Q&A: UT-Austin junior Ethan Tran talks Webby-nominated short film ‘When We’re Older’

Fiza Kuzhiyil

On a foggy morning in January, Ethan Tran filmed a few clips of himself running around his neighborhood to add to a short video he was making. Five months later, the completed short film, titled “When We’re Older,” was nominated for a Webby Award in the student category. The Webby Awards are international awards for Internet excellence, according to the website.

Tran, a management information systems junior, talked to The Daily Texan about how the past year influenced his filmmaking.

The Daily Texan: Your three-minute film is set to the song “When We’re Older” by James Blake. What about this song inspired you to make a short film to it?

Ethan Tran: The song came out in December last year, so this is before there’s (COVID-19 vaccines) out … and the future was unsure. I was getting anxious, then the song came out. I listened to it with my girlfriend, (who’s) in the film, and we both really resonated with the overall lyrics of the song about just coming of age … and maturing. Then the next month, she actually went away for … a month. I felt kind of lonely, so when I wanted to remember what it was like to be with her, I listened to the song on repeat. I knew I wanted to make something about this song because it meant so much to both of us.

DT: Most of the shots in your film focus on one subject at a time. Why did you decide to film it that way?

ET: Throughout the film, I’m the only one that’s in the frame and all the shots (because) I want the audience to feel a sense of longing. The sense of feeling alone is something that’s pretty prominent right now. I feel like a lot of times I’m in a big world and I feel really small in that world, so some of these shots (were) shot from really far away (to) give … a sense of isolation. One of my friends messaged me recently. He said that his girlfriend was in another state and then quarantine hit and they were doing long distance for a while. When he watched it, he said his girlfriend cried about it because they could feel those same feelings of longing for each other.

DT: What did it feel like to be nominated for the Webby Award?

ET: The Webby’s (recognize) … anything that lives on the internet, so a lot of advertising companies put their work on there. I didn’t realize it was a pretty well-known (award) in (the advertising industry), so when I got the email, I was like, “Oh, this is cool” and I (brushed) it off. Then someone from (Hunt, Gather), the ad agency I worked at, found my film on the Webby website and she sent it in the chat. Everyone was getting excited that I was nominated, so then I started getting really excited and sharing with all my circles and trying to think of ways to market it, to get more people to watch it and vote. I really want to win this.