever got to set.  It was done in pre-production when we scouted and talked to vendors, and decided what made the most sense.  Once those were locked, I swapped out some pages, and rewrote some things, but nothing of great consequence changed.


FilmCourage:   What are your plans to screen TENTACLE 8?  

John:   In advance of our VOD release on June 25, we’re screening in NYC from June 18 to June 24, at the Anthology Film Archives, a revered art house theater in New York, known for the preservation, study, and exhibition of art house and avant-garde cinema from around the world.

After that, depending on demand for the film, we’ll screen some special events in other cities.

FilmCourage:   How did you arrange those screenings?

John:   We did a Tugg screening in North Hollywood for our DVD release, which was great, and I see us working with Tugg again for other screenings.  But while Tugg does shield us a bit from financial risk, it also limits the predictability of event planning and promotions.  Because we wanted to court NY press to cover the film for our VOD release, we needed to book a 1 week run in NY.  However, it’s really important to note that NY press no longer will cover all films just because they’re playing in the city.  There has been a lot made of the impact of 4 walling on media outlets covering these films, especially from the NY Times.  The Times will NOT COVER ALL FILMS in release, so 4 walling is no longer a guarantee your film will get covered by media outlets.

If you want media coverage you will need a publicist to champion your cause.  Film Courage, is partly responsible for helping us find the right publicist, so Thank You!  I watched your video on Film Publicists, with Diane Bell and Chris Byrne, and they spoke glowingly of their respect and affection for their publicist, Kim Dixon.  Like that scene at the end of Jerry Maguire, where Cuba Gooding Jr. is hugging Tom Cruise, and all the other athletes are watching with envy…that was me when I listened to Diane and Chris talk about Kim.  THAT was the kind of publicist and champion I wanted on my team.  When I made the decision to self-release to VOD, it would only make sense if we enlisted a real pro as our publicist. So I reached out to Kim, and gratefully, she loved the movie, and agreed to take us on as a client.  I’ve only just begun working with Kim, but I can say she’s been the greatest collaborator, champion, and friend to the film, (and to me personally) that I could have ever imagined.  So thank you Film Courage, and eternally grateful to you Kim Dixon.

FilmCourage:   What advice can you provide filmmakers on signing with a distributor?

John:   I’ve talked about this in earlier responses, but the big take away, is that unless you’re going to be working with a distributor who has movies in theaters, or who has movies on VOD that you’ve heard of, with an obvious marketing spend, I’d seriously consider self distribution as a first option.  Talk to the filmmakers they’ve represented.  Seek them out, and ask if they feel like their distributor lived up to their end of the relationship.

It’s totally possible to self release, but you will need to spend money or get access to money (crowdfunding, investors, savings, etc.) AND be willing to spend a lot of time and energy hustling your movie.  You will need to rent theaters, plan out a theatrical run somewhere, create artwork, work with an aggregator for VOD, and a DVD manufacturer (if you want to sell DVDs), make media files, and the most important spend, will be your publicist.  This is a MUST if you’re going to self release.  Theatrical is still the engine that pulls VOD.  Without some theatrical, it’ll be hard to create an awareness for the film, get press, and make a difference on VOD.  So Theatrical is a must, even a 4 wall somewhere.  The publicist that you get from your distributor (unless it’s one of the top ones) won’t push nearly hard enough, if at all.  For a $100K budget, the conventional allocation might be $70K production, $20K post production, $5K festivals, and $5K marketing/PR.  If you’re going to self release, then I’d flip the balance if possible and spend way less on production, and way more on PR/Marketing, at least $40K.  The obvious question is, how do you know if you’re going to land a big distributor or not?  Or if you’re going to get into Sundance.  Play the odds, and prepare for what’s more likely.  It’ll be easier going from planning on self release to possible Sundance Award Winning film trajectory than the other way

FilmCourage:   What advice can you provide filmmakers on setting up film screenings?

John:   Setting up the screening isn’t that hard, theaters are easy to contact, and the more well known your film, the easier it’ll be to negotiate rates with the theater.  It’s getting people to come to the shows that’s challenging, especially in cities where you don’t have a base to draw from.  Again, you’ll need help from a theater booker (which we didn’t use or look for) or a publicist if you want to launch your own theatrical distribution.  If you only need a few event screenings, you can do that via Tugg or yourself.

