Arts and Entertainment editor Lia Chang caught up with Justin Lin
right after the critical make or break opening weekend of his movie
Better Luck Tomorrow, the first Asian American independent
film to be acquired and distributed by a studio, with the potential
for a shot at true box office success. The movie, distributed by
MTV Films in conjunction with Paramount Classics opened last weekend
in a limited theatrical release in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago
and San Francisco to enthusiastic audiences. This Friday, the film
opens in 10 more cities including Seattle, Houston, Washington D.C.,
Boston, and Florida. Further screening locations of this film will
depend on this weekendís box office receipts.
Photo Credit: Trailing Johnson Productions
If this past
weekendís sold-out screenings continue, Linís movie will become
not only the first Asian American independent film to reach box
office success, but also the first hit since the release of Wayne
Wangís The Joy Luck Club in 1993.Itís been a rollercoaster
ride for the avid Laker fan since the day before Thanksgiving when
he got the call that every filmmaker dreams of changing the course
of his life. From thousands of entries, Better Luck Tomorrow, his
second feature film had been selected as one of sixteen films to
be shown in competition at the Sundance film festival. MTV Films
has acquired the film for distribution.
I saw the film with a packed house on opening night. The audience
was about 95% Asian American. Letís talk about your journey since
Sundance and your opening weekend whirlwind.
This is the same feeling I get since day one of this project. You
make this huge accomplishment. Youíre so proud. Then you look up
and there is another mountain. This opening weekend was unbelievable.
I was in New York this last weekend.
compelled you to want to take all of your money to finance Better
Making an Asian American film is such a struggle because we
canít even make it on a level playing field. People complain about
low budget films. We donít even get to make low budget films. We
only make films that are a fraction of low budget films. When I
finished the BLT script and took it out, I got a great response.
People were excited.
But they kept
on coming back to me to ask me if I could change it to a Caucasian
cast, or a Latino cast, or an African American cast. If I went with
an African American cast, changed the ethnicity, I could easily
have gotten seven figures. At least a budget of a few million dollars
to make it. I wasnít tempted at all. Writing is so hard anyway.
I didnít want to change it for the sake of money. Many of these
investors were Asian Americans asking for the changes. ThatĎs when
I first realized that film was such a clash between art and commerce.
we address the issue of Asian American investors asking you to change
the characters to Caucasian? How did that make you feel that they
were Asian Americans? Did you feel like you were being betrayed
by your own ethnicity?
Being a person of color, a lot of times you get hit twice as hard.
It bothered me at first. Then I realized that it is the reality.
I could either go with the reality. Or do something different. It
became a credit card movie. Sure it was a clichť, but that was the
only route that I could go. To max out ten credit cards and my life
savings to make this film. Once we made the film, it was the most
amazing experience. Not having any money was a big struggle. The
positive is that everyone comes on the project for the right reason.
The actors-all they had to go by was the script and basically me.
was refreshing for me to see Asian American actors have the opportunity
to play such well written, finely etched characters. The actors
were seamless in their performances. Can you tell me about working
with your actors?
was getting calls from other studios on Saturday while
they were tracking the movie. They couldnít figure out
why by Friday night the numbers came in and it was huge.
They couldnít figure it out....The viewers. I am inspired
by some of these kids who are at Irvine, Berkeley who
are mobilizing thousands of people. That is just great."
can definitely feel that as a filmmaker. It was great to be able
to be in that environment where it was just about the script and
try to make the script better. To try to understand the characters,
we really got to play. We had five weeks to rehearse; it was great
to work with the actors. Not really working on the script but on
the characters, the relationship with their parents, with each other,
with themselves. At a certain point, with every actor, at a certain
point, it just clicked. It clicked over where I felt they understood
the character, they knew who the character is, and everyone was
on the same page. It became a true collaboration from that point.
Thatís one of those precious moments.
is the Sundance film festival process like?
finished the film. The next hurdle-where do we go from here? You
hear that 1000-1500 films get made a year. How do you distinguish
your film from everybody else? The film festival was the next route.
