In the know
What: “Part-Time Thief”
Where: Varsity Theatre, 616 Second St.
When: 10:45 p.m. Saturday
Rating: There is no official rating, but director Stephen Leung say PG to PG-13. It is not violent or dark.
Stephen Leung is a typical senior majoring in biology/chemistry at UC Davis. However, he has another side – an alter ego, if you will, with another stand-out talent.
In his otherworld, Leung is a filmmaker and actor. His first full-length feature — maybe not so coincidentally about a student with a special gift — will debut at 10:45 p.m. Saturday at the Varsity Theatre in downtown Davis.
“This idea just randomly popped into my head: what about shooting a movie about student who was a really skilled pickpocket,” said Leung, who will attending pharmacy school in the fall. “He’s not evil but suave and cool.
“He’s just a normal guy trying to blend in with the crowd, and he has this skill that preys on the ignorance of society,” he added. “I thought such a flawed character would be interesting. … The audience has to keep guessing what will the character do next, or more interestingly, ‘What would I do if I were in this situation?’ ”
Leung, who shot the film during the course of past school year, used students and friends as actors, camera operators, editors, composers, etc. He also had help from club groups Filmmaker’s Ambitions, Dead Arts Society and AggieTV.
With all the help, he produced the 78-minute film for $0. Zip, zilch, nada. He used an HD camcorder that he’d had for years, the school lab for editing and a friend’s 2TB hard drive to store the project. His musical friends composed the original score for free.
“A lot of people will assume that zero dollars doesn’t get you very far, and in a way they’re correct,” he said. “Our film and audio quality, for instance, won’t be the same as ‘Iron Man 3.’ Given the $200 million difference, however, I think it turned out pretty good.”
The San Jose native had a crew of 50 people who worked off and on throughout the year on the film.
“We were shooting at all these wild times and locations, and I’m incredibly appreciative that they stuck with me,” he said.
His triumvirate consisted of cinematographer Jonathan Tse, actor Sean Small and composer Clinton Ngan.
“Several weekends, (Jonathan and I) were sitting in a cramped editing room together for three or four hours,” Leung said. “He stuck with me for the entire project even though he leads a very busy life.”
Small, who started school at the University of Southern California right after shooting his final scene, “would arrive on time with his lines completely memorized.”
“He didn’t care how many takes we did or what time or where we filmed,” Leung said. “He was available at a moment’s notice. He’s really an amazing guy.”
Leung spoke with Ngan in the summer of 2012 but didn’t have any footage for him to see until this spring.
“Clinton is extremely talented, and the movie came to life with his music,” the 21-year-old director said.
Leung, like many directors before him, started making films in middle school. His first serious project was the web series “Freshman Fifteen,” a sitcom about college life. He also filmed the “UC Davis Lightsaber Battle,” a comedy short.
His earliest influence was, not surprisingly, George Lucas and more recently Chris Nolan with the Batman triology and “Inception.”
It hasn’t been all easy for the Asian-American. Balancing grades with family expectations and filmmaker dreams is a precarious feat. While he parents do not “encourage” his extracurricular efforts, they have “after so many years gotten used to the fact that (I) spend hours and hours making films.” And Leung has maintained his grades.
He believes there is one thing that helps him keep all his things in order.
“I have a pretty low stamina for video games,” he said. “Some of my friends enjoy ‘League of Legends’ for hours at a time, several times a week. But I really can’t play more than two games at a time, once or twice a week.”
All his hard work will pay off Saturday as people file into the Varsity to catch the premiere of Leung’s film. There probably will be another movie in the future, but the date is uncertain — pharmacy school may demand his undivided attention.
— Reach Kim Orendor at email@example.com or 530-747-8043. Follow her on Twitter at @KOrendor