FilmCourage:   What life lesson has making TENTACLE 8 taught you?

John:   Just because you make a movie you love, doesn’t mean other people are going to want to see it.  No matter what your artistic sensibilities are, you shouldn’t make a movie for yourself (entirely) unless you can afford to write off the entirety of the costs or can lose all your investor’s money and not face serious consequences. (who can do that?).  Like it or not, you will need to think about who will pay to see your movie, and how you’re going to sell your movie to an audience.

FilmCourage:  Do you currently have distribution for TENTACLE 8?

John:   Our distributor still has all DVD rights, so yes.  All VOD and Theatrcial distribution rights we own.  The VOD aggregators we used were:  BitMAX for Itunes and Google Play, and Kinonation for Amazon.  For subscription VOD, I submitted to IndieFlix, which is a curated platform, and thankfully they accepted the film.  All of these platforms require very specific formatting of your files, video/audio specs, resolutions, bit rates, etc.  Without our editor/post guru Kevin Lipnos, I would have been lost.  So if you’re going to self distribute, you’ll need someone on your team who’s very familiar with digital media, and how to conform it for all the various media outlets.

FilmCourage:   What mistakes did you make on your first attempt to distribute TENTACLE 8?

John:   I was a bit too naive in believing our distributor could/would deliver on its promises.  Look at the films they distribute.  Have you ever heard of them before?  Have any of them ever been in theaters?  Are they in line with your film?  If it’s no, no, and no, then that should be your answer also.  Unless they’re willing to give you money upfront (MG, minimum guarantee) or promise to put the movie in some theaters with dedicated PR and marketing money, I’d seriously consider self-distribution.

FilmCourage:   What’s a block in your creativity (self-criticism, procrastination, perfectionism, etc.) and how do you work with its challenges?

John:   I do all those things, but I don’t consider them blockages to my creativity.  I feel they’re all part of the artistic process of refining, and whittling down what’s essential. This might totally sound like rationalizing, but a lot of my writing process involves doing nothing.  You can call it procrastinating, but when I’m writing a script, I’m constantly thinking about things, even when I’m day dreaming about stuff.

Alex McCullough, John Knox (actor), John Chi, Casey Poh
.FilmCourage:   How do you know a team member (crew, actor, producing partner, etc.) is of a like-mind and worth taking to the next project?

John:   There’s no secret recipe for finding your ideal collaborator, it’s a process of getting to know one another.  I look at their attention to detail, their organizational skills, their punctuality, how they treat other people, their past work, and testimonials from previous productions.  Then I interview them and spend time with them.  Most of the hard work is done during this vetting process.  Once they join the team, I monitor their effort, their independence, their leadership, their initiative, and how well we communicate.  I compare notes with Casey and my producing team, and we go from there.  On T8, we built an incredible team of really passionate and talented artists, and even better people, that bought into what we were trying to do.  It’s my job to get everyone to believe in the mission.  You learn a lot about people when you make a movie together, and the kindness and generosity we received from our cast/crew has been immeasurable.  I’d work with any of them again, and plan to.

FilmCourage:   How and why are you driven by a higher purpose? How does this play out in day-to-day life and in your art?

John:   Everyone has a particular reason for doing what they do.  I’ve experienced success in other areas, where at the end of the day, I felt the sum of my accomplishments weren’t all that meaningful, and left me questioning if this was my purpose.  Most people don’t love their jobs or think it’s their calling in life.  Some don’t care about that kind of thing, others do.  It’s not lost on me how lucky I am to do this…for hopefully the rest of my life.

I believe cinema has that ability to invoke positive change, on a sizable scale.  I can’t cure cancer, build a spaceship, make vegetables taste better, or a million other things I’d like to do, but I can create a piece of art that can imagine what those things might look like.  Through cinema, maybe those who do have those abilities, can and will be inspired to do so.

FilmCourage:   Despite the collaborative nature of filmmaking, does it ever feel isolating?