Sundance is the top film festival. I learned how relationships are
important. We didnít have any. We submitted it blind. They only
took 16 films for competition. That was the huge call. The Wednesday
before Thanksgiving. I still remember. It literally changed my life.
The following Monday, my phone would not stop ringing. Everybody
in the industry was calling. Agents, managers, studios, publicists,
lawyers. It was interesting. Once we got to Sundance, we thought
okay, we made it to Sundance. Weíre one of the top 16 films in competition.
Then you find out only a handful of the films get picked up for
So we go to
Sundance. We were the small fish. Out of the 16 films, there might
have been three or four that didnít have ďnamesĒ. All of the other
films were studio funded, or bigger budgets and big stars. Those
films were ready to go.
It was really
tough. We didnít know where we stood. The great thing was I had
everybody with me-crew and cast. We had the biggest crew - 30 people
plastering the town.
What was great
was that we hadnít really shown it to anybody. Of course, our first
screening, they put it in the biggest theater -- 1300 people. After
that first screening, the buzz just started. It was a great feeling.
WE had the best producerís rep with us. Even THEY didnít know. There
was no precedence. They told us straight out that it was going to
be an uphill battle. ďYou have no names, itís an Asian American
cast, and studios are going to shy away from that because they donít
know what to do with a film like this.Ē So we already had it in
the back of our minds that we were going to self distribute. Take
it from town to town. That was the reality for us.
did Shopping for Fangs so you had experience with the film
for Fangs was amazing. I learned everything from writing to
directing from that. So I had my bearings. This was to the next
level. It was so intense. To the point where you walk outside Ė
everybody is just hounding you. You canít even walk down the street.
you never had that experience before, were you overwhelmed?
remembered asking where are the Asian Americans in the
pie. They said, 'We know Asian Americans pump a lot of
money into the economy and they buy a lot of tickets but
their spending patterns are the same as middle class white
people. We consider them white people.'"
overwhelming and a lot of anxiety. You just want to find a good
home for the film. You donít even know if people are talking to
you because they just want to make it, to cover themselves. Not
necessarily because they truly believe in you or your project.
Iím a huge Laker
fan. When you are a Laker fan, you actually canít afford to see
the game live - itís too expensive. After Sundance, every studio
and agent - they were wooing me. I went to every Laker game. I got
closer and closer to the courtside.
We were fortunate.
MTV films came forward and there were two other companies that wanted
to acquire it. It became such a great position to be in. It almost
became us sitting down and interviewing them.
Films was the best choice. They got the film. They got the message.
They want to bring a film like BLT to their audience. They
know how to make films that make tons of money. It was nice to have
that meeting and to get a feel that they were going to give me final
cut. That was one of my big things. I wanted to make sure I was
going to have final cut. That was huge.
Once we got
acquired, we thought -- we made it. But NO!
I made an effort
to really sit in and understand how the business worked. Iíd heard
about how Asian American films hadnít made it. I didnít know exactly
why. I went and was really very aggressive with meeting with everybody
I could meet just to learn. So I could share my experience. So I
could figure out how if the next Asian American film or if this
one creates an opportunity, how we can best benefit from it. I learned
Cool" from left to right Virgil (Jason Tobin), Ben (Parry
Shen) and Daric (Roger Fan)
Photo Credit: ©2003 Paramount/MTV Films
I learned that
going to film school is great but teaching you how to make a film
is only a fraction of the whole journey. I learned that Asian Americans
do have the presence to carve their own piece of the pie. I was
in this meeting where I was shown a pie chart of all moviegoers.
And African Americans took up almost half the pie. A smaller piece
of the pie was Latino. The rest was Caucasian.
asking where are the Asian Americans in the pie. They said, ďWe
know Asian Americans pump a lot of money into the economy and they
buy a lot of tickets but their spending patterns are the same as
middle class white people. We consider them white people. I thought
that was ridiculous.
had an Asian American film distributed so how can you know that
they can carve their own piece of the pie. You never had the product
for them to show support. It was crazy. Right away I felt, it goes
full circle. As a filmmaker, you can make the best film you can.
