It’s not a story about winning or success; it’s about reaching for your goals; what motivates us; the relationships that give us strength; how sometimes we need to fail in order to see value in what we take for granted.
The sanctity of the mother and child relationship is initially turned on its head and poked fun at. But by the end, we aim to actually emphasize nurturing a good relationship with family by promoting the benefits of strong family ties despite economic hardship, social obligations and personal ambition.
Filial piety’s the first virtue in Chinese culture. In contemporary western culture, most children with a Judeo-Christian background don’t honor their parents as much as those from Asia. In the West the individual is emphasized over family; when an elderly parent becomes a burden to the adult child, the needs of the adult child to be burden-free supersede filial obligations. The generational and cultural gap between Johnny and his Chinese mother becomes a point of divergence. Without societal emphasis on filial piety, Johnny’s nearly wholly adopted a worldview of self-sustainability and staunch independence, which manifests in his dire comedy pursuits.
I’ve worked at comedy clubs. That’s where I met our lead, comedian Edwin Li, whose life, in part, inspired this story.
In Edwin, a first-born Chinese-American, I recognized familiar conflicting cultural, filial and creative dilemmas. I’m a first-born Polish-American interested in issues of ethnic identity, family relations, and how family obligations are interpreted culturally.
I met acclaimed Chinese actress Kechun Li, who’ll play mother. She left her career in China to raise her children in California. She hasn’t yet acted in the US. Kechun, Edwin, and myself have experienced divorce, another issue that permeates in the lives of the main characters. The more personal the issues we address as storytellers, the more universal they become.
We aim for deadpan humor, awkwardness and subtly. Aki Kaurismaki’s minimal approach to framing, blocking and coverage is an inspiration as is the subtle tragic-comic balance of films like Attenberg (2011) and Lake Tahoe (2008); we emphasize character, emotion, atmosphere and tone over plot intricacy. With a paced and composed camera we’ll capture actors’ performances with minimal interruptions from editing.