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Better Luck Tomorrow, Today
An Interview with director Justin Lin
by Lia Chang, Arts & Entertainment Editor

AsianConnectionsí 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.



Director Justin Lin
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.

Lia: Congratulations! 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.

Justin: 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.

Lia: What compelled you to want to take all of your money to finance Better Luck Tomorrow?

Justin: 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.

Lia: Can 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?

Justin: Totally! 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.

Lia: It 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?

"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....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."

Justin: I 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.

Lia: What is the Sundance film festival process like?

Justin: We 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 distribution.

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.

Lia: You did Shopping for Fangs so you had experience with the film festival circuit.

Justin: Shopping 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.

Lia: Since you never had that experience before, were you overwhelmed?

"I 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.'"

Justin: Definitely 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.

Clearly MTV 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 a lot.



"School 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.

I remembered 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.

Youíve never 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 characters.

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 to work.

"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.... 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 theaters.

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 crew.

Related Links

Better Luck Tomorrow Film Reviews Compiled by RottenTomatoes.com

Better Luck Tomorrow Box Office Numbers

"Better Luck" This Weekend by Ben Fong-Torres

API Heritage Council's 4th Annual Gala Honors Justin Lin

The Official Better Luck Tomorrow Website

I suggested 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.

The numbers 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 Florida.

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 of volume.

Lia: Will it play in Hawaii?

Justin: On 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 a week.

"This 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."

Again, itís 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.

Unfortunately 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.

Whatís great 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."

Lia: What is the significance of your title Better Luck Tomorrow? Why did you want to make this film?



"Sharing a Smile" from left to right Stephanie (Karin Anna Cheung) and Ben (Parry Shen)
Photo Credit: ©2003 Paramount/MTV Films

Justin: I 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.

Lia: What are your thoughts on identity politics?

Justin: Itís 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.

"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."

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.

Being positive 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.

Whatís great 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.


"Underneath Pier" from left to right Han (Sung Kang), Daric (Roger Fan), Virgil (Jason Tobin) and Ben (Parry Shen)
Photo Credit: ©2003 Paramount/MTV Films

Lia: What was your own personal experience like in high school?

Justin: When 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

Lia: What kind of work were you doing with the youth groups in Santa Rosa?

Justin: Coaching 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 explore.

Lia: What do your parents do for a living?

"Everything 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."

Justin: They 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 balance.

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 itís healthier.

Lia: Film is such a powerful medium. What inspires you tell the kind of stories that you do?

Justin: When 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.

Lia: Who are the other filmmakers that you like?

Justin: Robert Altman, Stanley Kubrik, Kurosawa, and Terrence Malick. Filmmakers who try to think things through and use formal elements to help them tell a story.

Lia: How does it feel to have realized one of your passions - the success of Better Luck Tomorrow?

Justin: I 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 the actors.

Iím looking 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.

Lia: When did you decide to become a filmmaker?

Justin: I 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.

Lia: What was your first film?

"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."

Justin: I 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.

Lia: How 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.

Lia: Whatís next on your docket?

Justin: Iíve 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.

Lia: Care to address the issue of the lack of good available roles for Asian American actors?

Justin: This 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.

"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."

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 of it.

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 of perspectives.

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.

Everything 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.

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.

From Sundance to Tomorrow: A Look at Justin Lin

Lin co-wrote 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.

After 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, amoral film."

"What 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?"

After 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

Prior 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.

Born in 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.

A graduate of the UCLA School of Film and Television, he has produced and directed award-winning short films, documentaries and digital movies.

As the 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 pilots.

J-Town 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.

 

AsianConnections Arts & Entertainment editor Lia Chang appears as Nurse Lia on As The World Turns and One Life to Live. Based in New York, she works as an actor, a photographer, a multi-media journalist and designs greeting cards. Contact Lia at lia@asianconnections.com. Lia's website is www.liachang.com.



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