how to avoid the pitfalls of asian american indie films

Came across this great blog post by Joel Quizon last week, and thought it was pretty brilliant. As someone who has done my fair share of film festival programming, and has seen a lot of Asian American cinema -- the good, the bad and the ugly -- I can definitely relate to this little guide for Asian American filmmakers: How to Avoid the Pitfalls of Asian American Independent Films. The tips:
1. Try to avoid the following words in your title: Jade, Yellow, Dragon, Red, "Scent" of anything or anywhere "Home", Jasmine, Rice, Masala, (or really anything related to Asian cuisine like Dim Sum, Sushi or Adobo)

2. When depicting family life, try your best to refrain from depicting parents as domineering, traditional, heavy accented, always in the kitchen, playing mahjong, gardening, doing Tai Chi, or gossiping.

3. When casting a boyfriend for the female character, think twice about casting a white guy (no offence at all really and you may very well want to reflect how society has finally embraced interracial couples). At the very least, consider occasionally depicting Asian men as the virile, non-emasculated beings that they are. Your dad will thank you.

4. When choosing an occupation or course study for the main character, try vocations other than: writer, filmmaker, actor, or martial arts instructor

5. For the main character, opt for injecting well written dialogue instead of distant, silent posturing. Communicative characters communicate a lot to the audience.

6. For the film score, please avoid using a koto, a gong, a mouth harp and your friend who can play guitar but can only play nondescript noodling.

7. I know you have an Aunt who has a nice big pad down in Diamond Bar or Oceanside, but when choosing a location, try a little variety. Also avoid your friend's restaurant and when shooting a scene that calls for some serious introspection try NOT using a rooftop (This goes for romantic dinner scenes too. As we all know it is far too cold and windy up on roof tops to be having a candle lit dinner and having a mariachi band there gets costly.)

8. When making a documentary film, it is not always necessary to have the filmmaker on camera. Unless you are Michael Moore or Morgan Spurlock, it can be a hindrance especially when making a film about lepers from Malaysia, unless you yourself is a leper from Malaysia, then that would be fine.

9. If you think making a documentary about going back to the motherland and hanging out with your family and rediscovering your roots sounds like a great idea…it's not. Not anymore at least. Not unless you have an entirely different spin on it, like you're Lou Diamond Phillips or a leper originally from Malaysia.

10. Finally, watch lots of movies. Good movies. See early Wayne Wang and Gregg Araki films. Analyze Better Luck Tomorrow with as much fervor as you would Reservoir Dogs. Watch the first films of Spike Lee, John Singleton, Jim Jarmusch, Gus Van Sant and Allison Anders. Watch John Ford's Stagecoach and Chang-dong Lee's Oasis over and over again. Binge on 70's American cinema and films of Japanese masters. Seek out films from by Lino Brocka, Pen-ek Ratanaruang or Hirokazu Koreeda. Go to film festivals even though your film is not in it. But don't get overwhelmed by these films because you can make something good too.
Very tongue-in-cheek of course, but still rooted in the sometimes annoying realities of what often passes as Asian American independent cinema. You've seen the good ones, but if you've also seen the bad ones, you know. (Thanks, Joel.)

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