It’s been a about a year since Sunset Stories made its film festival premiere and this coming weekend we’re excited to have our Bay Area premiere with two screenings at CAAMFEST formerly the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival. I’m incredibly pumped to screen at this festival, which has provided some of the best festival experiences I’ve had to date.
A few weeks ago, I was having Sunday dinner with my parents and made the utter mistake of telling them how excited to tell them the news about our new screening – I mean c’mon! It’s at the 1,400 seat, historic Castro Theater for chrissakes! – Only to be met by blank, completely unimpressed stares. I’m sure many of you out there in the interwebs can relate about how parents have that special knack of taking something you are so incredibly proud of and knocking it down a peg or a hundred, sending you crashing and burning from your elated high. And I totally think that Asian parents have this down to an art from with their painful bluntness.
So my parents go on their usual rambling about how the housing market is hot right now and maybe I should think about getting my real estate license. Or that it only takes a year to become an x-ray tech (a Filipino favorite). Can you believe it? Just one year to be on your way to financial stability. Surely, I can accomplish this while still “trying” to make it as a filmmaker. School in the day, writing at night. Okay, okay, at this point I’m trying not to be offended, I mean after hearing this all these years you’d think that I should be completely immune to it by now. Still, my head reels and I start to think about the underlying message my parents keep telling me. It’s TIME TO GIVE UP ON THE DREAM. Time to get your head out of the clouds and your ass and start living in reality.
Many of my friends and colleagues have had many conversations on this topic and as much as I try to push it out of my mind, the older I get, the stronger and more pervasive the thought becomes. So strong that it became a large part of the Sunset Stories narrative itself. In Sunset Stories two ex-lovers May (Monique Curnen) and JP (Sung Kang) go on a rambling journey of Los Angeles to retrieve a lost medical transport cooler. These two characters are at this stage in life where they have given up on their dreams. May’s trapped in an unreconciled past that destroyed her fairy tale dreams of happy endings, and JP is a musician who’s trading in his rock star dreams for a suit and tie.
For me, making the film was a way to work out and exorcise those thoughts that often cloud my mind and the process taught me many things. For one, it helped me realize that a lot of my dreams are about this sense of perfection, which of course is really impossible to reach so I’m basically setting myself up for failure. Also, along with many of my friends, is that I’m always thinking about the next thing – the next project, the next film, the next, next, more, more and more. So, we’re never in the moment and never are able to appreciate what we’ve accomplished in the present.
What I’ve come to understand is that your dreams and goals are not fixed, they should be fluid as we grow as people, so do our visions. When I was young I wanted to be a marine biologist. Then I wanted to be in a punk band, run a record label, be an experimental filmmaker, be a novelist, be a furniture maker. None of those things have come true…yet. Being a filmmaker, creating stories, is one dream that I’ve never been able to shake. I think that the more that we let our egos and hang-ups go, the closer we get to what we really want in life, what we’re meant for. That may be as close or as far as our original dream. A dream or goal we may give up, is something that we were never meant for and it’s the way the universe or fate is telling us to reach deeper and find what your truly made to do.
Right now, I’m just trying to live in the present. I’m proud of Sunset Stories and what we’ve done with the film. It may not live up to some other people’s expectations, maybe not even my initial ones but the film has a life of its own now and that’s all that I can ask for. And for those friends (especially filmmakers) that have kept their dreams alive and struggle to make your projects, I am awed and inspired by each and single one of you!
What about you readers? Have you ever given up on your dreams and aspirations? How have they changed over the years? If you feel like you’re living the dream, did you do so by giving up anything important to you?
Sunset Stories screens March 15 (9:10PM) at the Pacific Film Archive Theater and March 17 (9:45PM) at the Castro Theater. For more info and ticks click here.