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2016, 96m, drama, romance
It was a perfect summer. Michael (Cham), and Lily (Mina Yang) were a young married couple wishing to build a new family in their recently purchased dream home. To lessen the financial burden, the couple found roommates to share the house with. This was when Oxana (Sarah Navratil), and Julie (Olivia Rush) entered their lives.
There was instant chemistry among the entire group, and as their friendships grew, so did their admiration. The house seemed to be paradise, in perfect balance. But serenity was lost with the absence of a member...
Produced by: Teli Share, Henry Hsueh, Cathleen Zhou
Cast: Cham Zhao, Sarah Navratil, Mina Yang, Olivia Rush, James Speed
10 questions with The Lessee director, Teli Share at the half-way mark.
Saturday, August 20th, 2016
1Hi Teli! Thanks for being a part of our festival again. First, what was the initial inspiration behind Lessee? First of all, thank you so much for featuring my work again. I really appreciate the opportunity. The Lessee was inspired by a series of true events from people's lives I've known. After much discussion about the concept of the story with my brother/co-producer, we decided to give the real life experiences we have seen a little touch up into this love drama film.
2This is your second feature film. What did you learn from making Taven that prepared you better for this film? I think as far as being the director of this project, I have become more mature on my communication with the cast and the crew members. While it was still on a learning curve, and this is a project of different genre, the prior experience from my first film has definitely given me a better mental preparation on how to express my thoughts to my colleagues on the making of this second film.
3I liked how you had a very diverse and international cast. Why did you choose to cast the film this way and how did you find your talented cast? I've always liked to create stories with diversity because I appreciate the ability of people to make connections with each other even if there are ethnic, cultural and language differences. The experience of casting these talents was actually a unique one. Instead of holding auditions, I just interviewed candidates for each roles, and made my decisions from there. I would say I was very lucky to see that I made the suitable choices of casting these talents for their roles.
4Are you married? Do you think you could ever allow strangers to live in your home? I will hold onto the first part of the question for privacy purpose (haha). But for the second part, I think I could allow strangers to live in my home. And yes there will be what you call temptation if your tenant(s) are hot, but wouldn't it also be more exciting to live on the possibility of crossing the line on a regular basis? You see, life is quite often a series of choices. It's like someone I once heard said "there is no good or bad moves; only consequences."
5I'm curious, was it easier to get this film made since you've already completed a feature? Was it easier to raise funds? In this case it was easier for me to made this film because we purposely designed the story so that it could be done in a short amount of time. We were also fortunate to be able to raise fund easier this time because our project had captured the interest from people we've known. Plus, it was also based on carefully calculation on the story writing that when translated into actually production it wouldn't break our bank. I think as an indie filmmaker I just had to take that into consideration.
6I also like how Michael (played by Cham Zhao) is not only an asian male as the lead, but he's also the object of desire and a sexual guy. What are your thoughts on Hollywood's trend of rarely casting asian males as "hot" guys? I think Hollywood's trend may be one of the last strong holds to portray the image that Asian males are not of sexual symbols. Just take a look at productions from Asia and you will find out that Asian culture is not very shy about sexuality at all. Again, I just feel that there is something about the oriental image that the people from here tend to hold on. But I bet many are getting more curious about us whether they dare to express it out loud or not.
7What scene are you most proud of and what did it take to get it? I liked a particular scene where the male and female lead roles had their first private interaction in front of the fire place. It was quite a shot because I was impressed by the actors' graceful performance in front of a scorching hot fireplace in the middle of July. They did a wonderful job, and the fire made the scene really warm and intimate.
8Do you have any war stories from the shoot? Most of the shoots were awesome. There was an incident where a miscommunication happened, and one of the actor thought I wanted her to do something vulgar that she was having a difficult time. But after much discussion she finally understood my thought correctly, and we got to finish the scene!
9Do you think it's possible to maintain a romantic relationships for a lifetime? Yes, and I am talking about one that is not by marriage. I believe if a relationship never had a chance to break up, then even if the two are no longer together physically they can still feel that special tinder in the hearts when the two meet again years later.
10What's next? I am looking forward to start on another story that explore the topic of love and lust. I think this is something that has always intrigued me. Plus, it is usually cheaper to make than a sci-fi or an action film ;)!
About the Interviewer: Ben Hicks
Ben Hicks is a writer/director and co-founder of Fandependent Films. Ben is currently working on making Fandependent Films awesome and is finishing up his first feature film entitled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time which was selected for the 2017 IFP Narrative Lab.
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