Q&A: College Filmmaker Chantal Massuh-Fox

  by Kate Spalla.

She’s not afraid of the “no” factor.

Rochester Institute of Technology junior Chantal Massuh-Fox has a bright and bold vision for her experimental work. She’s not afraid to shoot a close up of slimy worms as seen in “Red Vinyl,” and she definitely has the chops to get the locations and actors she wants. Check out her story.

Where do you typically get your inspiration?
I get it from everywhere, like in a dream, something I’ll see… it really just pops up randomly, but my style is definitely very kitschy, and I like quirky. I love dark comedy. That’s definitely where I feel at home. So yeah, I just definitely always try and give everything a punch – try and make it different than what we’ve already seen.

How did growing up in Costa Rica affect your creativity?
I was always very different. Everything is very in line, in place, like girls do this, boys do this, because the culture is still very… man is head of the table and women are subservient. So, I just always didn’t like that. I always wanted to say what was on my mind, just be who I was. My parents always encouraged that, especially because my Mom is an American woman. So, she was always like, “Stand up for what you believe in, don’t let anybody tell you any differently.” I just always have.

Why did you choose filmmaking over the other art forms you’ve been interested in?
I always loved writing, so I started out doing creative writing all the time. Poetry was really my thing. And then I fell into photography, but I was always, always watching movies. I actually spent most of my years renting films on the weekends. It got to the point where I would go into the local Blockbuster so many times that the guy offered to hire me, because I just spent so much time watching movies and being there. So it just made sense. I liked photography, and I liked writing and I was like why not? I liked movies, put them together and that’s where it all came from.

You say you have a “no fear attitude” that has helped get you where you are today. How has that helped you succeed?
With every new film project, there’s always new obstacles and you can’t be afraid to ask, to pick up the phone, to go into a location and say, ‘Can I shoot here?’ – you just can’t be afraid and I just never have been. I’ve always known what I want and if I want somebody in my film, if I want a location, if I think it’s worth asking, I will. Even if I know probably it’ll be a ‘no,’ why not? Maybe they can lead me to other places or other people, or recommendations. So, I always think there’s an opportunity in something, wherever I go.

Has taking risks ever failed you?
Oh of course. In filmmaking you always make mistakes, but you learn. Every film I’ve done, even back in the day, freshman year — I’m embarrassed of some of the films but I learned so much on them, that it’s like, you can’t be afraid of the “no” factor. There’s been plenty of times where I’m going somewhere and somebody says, ‘Get the hell out of here. What are you doing? Put the camera down.” Plenty of times. So you just gotta brush it off your shoulder and keep trying. Never give up.

What kind of film work do you want to pursue after graduating from R.I.T?
I want to be a director for sure. That is what I am going to be. I would love to make feature films. I would be fine doing independent feature films. I would be perfectly happy doing blockbuster feature films. But because my niche is dark comedy, I think I would more fall into independent stuff, but I’m open to every opportunity.

See Chantal’s clips on the mtvU College Filmmakers Vimeo group.

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