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Directed by: Rhian Williams
Cast: Jennifer Zhang, Joey Heyworth
Synopsis: An Asian American woman's one night stand takes an unsexy turn when breakfast the morning after comes with a side of fetishism.
Was there a particular incident in your life that influenced the film?
Jennifer: The character (“Ethan”) that my character (“Lindsey”) goes on this date with is an amalgamation of just about every non-Asian man I've ever dated. Fetishism is the landmine that waits for most women of color on every date where they're hoping for a genuine human connection. So the incident in my life that influenced the film is simply living! Living while being Asian in America.
Rhian: As a woman in a same-sex marriage, I immediately related to the core issue of fetishism, objectification and ultimately the conundrum the script presented. So many of us will empathize with our lead when placed in this all-too familiar position. Unfortunately, we don't have the luxury of playing out the butterfly-effect of our reactions and responses to being objectified in the way Lindsey does in our movie. There are times I know I wish I had!
As a writer, you approach the film's theme of dating fetishism and covert racism with direct candor as well as with intelligence and humor. What prompted you to write about this subject matter, and how long did it take you to balance the storyline with comedic touches?
Jennifer: Since fetishism has been an exhausting constant in my search for romance, and because I find myself frequently in social situations where I have to navigate around and through casual racism, I couldn't avoid contemplating the subject matter if I tried. And I don't think it was until the Atlanta spa shootings that there was widespread discussion in the general public (for a tragically short amount of time) about how this specific type of dehumanization escalates into violence against our women. I wrote this script in the direct wake of that incident in hopes that the conversation could continue. But as a writer I know that people resist adopting a perspective if it's too foreign to them. So I used humor to make Lindsey's plight relatable. And it turns out that it wasn't difficult working comedy into the script—primarily because I've had to view my experiences with fetishism through a sardonic lens, just to cope with them and to keep from being discouraged from having a love life.
The film has a “Sex and the City” vibe to it. Was that an inspiration to the style of the film in anyway?
Rhian: What woman over the age of 30 hasn't been influenced in some way by 'Sex and the City'? Too bad we didn't have the wardrobe budget! Seriously, one of the aims as we developed the concept was how best to deal with this very real and present issue without being too preachy or admonishing. I guess the slightly more light-hearted tone adopted in 'Sex and the City' is an influence here, as is Jen's voiceover - a little 'Carrie-esque' in its often fruitless dive into the male psyche. We were conscious to convey the message with humor and innovation. It should be an entertaining film which provokes thought and discussion. To end each scenario in an almost cartoon-like fashion was a stylistic call - we are drilling into Lindsey's mind as she plays out threads, gradually sliding into the increasingly ridiculous.
Joey Heyworth is excellent in his role opposite you. His comedic skills are truthful and real without slipping into parody. How did you come across him?
Rhian: Joey's casting was a real stroke of luck on our part. We didn't have the budget for Nina Gold on this one so had to go with our gut as a production. We were looking for that archetypal 'frat-boy'. Good looking, smug and crucially - 'slapable'! His audition showed us another layer, where he demonstrated some real genius with his physical comedy. He just has that certain something that you don't come across very often. I wouldn't be surprised to see him in a Marvel movie in the very near future.
You're very much involved in the entertainment industry, writing, acting, music. What advice do you have for someone that wants to move to L.A and pursue something similar?
Jennifer: Be humble, kind and adaptable. Even the seemingly worst or underfunded projects are opportunities to connect with cast and crew whose futures may be bright, and it will matter that they liked working with you. And specific to being an entertainer: treat every single one of your gifts as something that you intend to turn into a business. If you have a natural talent for writing, or acting, or singing, take classes and workshops and rack up credits until that talent is a professional skill. Hollywood is brutally transactional, so if you want people to bank on you, investing in yourself is the best way to start.
Rhian: Don't be afraid to take risks. The culture and business is very different to how it was even five years ago. But it's still incredibly difficult to break through, find representation and to get your projects green-lit. Use the contacts you have, expand on them and network - a lot!