A Funeral, a Baby and a Movie

This may sound like the most cliché holiday movie title but that was pretty much my year. My good friend J passed away the past April. It was really the first time that a good friend of my age died. Before J, the only person who was close to me passed away was my grandmother in 1993. Even to this day, which hasn’t been that long, I am still trying to make sense emotionally of the radical discontinuity of J’s death. The day before I spoke to him on the phone and the day after I could not talk to him forever.

On top of all that, the circumstances around his death were unusual. We kind of knew what happened but nothing was confirmed except to the police and his immediate family. A police investigation and arrests were also involved which further complicated the scenario.

At the time of J’s death, I was still unsure that the feature White Frog that I’ve been working on would get financed or not. Nevertheless, J’s death ironically prepared me emotionally to take on White Frog which deals with the death of the protagonist’s older brother.

During the preproduction on White Frog, the editor Matt Rundell requested to edit at his home as his wife was having a baby sometime late August. That was the one condition he needed to get involved with the project. As a director, I felt it was my job to create the most supportive working environment for the people who worked with me and so I was supportive of the decision of cutting at Matt’s home.

Literally the week that Matt turned in the rough cut, his baby was born. Throughout the editing process I got to see both his wife and the baby every day until we locked picture. The process of giving birth to a baby and giving birth to a movie literally paralleled each other.

The most coincidental thing this year was that 2 weeks before the production of White Frog, my youngest sister was diagnosed with Asperger’s after being misdiagnosed with manic depression for several years. Before that, I hadn’t told my family about the subject of my latest movie because I just didn’t think they would even get the idea of Asperger’s or why I would be making a movie about a kid with Asperger’s. But somehow, I ended up making a movie for my little sister.

My third feature Ethan Mao was inspired by the circumstances of my little sister who ran away from home. White Frog was ironically the reverse of Ethan Mao. I’m still not sure how to describe that process. Somehow this year, for me, life and art just merged together in inexplicable ways

7 thoughts on “A Funeral, a Baby and a Movie

  1. did you find closure, after the police investigated his death?

    hope you can find more inspiration in the way he had lived, rather than the tragedy of his death.

  2. I think the death of a close friend has an everlasting effect on the living. I knew what happened and his death was essentially a wake-up call for those who care and realize that life is unpredictable, fragile and sudden. We are precious and vulnerable at any given age and circumstance.

  3. You are a wonderful human-being. Hope to work with you again soon! “White Frog” was also important to me on a personal level due to the loss of my younger brother….

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