"RED DOORS" ACTORS, PRODUCERS
Her Enthralling Characters Remind Us That Seemingly Solitary Upheavals
Can Become Transcendent Communal Experiences.
INFO & BACKGROUND
GEORGIA LEE: I think that filmmaking is a very hard thing to learn in a classroom and from books. It is a skill that can only be learned and developed by DOING. That has always been the advice that Scorsese gave me, and it is advice I have taken to heart. Being an observer on GANGS OF NEW YORK was a fairytale come true. I could not have asked for a better film education. Again, because I was able to watch as a film was being made by one of America’s most talented directors, I believe I learned filmmaking in the best “classroom” possible. I observed how Scorsese worked with his DP, his set designer, his costume designer, the actors, the ADs, even the extras. He has such attention to detail and such a breadth and depth of knowledge about the themes and times of his films. I will always be grateful for such a wonderful learning experience.
US ASIANS: Has your experience with the Lodestone Theater ensemble added frustrations because of the lack of opportunities and/or filled with hopes because it provided the training to do films like Red Doors and similar projects?
ELAINE KAO: Lodestone Theatre Ensemble has provided me with ample opportunities to play deep, interesting, complex characters, which are not as plentiful for Asian American actors in the realm of TV or film. It is a wonderful artistic home for me where I have been blessed with opportunities to not only act but to direct, and produce as well.
JACQUELINE KIM: It's always nice to play something with a crack in it. That's what made playing Sam fulfilling for me. There is a price to being an immigrant -- in that the next generation is expected to better what has happened in the past. Often "better" means earning some kind of outward acceptance and honor to pay for a great deal of sacrifice. That is very form based. I would like to think that the next generation is not only able to wield more power, but to express a deeper intelligence and consciousness and who knows in what form? What if George Bush's soul was seeking to be a marriage counselor or an expert fly fisherman? His path was traditionalized and ordered, and it seems to me that he doesn't quite fit the role. My next non-traditional role is filmmaker. I made my first short this year and am developing my first feature.
US ASIANS: Acknowledging that Martin Scorsese takes great care and passion in every aspect of the filming process, along with his great affinity with his immigrant background (Italian), what main things/process from your time with him has had the greatest impact in your creative vision?
GEORGIA LEE: I originally had written another screenplay called “Marionette” an arch dark comedy about yuppies in New York that Scorsese graciously read. He politely suggested that I write about something much more personal. He has always been a champion of “personal filmmaking”. I had told him about my existentially curious father and the other wacky and wonderful members of my family. He was the one who originally encouraged me to write about my parents and sisters.
GEORGIA LEE: My short films represent my darker side and my fascination with surrealism. I am a big fan of David Lynch, Luis Bunuel, Fellini, Wong Kar Wai, etc. I think that at the heart of it all, I believe that our subconscious holds great keys to the mysteries of our existence. And surrealism is a natural creative sensibility I lean towards.
PAST & FUTURE
JACQUELINE KIM: I just finished co-directing a production of Love's Labor's Lost at the Actor's Gang here in Los Angeles. I joined in to watch a friend and amazing actor, Simon Abkarian, direct the traditional commedia dell'arte style that he learned at the Theatre du Soleil in Paris. Also co-directing was a buddy, Jon Kellam, who I worked with at the Organic Theater in Chicago. I brought my experience with Shakespeare and ended up becoming a co-director. The production has been well reviewed and attended and it was very valuable for me as my (upcoming) feature is about a Shakespeare heroine.
SUPPORT OF "RED DOORS"
JACQUELINE KIM: It can always be more. I would love to see enthusiasm outweigh critique. Making films is hard -- support is the best way to get more made and with more, the quality is bound to grow.
MIA RIVERTON: I don’t think the Asian Pacific American communities have been “uniformly united” on any issue including films, but I don’t think any community ever is – there are so many different perspectives, agendas, etc within each community. However, I think that’s a good thing, because it proves that there are diverse opinions and ideas within our Asian Pacific American community – it would worry me if everyone categorically “voted the party line” on everything without thinking about it. That said, I do think it’s important to focus on constructive and productive ways to deal with issues and debates, rather than just trying to rip each other down or prevent each other from succeeding. We have much better ways to spend our time and a lot of work ahead of us if we want to achieve our common goals, including broader representation in mainstream media.