John:   Indie filmmaking is both extremely and necessarily collaborative, but it can also be a very lonely journey.  If you’re looking for people to give you a pat on the back, or believe in what you’re doing unconditionally, then indie filmmaking isn’t for you. Having the will and tenacity to constantly push forward, and possess the self belief to continue what you’re doing when there aren’t a lot of results to show for it, is pretty exhausting.  Having said that, there were many who gave us their support and encouragement, and it meant the world to us.  It put wind in our sail just when we needed it.

FilmCourage:  What’s the most common question asked at TENTACLE 8 live Q & A?


Is Ray Dead? and
Did Tabitha betray Ray?

FilmCourage:   With Father’s Day on the horizon, how does it affect you?  If your father was alive today what would you tell him, what would you want him to see from you, your own life, family and career?

John:   Father’s Day is always going to be hard, without my dad.  But I try to honor him by trying to live my life the way he lived his, incorporating the life long wisdom he shared with me.  I think he would’ve loved TENTACLE 8.

He loved his grandchildren, and I’m sorry he didn’t have more time with them.  But I know he’d be really proud of the boys they’ve become.

John Chi and John Churchill (actor)
FilmCourage:   How do you handle conflict within partnerships? Can good friends fight and go back to being ethical partners?

John:   My producing partner Casey and I did have some arguments initially, but we were able to work through them.  My fear was that the stress and pressure would impact our friendship, which at the end of the day, is more important to me than the movie.  But we came out the other side, friendship stronger as a result of this experience.  I think it was mainly about being really clear what my expectations were, and I am very demanding.  I find that setting expectations from the outset, and being very explicit about what people are responsible for, is the best way to go.  Then measuring performance is pretty black and white.  Can you go back to being partners if you fight?  Of course.  It’s about trust and respect for one another.  However, if one or both of those things get compromised, or worse, abused, then no, you can’t work together, and probably won’t be very good friends either.

FilmCourage:   Do you have an agent or manager?

John:   No, I don’t have an agent or manager.  I suspect I’ll have the opportunity at some point to work with one or both, but it hasn’t been something I’ve spent much time worrying about.

FilmCourage:   If your child (children) desires becoming a filmmaker, your answer is?

John:   Ask me again in 10 years.

FilmCourage:   What’s next for you creatively?

John:   I have two scripts that are ready to go into production, and I’m working on a new idea but haven’t gotten very far with it.  That will probably be the next thing I focus on and turn into a script.



TENTACLE 8 will play daily from June 18-June 24,  2015 with a special filmmaker Q&A with Producer/Director John Chi immediately following the screening on Thursday, June 18th, 2015 @ 7:00 p.m.

Get tickets here!



When a mysterious computer virus crashes the computer networks at the NSA, the U.S. Government initiates a secret manhunt to find the perpetrators.  Caught in the nets of the clandestine round up, is NSA analyst RAYMOND BERRY, who is thrown into a secret military detention center.  Ray plots his escape from the Intelligence world, so he can start a new life with TABITHA, a CIA operative he has recently fallen in love with.  But when Ray learns that Tabitha may not be who she says she is, things get dangerously complicated.  Inspired by films like All The President’s Men, The Insider, Memento, and Children of Men, Tentacle 8, is about the tenuous and arduous journey to protect and preserve the truth, no matter how extraordinary the circumstances might be.

For advance tickets, please visit here.

For more info, please visit Tentacle8.com
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Contact for questions, please contact: jchi@hipislandfilms.com

John Chi earned his BA in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and had a successful career as a management consultant prior to earning his MFA in Film Production from the School of Cinematic arts at USC. His short film, Partners, had a successful festival run, culminating with screenings at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles, Newfilmmakers in New York, and airings on PBS television. TENTACLE 8 is his first feature film.


Brett Rickaby, Amy Motta, Joshua Morrow and Bruce Gray

Directed By:
John Chi

Written By:
John Chi

Produced By:
Casey Poh, Alex McCullough, and John Chi



Please visit John Chi’s post (one of the most read for 2014)






TENTACLE 8 has its New York theatrical premiere screenings at the renowned ANTHOLOGY FILM ARCHIVES