"RED DOORS" ACTORS, PRODUCERS
Her Enthralling Characters Remind Us That Seemingly Solitary Upheavals
Can Become Transcendent Communal Experiences.
GEORGIA LEE: I consider RED DOORS a film about family. It is a story about individuals trying to find their own way to some truth about themselves and some real connection with each other. Of course my cultural background and experience influence the characters and story but no more than my being a woman or growing up in a middle-class suburban New England town does. All of these elements color the story and its point of view, but I ultimately am telling a story about the relationships between these human beings who are indeed Asian Americans but are not necessarily defined by that one dimension. It is a story about a family struggling to stay in touch with each other even as each individual may be moving in different directions.
I very much feel the same way about the lesbian element as well. Julie Wong is gay, and her sexuality certainly influences her character. However, I did not want her storyline to be solely focused on the “coming out” story. It is more a story of what happens when opposites meet and attract. I was more interested in exploring what happens to a young woman who has always been the shy, introverted, seemingly meeker middle child when she meets a very confident, aggressive, public persona. I wanted to see Julie Wong come out of her shell and discover her own voice and power.
US ASIANS: What key interactive strategy (resulting from Jane’s background with American Vantage Media and other experiences) provided the greatest benefit in making “Red Doors” a reality?
JANE CHEN: There is no one interactive strategy that made RED DOORS happen. RED DOORS happened the old fashioned way, with lots of people putting time and energy and money into a dream. That being said, having a website is an absolute necessity in this day and age. Almost the first thing anybody does when they hear about something is to go "google" it. Having an IMDB presence and a website made our project seem a lot more legitimate in the early goings when we had nothing to show for our work. A website is also a great way to disseminate information allowing us to instantaneously provide press with press kits, festivals with downloadable photos, or anybody with a quick synopsis of the film. It sure saved on mailing costs for all of these elements.
US ASIANS: How has your (Mia’s) profiled experience as a cross-media person and producer for Fox Entertainment programs (i.e. Malcolm in the Middle, Son of the Beach and The Crasher)
MIA RIVERTON: My on-set experience as a producer came in handy many times during production – since I am familiar with every department, I was able to lend a hand wherever needed, which is useful on a very low-budget film. My cross-media experience has helped inform our marketing plan, which includes a big online component with podcasts, video content, special promotions on our website, etc.
US ASIANS: Could you describe the support that you’ve received from key Asian American marketing/PR/media people (i.e. Fritz Friedman, David Magdael, Steven Liu, Grace Niva, Laura Kim, Jeff Yang, Asian Avenue, Giant Robot, etc.?
MIA RIVERTON: Catherine Park of Giant Robot, who is also one of our investors, has been amazing. She has supported us from the very start (before we even had a script!) and has continued to help rally support and spread the word about RED DOORS. David Magdael has been extremely generous with his support of RED DOORS. We (and Catherine) are on the VC Film Fest board together, and they were both instrumental in bringing RED DOORS in as the closing night film for VCFF 2005. David has also helped spread the word through his PR connections about the film’s release to audiences both in the Asian-American and the broader community. Abe Ferrer at VC has also been a key supporter of the film and of Georgia (her previous shorts have also showed at the festival). In fact, all of the Asian-American festival folks have been supportive – Chi-Hui Yang and Taro Goto at the SFIAFF, Anderson Lee at Hawaii International Film Fest, Sam Chen at San Diego Film Fest, etc. Steve Liu has been great, he helped connect us with APEX as well. The Asian-American community has been very receptive and supportive of the film, and we have tried to reciprocate as much as possible by cross-promoting everyone else’s endeavors.
JANE CHEN: Being a hit is definitely the ultimate goal but not just for financial reasons. It has been over 15 years since Joy Luck Club came out in theaters and provided, perhaps, the only example of an Asian-American film that has crossed-over into the mainstream. The ultimate goal of RED DOORS is to provide a glimpse into a Chinese-American family that any audience member can relate to. These days, box office success is the only real recognized metric of success. But wanting RED DOORS to succeed more than just wants to advance the lot of Asian-American filmmakers, it’s also about advancing the lot of Asian-American stories. To us, it’s not enough that Asians can successfully make films – like Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain or Open Water – we also want the characters in the story to be Asian too.
KAO: I love the moment when Julie discovers
that Mia brought her the bag of "gouda" cheese and she just melts and
kisses her because that is the moment Julie really owns herself, her
sexuality, and embraces life and love. And I also love the moment when
Julie’s mom takes her hand after she recovers from fainting. It
reveals the mom’s love and acceptance of her daughter.
MIA RIVERTON: My character’s turning point happens in the “gouda” scene, after Julie and Mia have a fight and Mia tries to make amends by bringing her cheese. That was my favorite scene to play, even though it’s quite emotional, because there’s a lot of truth and humor in the situation. Plus, they get to kiss and make up!
US ASIANS: Do you feel that Red Doors is an Asian American or American film featuring Asian actors?
JACQUELINE KIM: It's a film. Do we think City of God is a Brazilian film? It's set in Brazil, directed and acted by Brazilian people, but for me, it's a story about poverty, oppression and myth. If I think of my favorite filmmakers, I think of their craft and what their story is about. Many of them come from particular environments which is what the filmmaker mines for detail and an authentic sense of life -- but when it's a good film, it's just a good film.
ELAINE KAO: I feel Asian American is American so it’s hard for me to differentiate between the two.
US ASIANS: Which character(s), issue(s) and/or words were the crucial lynch pins to the movie, your character and/or to the movie?
JACQUELINE KIM: I like the title of the film. Having red doors is (to my understanding) a traditional feng shui measure to protect the home. How wonderful that all the traditional things this family holds close -- the things that normally give people a sense of security -- are revealed as inept and unaffecting.
ELAINE KAO: I think it’s the theme of finding your place in the world and what’s true for you and accepting that, which I believe is what each character tries to do.
US ASIANS: What influences (i.e. films, directors, actors) do you see within the scenes that helps the film tell its stories? (i.e. Japanese version of “Shall We Dance” and Julie – Elaine Kao – seeking her social outlet in ballroom dancing)
MIA RIVERTON: The film is often compared to early Ang Lee (e.g. EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN), which I think is apt, especially in the family dinner scenes. Georgia’s exploration of family dynamics shares a certain humor/pathos with Mr. Lee’s work.
US ASIANS: Jeff Lipsky stated that filmmaking is about three mountains. The first is getting it made, the second is getting it distributed, and the third is finding an audience. What was your targeted audience(s) and what have you found as the actual audiences for your film?
MIA RIVERTON: I think Georgia intended this as a universal film about a family’s coming-of-age, and we never pigeonholed it creatively as an “Asian-American film”, or a “gay/lesbian film”, or a “women’s film”. However, even we have been surprised by how receptive audiences have been across all boundaries of age, race, sexuality, gender, etc – it’s touching to hear both 70-year-old Long Island Jewish men and African American teenagers tell us they identify with the characters and story.