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Friday, March 17, 2006

I'm not interested in being one of your pets

This is Jane broadcasting live (sort of) from the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival.

RED DOORS will be screening tomorrow night (Saturday March 18) at the Kabuki 8 theater in SF and again next Saturday (the 25th) at the Camera 12 theater in San Jose.

Every screening brings with it the requisite adrenaline rush and anxiety attack but I must say I am PARTICULARLY giddy for our screening tomorrow because it will be the first time our film will be projected on film.

Well, technically the film was screened for press last week and - quel horreur - two of the five reels were accidentally mislabeled and screened out of order. From what I've been told, some of the attendees noticed and told the festival staff about it. The others? Well, we've been getting great press and mentions in the local papers lately so maybe the film actually plays better out of order...

Although we are at the tail end of our festival run and gearing up for our impending theatrical release - mark your calendars, we are targeting mid-May for our theatrical premiere - I always get a special case of the warm fuzzies when we screen at an Asian-American film festival.

This year, there are twelve films playing in the Asian-American features competition. That's right, there are a dozen of us. Nine years ago, in the landmark class of 1997 there were four. The tide is certainly rising for As-Am cinema and I believe that soon, our films will breakthrough the way African-American films and Latino films have done so before us.

Over the last year, we have been somewhat frustrated by the dichotomy of reception that we have received over RED DOORS. Time and again at film festivals, audiences, critics, and juries have praised our film. We've won awards. People from all ethnicities and ages have come up to us after screenings and told us that they related to or responded to this character or another. Journalists have labeled our film "universal" and broadly appealing.

Yet the "mini-major" distributors we talked to when we were selling our film voiced a much different concern. While they told us that they enjoyed the film, most expressed the belief that Asian-American films were too hard to market. They complained that unlike African-Americans or Latinos, Asian-American audiences have yet to demonstrate the box-office driving fervor that has elevated other ethnic content. Furthermore, they claimed that other than The Joy Luck Club, no other Asian-American film has crossed over enough into the mainstream to really deliver Hollywood-style theatrical returns. One well-known distributor (who shall remain nameless) looked at our film twice, really liked it but was on the fence for a long time, and then ultimately passed on it because they "weren't sure they had the skill set to market an Asian-American film."

We are lucky to have found distribution with a company that "gets" our film and passionately believes in its marketability. The dirty little secret in the film business, the thing they don't teach you in film school, is that getting distribution is infinitely more difficult than making a film. And to date, getting distribution for an Asian-American indie film has been perhaps more difficult than average because of these preconceived notions about marketability.

I guess the purpose of my rant over the last three paragraphs is to say that we just have to prove them all wrong. Georgia, Mia, and I have devoted the last several months reaching out to Asian-American, LGBT, and women-centric organizations to get the word out about our film's theatrical release. Over the next several weeks we plan on blogging more descriptively about the various projects and events we have planned. Only time will tell if we can move the needle but we are wholly committed to the effort.

Festivals like SFIAAFF and the VC Film Festival show me that Asian-Americans are a rally-able demographic. We self-identify and self-reflect. We have stories we want to tell and an eager audience waiting to consume this content. When I am at this festival, thumbing through a brochure featuring twelve quality, diverse Asian-American flicks - all made within the last 2 years - I know, with fervor and conviction, what many distributors are too unimaginative to see: Asian-American films have outgrown the genre of being simply "Asian-American;" they are comedies, dramas, sci-fi, romances, and epics chomping at the bit to entertain audiences from all walks of life and more than ready to crossover into the mainstream.



Ladies of RED DOORS with our friends
from TigerCinema at the SFIAAFF.

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