University of Melbourne Magazine

The bigger picture


    (BFT(Hons) 2008, MFT(Narr) 2011)


    Corrie Chen has ambitions, big ones, the kind that require millions of dollars and nerves of steel. She wants to direct a feature film.

    Temptingly, the young Melbourne filmmaker describes her dream project as an Australian-style Deadwood, a riff on the old Wild West played out on the Victorian goldfields in the 1850s with plenty of love, death and lawlessness revolving around the arrival of Chinese immigrants.

    The storyline is close to her heart and her experience as the daughter of Taiwanese migrants.

    “I am interested in people on the fringes of society because they are not heard of very often,” she says. “It started with telling migrant stories because that came naturally to me, but it’s filtering now into other genres.”

    Corrie Chen arrived in Australia as an eight-year-old in 1994. When she hit her teens her parents had expectations about her future career, the kind involving law or accounting.

    “The Asian thing,” she says, “is that your ideal profession should be contributing something to society, like a doctor or an accountant.”

    She enrolled in media at RMIT with thoughts of perhaps becoming a journalist, and it was during a course on film that her lecturer saw in her a kernel of potential and “pushed” her towards committing to film. She enrolled in the Victorian College of the Arts School of Film and Television, receiving a Bachelor of Film and Television (Hons) in 2008 and following it up with a Master of Film and Television in 2011.

    Her parents remain unsure of what exactly she does, but there’s no doubt her film work has touched many, dealing as it does with some of the big issues confronting Australia in the 21st century.

    In 2014, Suicide and Me, exploring the stories of three young suicide survivors, aired on the ABC. It won her Best Direction in a Documentary at the Australian Directors’ Guild Awards.

    The 2011 short comedy Bruce Lee Played Badminton Too looked at the dreams of an isolated young man who loves badminton and Bruce Lee. It was highly commended at the 2013 World of Women Film Festival.

    Reg Makes Contact, her latest seven-minute short film, now in post-production, is a story about dementia and alien life forms.

    “It’s about an old man who lives by himself in the middle of nowhere. He’s suffering from dementia and he’s really obsessed with finding proof of extraterrestrial life. On the eve of him being forced out of his home and into a nursing home, he finds an object that he believes is that proof.”