If you are fortunate enough, you make the film you want to make.
At the end of
the day, it is up to the viewer, for the viewers to say -- instead
of a talking Kangaroo we want to watch three-dimensional Asian American
Once that switch
is made, then you carve your own piece of the pie. Then the studios
will say, there is a piece of the pie that we need satisfied. Letís
start green lighting Asian American projects. It doesnít have to
be a huge slice of the pie. I started doing numbers. I started finding
out all these numbers. There are about 14-15 million Asian Americans
in the North American territory. I wanted to see how this was going
up I was always suspect of the word community, because
I felt like it is a word that we slap on because we are
the same community.... This last weekend, I can tell you
for the first time I really felt like there is community
because we are sharing something together."
I know how rare
this is. Having to sit through all the battles - a lot of them I
canít share with you because they are battles. I get up everyday
and I feel like Iím getting punched. Iím ready for ten fights, every
day when I wake up. I decided that if I am going to do this, I am
going to learn something about it.
With 14, 15
million, if 10% showed up to support the film, thatís enough for
them to green light a decent budget film with distribution attached.
Itís that simple. And with any crossover appeal, it becomes a hit.
Itís actually not asking for a lot. Theyíve never had the data.
Thatís what has been the problem. I thought now I know how the game
is run. I was excited. So I said letís go out there, letís go into
They said --
you are a small independent film still so we are going to have to
platform release you. I didnít know what that meant. Iíd heard about
it before. That is the hypocrisy of distribution. The way the studios
work. They know how to make mainstream films with big stars, put
them in 3000 screens and the per screen average can be really low
but they have 3000 screens. They can make millions of dollars in
one weekend. Itís a business of volume. Theyíll spend tens of millions
on billboards and commercials and everything.
For all independent
films that are going through platform release, they are only going
to put you into ten theaters to begin with. They are not going to
put any money into prints and advertising but they expect you to
do five times the business of a regular Hollywood film. If you can
do that you prove to live another a week. Then they will expand.
So I was thinking
- what now? BLT is this film with no big stars, and no money
is being spent on billboards or awareness. What can you do? It was
interesting. It became very empowering. I talked to the BLT
we go back to our original plan. Letís go back and treat it as if
we have the opportunity to be in theaters. Letís go out and talk
to as many people as we can and share with people everything we
have learned. It is up to them if they want to show up. For the
last six to eight weeks weíve been going around the country and
talking to everybody that will even talk to us. Part of it is about
carving that piece of pie. Itís about proving that a film like this,
people will want to see.
Finally we are
hitting the first weekend. This film has gotten major critical support,
which is very important for a small film. At the same time, it seems
to have caught on. This is not a feel good movie but people are
smart enough to get the message. It seems that people are telling
others to go see it.
came in. This last weekend. We are the number one film per screen
average. I got the call. The Monday morning call. They said great,
you blew Anger Management by more then doubling their per
screen average. Next weekend we are going to open up in ten more
theaters. This is the next step. Weíre almost there.
Here is the
truth. We are one weekend away. We are on the cusp of something.
The truth is that it is going to be a challenge next weekend. It
not only is going to be in L.A., New York, San Francisco, Chicago,
but it is going to open up in Seattle, Houston, D.C. Boston, and
We have to sustain
this momentum. We cannot lose this momentum. Iím trying to figure
a way. If we can sustain it, Iíve already gotten word from them.
They are so excited. It was such a big opening. This is the biggest
per screen average opening for MTV Films or the studio ever. Weíve
already done something. The thing is, if they say well, great, it
was amazing but it might be an anomaly. Youíve got to prove yourself
again with a smaller market.
The great thing
is that instead of proving it for six weeks, I talked to them. The
studio told me that if you blow it out next weekend, maintain the
momentum, weíre going out full wide release by the 25th of April.