US ASIANS: What would one’s “official” responses to Asian/Asian American males lamenting on the Asian Pacific American woman and a White man relationships – as noted by many online comments?
MIA RIVERTON: We have explained our casting process multiple times, but the bottom line is that the race of the male love interest characters in RED DOORS was secondary to the essence that we needed for each character. So we began with two of the young male characters being played by Asian Pacific American actors (Leehom Wang and Leonardo Nam), and ended up with two Caucasian actors (Rossif Sutherland and Sebastian Stan) due to circumstance (both Asian Pacific American actors dropped out at the last minute to pursue other projects). Interracial relationships are a fact of modern life, as are "intraracial" relationships. To criticize any one film for “wrongly” portraying relationships based on the race of the actors is trivial and reductive. Georgia’s previous short films have featured Asian Pacific American male/Asian Pacific American female relationships (EDUCATED) and Asian Pacific American male/white female relationships (DIAGNOSIS). None of these portrayals is more “correct” than the other, they just depict different facets of our lives as Asian Pacific Americans living in modern society.
US ASIANS: What would your words be to all the well-intentioned parties/APA Media Advocacy organizations that were battling over each other in FOX TV's "Bonzai" incident where the Asian American executives (Wenda Fong - former President of CAPE) championed/"green-lighted" a summer replacement show that prompted various Asian Pacific American media advocacy organizations (APA Media Coalition/Karen Narasaki, MANAA and a divided SAG's APA Caucus were constantly sparring one another on the same issue?
ELAINE KAO: It reinforces how divided we can be in the community and how we are lacking a unified stance and objective which impedes our progress and strength as a whole.
ELAINE KAO: I think that’s difficult because as I mentioned in the question above we have no unified vision of what it is we are going after. Therefore, how can one person give voice to a diverse group who are not seeking the same goals?
& CRITICAL THINKING
ELAINE KAO: I think it sets us back as a community when we continue to criticize our artists on the content of their work instead of applauding the effort and guts it takes to actually create something and bring it forth into the world. One can disagree with an artist’s concept or vision but the artist has a right to express his/her own truth.
US ASIANS: It has been stated that without any unique vision, style and/or attitude unique to the Asian/Asian Pacific American communities - as oppose to the Black and Hispanic communities, it will be hard for any artists of Asian descent to achieve tangible success in the U.S.?
ELAINE KAO: I disagree with that. I think an individual artist can achieve success if he/she can create a strong and unique vision/work which resonates and appeals to an audience. The level of success attained depends on how broad and wide an audience the artist can reach.
& ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN COMMUNITIES
ELAINE KAO: I think that is starting to change. There are many Asian Pacific American comics who are working in the Comedy and Improv clubs although they may not be a “name” yet. There are also many Asian Pacific American sketch comedy groups such as Cold Tofu, 18MMW, OPM, etc. I think an obstacle some of them might have is performing material that may not reach a broader audience, such as dealing only with stereotypes or issues that only we as Asian Americans would find funny.
JACQUELINE KIM: Long live Bobby Lee! I have a date with him every Saturday night at 11pm. He brings so much joy to my sometimes overloaded and serious life. I think with the growth of Asian actor visibility, more comedians will be known. It must be difficult to be a comedian and have the ethnic card staring right at you all the time. I remember when Steve Park and I used to hang out -- he was always the "Asian" on "In Living Color," but to me just a very funny friend.
US ASIANS: As a result, do you think that the Asian Pacific American communities are not "secure" about themselves be the result of the communities still largely immigrant-based, people are unaware/uninterested in community issues and/or lack of knowledge of their communities in the United States?
ELAINE KAO: I think that most first generation immigrants either have a desire and a need to assimilate into the “white mainstream culture” thereby not becoming involved in Asian Pacific American community organizations OR they stay secluded in their own ethnic communities remaining on the periphery of the mainstream. Also, many Asian Pacific American communities are so segregated into specific ethnicities i.e. Chinese-American, Korean American, Japanese-American, etc. that it’s hard to define exactly what is the Asian Pacific American identity.