Kevin Tran | Credit: Ingrid Bostrom

In our ongoing effort to expand social media and multimedia dimensions, the Independent is proudly launching a new series of short video profiles. Each month ”Transmissions” will showcase people, places, and ideas of interest in the 805, starting with Lighthouse Skate Shop this week (see video here).  

At the helm of the project is filmmaker and admitted film geek Kevin Tran, who made his first feature in 2020, the delectable indie film The Dark Side of the Street (see review here). 

Tran was born and raised in S.B., studied at NYU and then worked in film for a decade back east, until returning to his hometown during the pandemic, with his wife Samantha Hubball and baby son Miles in tow. We checked in with Tran to learn more about “Transmissions.”

What is your vision for the new series?  Tran: While I was in New York, a friend and I started making short documentaries called “Longview” about artists and people we thought were doing cool things. … I’m interested in how artists live. How did they get into what they’re good at? Where do they look for inspiration? How do they manage to pay the rent? I think it helps me process these questions for myself when I see how other artists do it.

Moving back to Santa Barbara in 2021 after being away for nearly a decade, I noticed that there were a lot of cool changes happening. Mainly, people my age starting their own businesses, forming new communities, and creating their own art. Things I wish existed back when I was growing up here. All of the subjects I’m doing this new series on are all pretty different, but they all make Santa Barbara a more unique, vibrant and interesting place. I think when people picture this town, they imagine huge mansions and luxury yachts, and that’s definitely around here, but there’s a lot more beyond that. I’m hoping to show this other side.

Is this new video series partly a way of your checking out what’s interesting about where we live? We’re lucky to have been able to move back and to give our son a similar childhood [to what] I had. I feel very fortunate, but it’s a bit surreal too. A teenage version of myself definitely felt like everything was happening somewhere else, which is probably why I left. That’s how it felt for me anyway. I took this place for granted. I didn’t grow up going to the beach or hiking much, but I love doing those things now, especially with my wife and son.

Kevin Tran | Credit: Courtesy

For me, the new video series is a reminder that you can pick up a camera and make a movie about anything that interests you. There’s so much cool stuff out there if you’re engaged and are looking in the right places. 

It’s a bit isolating being a film editor. You’re just alone in a room, staring at the screen, looking at the same images. Making these videos has been a nice way to get out of the house and meet people I’ve long admired and respected. They’re all doing really unique and different things so it’s been rewarding to hear their stories and film their process. I’m excited to share them with the Independent readers.

Can you give a thumbnail history of your life and involvement in film? What started your film obsession, for instance? I always loved watching movies as a kid. In high school, it became more of an obsession. We lived right by Captain Videos — RIP — at the Turnpike Shopping Center and I would rent as many DVDs I could. I would also check out foreign and art house films from the public library. I’d stay up late and watch two to three movies a night. I took a lot of film studies and production classes at SBCC. 

I transferred to NYU — although, to be honest, I learned a lot more at SBCC — and eventually got a job at Oscilloscope Laboratories, a film distribution company started by Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys. I was their in-house editor and started cutting marketing materials, which jump started my career. In 2020, I co-founded a film marketing company called Crater with a friend and fellow film editor. We edit movie trailers for some of my favorite film companies. I also have a production company called Transmission Pictures. I produce all my own projects through it, but we also make commercials, branded content, social media videos and stuff like that. 

A few years back, you created a wonderful indie film, The Dark End of the Street, with skateboarding, life in the ‘burbs — including the diverse slices of humanity in those suburban houses — and mysterious goings-on. It also had a fresh and loose filmic approach. How was the experience of making the film, and are there more projects in the works? It’s a life-long dream to write and direct a feature length film. I’m lucky to have really good friends who helped me make it. We did it completely on our own. Although we shot the film in New Jersey, a lot of it is based on my memories from growing up here in the suburbs and the anxieties I felt about becoming an adult. It’s kind of funny that I happily live in that very same suburb now. 

Making these types of personal films are really challenging. They take up a lot of resources and are expensive, but I’m always trying to make them and to find new collaborators. The one I’m making now is a horror film about a Vietnamese refugee family. I think of it as the most expensive hobby in the world. But it’s still what I’m the most passionate about.

Just to get a picture of your taste in cinema, can you give me a short list of your favorite films — maybe as a filmgoer/watcher but also in terms of films that have influenced you as a filmmaker? There is a never ending rotation of favorite films and directors. It changes based on my mood and interests at the moment, but one of the films I return to the most is a Taiwanese film called Yi Yi by Edward Yang. It’s about a tumultuous year in the life of a family living in Taipei. It’s the first movie I’ve ever seen that felt like it was made just for me. It’s what I love about movies, that feeling of connection.


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