That is the dream. We cannot survive; we cannot say letís play in
ten theaters and average $30,000 for 20 weeks. Thatís unfair. Thatís
not going to work. It is about volume. We want to get into the game
Will it play in Hawaii?
the 25th of April. It will be interesting to see how it plays in
Hawaii. Their identity is so different from the mainland Asian American
community. I like going there and feeling like the majority for
is the first time that [the studios] are going to start
to track it to see if the Asian American piece of the
pie truly exists."
getting the word out. I feel like Iím only one person, the crew
- we only have like ten of us. Weíre all in different cities right
now trying to spread the word. Weíre missing certain cities.
there is a lot of undue pressure put on this film. I was getting
calls from other studios on Saturday while they were tracking the
movie. They couldnít figure out why by Friday night the numbers
came in and it was huge. They couldnít figure it out. I was talking
to studio people all Saturday. They were baffled. The viewers. I
am inspired by some of these kids who are at Irvine, Berkeley who
are mobilizing thousands of people. That is just great.
Growing up I
was always suspect of the word community, because I felt like it
is a word that we slap on because we are the same community. You
are Asian American; Iím Asian American - we have to be community.
I never thought that was true, I donít think that was fair. This
last weekend, I can tell you for the first time I really felt like
there is community because we are sharing something together. Weíre
sharing this experience. Going to these screenings is amazing.
is hearing other studios. They have the breakdown. They are saying
about 60% that showed up were Asian American. These are data that
they are starting to track. If we can sustain it. This film hopefully
will succeed and we can get up to the volume. What I would love
to see is that a big piece of the pie is Asian American. This is
the first time that they are going to start tracking to see if the
Asian American piece of the pie truly exists."
is the significance of your title Better Luck Tomorrow? Why
did you want to make this film?
a Smile" from left to right Stephanie (Karin Anna Cheung)
and Ben (Parry Shen)
Photo Credit: ©2003 Paramount/MTV Films
wanted to find a title that embodied the narrative and the exploration
of the film. The term ďbetter luck tomorrowĒ. We hear it -- people
use it. That saying has to do with whatís happening in the present,
something that has happened. It also has a connotation of the future.
It is in the same scope of the film itself, narratively. Iím hoping
what people are going to walk away with is really asking two questions.
The first question is Ė wow I know these kids, maybe I was one of
these kids, how did they end where they end up?
The second thing
is -- well I know the credits are rolling and the movie is over
but I know their lives are going to continue. What will they have
to deal with? What issues do they have to deal with? What consequences
do they have? I feel if those two questions are asked, I feel like
Iíve done my job. Those two questions are a bit outside of that
narrative so I wanted a title that really reflects that. Of course,
the joke is that a lot of the time you see Asian or Asian American
faces - you see the John Wooís, A Better Tomorrow.
are your thoughts on identity politics?
been very interesting to me. Itís healthy. I think it is great even
though it is exhausting. I hope that as a society we can move on
and as a community we can move forward. We are a society that likes
to label things. Itís easy for us to say - good, bad, evil-doer,
whatever. Itís easy for us to slap something on. Thatís part of
why I really want to make this film.
I work with
a lot with youth. I know a lot of these incidents of teen violence
when it happens. It is easy for us to superficially label them as
bad kids, bad parenting. I work with these kids. Iím sure they are
not bad kids. They are kids that just make bad decisions. They are
just human beings. That is the impetus of the project. Thatís why
I wanted to make the film.
are so conditioned. Every time we see an Asian face, you
have to explain why they have to be there. Every time
you see a Native American face, something spiritual is
going to happen. We need to go beyond that."
I do feel like
a lot of time when it comes to the politics of identity - people
misconstrue what ďpositiveĒ means. A journalist was telling me that
Denzel Washington was getting flack for playing the cop in Training
Day from African Americans.
I think that
we canít label positive as something that is noble or flawless.
In a way that is very one dimensional also. Believe me, Iíve been
in all these test screenings for the movie. Weíre so conditioned
by certain words in society.
for me is to be able to explore the grays, to explore three-dimensional
characters that have flaws. Whether it is small or it is huge. I
think that is positive. I think the only way this film will be negative
is if I didnít do my job and I presented six one-dimensional stereotypical
caricatures. Thatís led to some really interesting discourse.
In the last
year we have been able to go to screenings and talk to people afterwards
in the Q & A. Thatís been very healthy. I donít know. I still think
we are not over that yet.
A lot of it
also is this whole model minority myth. In a way we box ourselves
in as a community. With a lot of people, their argument is that
there is so little representation of Asian Americans, so when we
have the chance, we should make them as good model citizens. For
me, why would we want to do that? Itís boring. I want to see people.
is when I go to a screening in Wisconsin, and a 57-year-old white
guy comes up to me and tells me he can relate to my characters.
Thatís good. What he is saying is that there is a universal appeal.
He can relate to a certain experience. Of course he doesnít know
what it is like to be Asian American, but he does know how it is
to have a sense of alienation and wanting to belong.
Pier" from left to right Han (Sung Kang), Daric (Roger Fan),
Virgil (Jason Tobin) and Ben (Parry Shen)
Photo Credit: ©2003 Paramount/MTV Films
was your own personal experience like in high school?
I was growing up, I could relate to Goodfellas, Schindlerís
List. The one thing I could not relate to is Asian or Asian
Americans on screen. I was neither Bruce Lee nor Long Duk Dong.
But I can relate to all of the other characters because they are
fully developed human beings.
I feel like
cinema is soooo behind the times. We are so conditioned. Every time
we see an Asian face, you have to explain why they have to be there.
Every time you see a Native American face, something spiritual is
going to happen. We need to go beyond that. Itís behind the times.
We need to move on.
I also know
that no one else is going to do it. I just donít see it. That is
what independent cinema is about. Itís to say, ďOkay I might go
into six figure debt but Iím going to try something here, I want
this perspective. I want people to see these human beings.Ē
kind of work were you doing with the youth groups in Santa Rosa?
a lot of basketball and teaching youth how to make community documentaries.
It was very hands on both in sports and media. I worked with kids
from working class to upper middle class. Some of them were Asian
Americans. It was interesting. They have a very different mentality.
I literally was searching for identity. Todayís youth seems to be
shopping for identity. This all influenced my decision to make BLT.
The mentality was so different and it was something I wanted to
do your parents do for a living?
is interconnected. If BLT succeeds or is deemed
successful by a studio, weíre going to have other opportunities
for other Asian American films. By having those, then
weíll have roles for other Asian American actors. Roger
is in New York. Parry is in New York. Sung is in San Francisco.
We understand now that weíre all connected."
have a mom and pop fish and chips shop in Anaheim. Itís been really
weird actually. I just realized a few days ago -this year is really
weird because traditionally regardless of whatever I was doing in
my life I have to go back and help them from Ash Wednesday to Good
Friday because that is the only time they make money when the Catholics
canít eat meat. I canít go back because I am going to be in San
Francisco this Friday for a screening. I havenít been able to help
them at all. I feel bad about it.
As a filmmaker
itís been interesting because when I was working next to my parents
as a little kid, I was able to sit there and observe situations.
Obviously, there are obvious racial slur incidents. Those are very
easy to spot. But it is the subtle things. I donít think I would
have caught on if I werenít a person of color. It helped me to be
a better observer. It helps me in my filmmaking. Itís a fine delicate
I believe itís
very easy for you to complain and make excuses. Iíve learned that
you can do that, or you can learn the reality. Learn the game and
you can deal with it appropriately. Even within the community we
tend to accept things at status quo. Whether itís even how people
perceive us. Letís try to push things. It takes more effort but
Film is such a powerful medium. What inspires you tell the kind
of stories that you do?
I saw Spike Leeís Do the Right Thing -- it blew me away.
Thatís when I saw how powerful the medium of film is. It stayed
with me for two weeks. I remember when that trash can came through
the window because I grew up in a mom and pop shop - it got me so
angry. For days after it stayed with me. I realized - itís not just
about the trash can. Thereís more to it - thereís a history, a community,
relationships. I think it is a most powerful medium.
are the other filmmakers that you like?
Altman, Stanley Kubrik, Kurosawa, and Terrence Malick. Filmmakers
who try to think things through and use formal elements to help
them tell a story.
does it feel to have realized one of your passions - the success
of Better Luck Tomorrow?
want to be a better writer, a better filmmaker. Thatís got to be
the challenge for me. I hate writing. I love collaboration, but
writing for me is the biggest challenge. Now itís become my favorite
because it is a challenge. I work on the characters and work with
forward to the next opportunity. In the film, the visual style -
thatís the cherry on the top of the sundae. Thatís the easiest thing
to do. The hardest is to be able to work on the characters and the
second thing is to work with the actors. It never ends.
did you decide to become a filmmaker?
grew up in suburbia where I only saw crappy formulaic Hollywood
films. It wasnít until I saw Tucker and Do The Right Thing.
These two movies changed me. Honestly, I got lucky. I got into UCLA
film school. I donít know how I got in but I applied. I turned in
my essay and my scripts. I got in. Even when I got in I wasnít sure
about being a filmmaker until I made my first film.
was your first film?
is the truth. We are one weekend away. We are on the cusp
of something. The truth is that it is going to be a challenge
remember when I made my first film, Soybean Milk. The film is about
this recent immigrant living in Chinatown struggling for identity
and finding where his place is in this new America. But it is inside
this kind of fabricated China. In the end, he finds his place. He
becomes this sort of Buddha for tourists to take pictures of. It
was ten minutes long, non-sync. Cost me 4,000 dollars. I had to
work three jobs to pay that off. It almost killed me but I got addicted.
old were you?
Justin: It was
junior year so I was 20 or 21. Thatís when I realized. Iím a big
sports guy. I love sports. I love team sports like basketball. Filmmaking
is like basketball to the next level. It still requires you to be
a team player. But you have to be a coach/point guard. Be able to
communicate. Learn to communicate and all these things. All the
challenges of learning. The process itself is addicting.
next on your docket?
been very fortunate. Iíve signed a couple of studio deals. Iím not
quite sure what that means. Iím learning how that process works.
If we talk six months from now, Iím sure Iíll have a better answer
for that. Iím also working on some independent projects.
Iím lucky to
have a small production company, Trailing Johnson Productions, with
a staff. Weíre looking for material. Iím looking forward to producing
and supporting other filmmakers like Quentin Lee who I made Shopping
for Fangs with. I think he is a brilliant filmmaker. Weíre looking
to produce one of his films this coming year. Itís great. Itís all
about the moment. BLT was the same before and after Sundance.
Somehow Sundance got it rolling. Just as much as thatís rolling,
I want to grow as a filmmaker. At the same time I can help other
filmmakers I believe in. I want be able to be there. I know it is
that relationship. Itís a powerful game of relationships.
to address the issue of the lack of good available roles for Asian
question never came up until we had this screening a month ago at
Harvard. This girl asked if I could ever envision an Asian American
actor in a leading role, in a regular Hollywood film. I didnít even
flinch. I thought, of course. Itís not even that. Itís never been
a question of talent. I know first hand. Iíve worked with these
actors. Theyíre brilliant. They take adjustments. Itís great. Itís
always been a question of opportunity.
Spike Lee broke through, every studio was struggling to
find another Spike Lee. Itís possible. It has to be done
by us. In a way, thatís more appropriate anyway. You need
to go through a struggle. You need to fight for it. You
get that opportunity. You try to make more opportunities."
And the fact
that if you look at it -- itís like sports too. No one is going
to give you that chance unless you go and earn it. ThatĎs the reality
I think the
lack of roles have been that Asian American filmmakers havenít been
on a level playing field. So how do we get to that level playing
field? Itís about making the films and not compromising. Finding
the audience for a piece of the pie so we can create more opportunities.
Then maybe five years down the road, weíll see a romantic comedy
with Asian Americans. Weíll see other films with different types
Itís going to
be a long battle. I know itís a tough battle because BLT
is not the first independent Asian American film. Weíve been doing
it for the last 25-30 years. Weíve been trying. I know how rare
this is. I do know that if BLT can blow it out - we are literally
two weeks away from seeing where our futures lie.
interconnected. If BLT succeeds or is deemed successful by
a studio, weíre going to have other opportunities for other Asian
American films. By having those, then weíll have roles for other
Asian American actors. Roger is in New York. Parry is in New York.
Sung is in San Francisco. We understand now that weíre all connected.
A lot of times
this is such an insecure medium. That was the one thing that I learned
really quickly. When people are insecure, they tend to their negative
energy. This is the one where everyone is now seeing it. Itís not
a competition between me and another Asian American filmmaker. Weíre
all in the same boat. If this succeeds.
Itís a proven
model with African American cinema in the mid-80ís. They were saying
the same thing. When Spike Lee broke through, every studio was struggling
to find another Spike Lee. Itís possible. It has to be done by us.
In a way, thatís more appropriate anyway. You need to go through
a struggle. You need to fight for it. You get that opportunity.
You try to make more opportunities.
Sundance to Tomorrow: A Look at Justin Lin
the script with buddies Ernesto M. Foronda and Fabian Marquez.
The black comedy turns the model minority myths of Asian Americans
upside down, and explores the themes of identity, alienation,
angst and violence through the lives of teens living in suburbia
who are savvy, ambitious and ultra-competitive. BLT
stars a fresh cast of talented Asian American actors including
Parry Shen, Jason Tobin, Sung Kang, Roger Fan, John Cho and
Karin Anna Cheung.
the first screening for an audience of 1300 at Sundance the
buzz began culminating in a defining moment that put the film
on the map. A heated Q and A at the film's third screening
addressed Better Luck Tomorrow's more controversial
and subversive elements. Following the screening, one audience
member asked Lin how he could "make such a bleak, negative,
kind of portrait is this of Asian Americans?" he asked. "Don't
you have a responsibility to paint a more positive and helpful
portrait of your community?"
Lin and his cast defended Better Luck Tomorrow, film
critic Roger Ebert chimed in: "What I find offensive and condescending
about your statement is nobody would say to a bunch of white
filmmakers, 'How could you do this to your people?' This film
has the right to be about these people, and Asian American
characters have the right to be whoever they want to be.Ē
to the Sundance buzz, Lin was best known for his critically
acclaimed first feature Shopping for Fangs which he co-wrote,
directed and edited with fellow filmmaker Quentin Lee.
Taiwan, Lin and his family came to the U.S. when he was eight
years old and settled in Orange County, CA where his parents
ran a mom and pop fish and chips shop.
of the UCLA School of Film and Television, he has produced
and directed award-winning short films, documentaries and
Production Coordinator of the Media Arts Center for the Japanese
American National Museum in Los Angeles, Lin produced, directed
and edited several multi-media projects and educational television
Rhapsody, an eight-screen video installation, garnered
several awards including the Crystal Communicator Award of
Excellence and the short documentary, Passing Through, aired
on PBS. Named by Variety as one of its directors to watch
for 2002, Lin received a Courage Award from the National Asian
Pacific American Legal Consortium (NAPALC) for his vision
of moving Asian American stories onto the big screen in October
2002. Lin formed his own production company called Trailing
Johnson Productions. He is working on a documentary about
a Las Vegas lounge act called Spotlighting, is the director/writer
on the upcoming film Tenth Justice for 20th Century
Fox, and has a new project for HBO Films in development. He will be honored on May 8th at the Orange Country API Heritage Council's annual gala.