‘Find Me’: BFF film rooted in genuine diversity

‘Find Me’: BFF film rooted in genuine diversity

Tom Huang’s Bentonville Film Festival entry, titled “Find Me,” has nothing to do with his ethnicity — first-generation Chinese-American — or the fact that the cast is Asian, Latina and African-American. That, he says, is the whole point.

“Actually, I’m not really trying to send a message to just Anglo audiences,” he says from his home in Los Angeles. “I’m more trying to show all audiences everywhere that say, an Asian-American or Latina-American can play leading roles in a movie and still reel you in and actually maybe not make you think about what race they are.

“I think anyone who watches a lot of Hollywood movies has been conditioned to what a ‘leading man’ or ‘leading woman’ should look like or be,” Huang adds. “I know I have. So I hope to start on a basic level, and just get audiences comfortable with the idea that a good role can be played by any race. For ‘Find Me,’ I specifically concentrated on making sure that none of the diverse cast dealt with ethnic issues; I just wanted them to be regular, everyday Americans, dealing with issues that everyone deals with. They just happen to be Asian, Latina and African-American.”

This is Huang’s third indie film and his first since “Why Am I Doing This?” almost a decade ago. He started his career as an actor — “a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” at UCLA, he says — “but then discovered that there were simply no interesting roles for me, even at a university that has a majority Asian population. I realized then that if I wanted to explore interesting parts, I’d have to write them myself.”

Huang became a creative writing major, then went to film school at Loyola Marymount University, “and found that I enjoyed the writing and directing process so much that I put [acting] on the back burner and concentrated on being a writer/director. Seeing that things I made could get people to think about life … was also a real draw for me, and that’s why I’m still in independent films.” He does appear sometimes in his own films — as he does in “Find Me,” which he describes as “about a guy chasing a girl who leaves clues for him in National Parks across the West.”

“I got the idea for my film hiking through a river trail in Zion National Park called The Narrows and marveling at the towering slot canyon walls around me,” Huang remembers. “It hit me that I wanted to make a film that featured places like this that would make people point to the screen and say, ‘I want to go there.’ And so began the beginnings of a story idea that would use National Parks as a character in a film.”

The plot centers around Joe — played by Huang — described as an accountant on a downward spiral after a painful divorce. His best friend and “work wife” Amelia (played by Sara Amini) tries everything she can to encourage him to see the world and find a new lease on life, but it’s only when she disappears that he’s willing to leave his comfort zone and follow the clues she’s left for him.

One review called “Find Me” a “funny, uniquely charming, and gorgeous film… It’s a meaningful and poignant film with life lessons that will make you sigh and even shed a few tears.” And another critic described it as a “strikingly original road movie… The stunning landscapes and Huang’s low-key persona are enchanting, as are the ethnically diverse free spirits he encounters during his quest.”

For Huang, submitting his film to the Bentonville Film Festival was an easy decision.

“It was really exciting to hear about a film festival that highlighted inclusion, and clearly had an audience that came out to watch the films,” he says. “That, and knowing it was started by Geena Davis, as well as offering the possibility of distribution if your film was lucky enough to be chosen, made it a no-brainer to enter and hope they liked the film. Their message and goals match what I’m trying to do as a filmmaker, so I’m so grateful they liked my film enough to present it at the festival.”

Huang admits his goals have changed since those early days in film school.

“I think when I started out, I had aspirations for winning an Academy Award or maybe being able to make the latest Star Wars movie or something,” he muses. “But now, I simply would love to be able to work full-time making movies and TV. This is such a tough business to crack, and there’s so many talented people out there, that a lot of times you really need a bit of luck to be at the right place at the right time.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to get a little taste of it writing for network television, so I’m just at the point now that I’d be happy to be allowed to create stories and pay the bills. If I can do that, I know that I can continue to make films that might make people think, either through my professional work or through my own indie films. Until then, I just keep working at being a better filmmaker and am grateful for having the life I do have.”

That life, post-BFF, might include a script titled “Dealing With Dad,” “about a family dealing with their dad’s depression, though he’s a nicer guy depressed than well” or a film noir “set in the American Japanese internment camps during World War II.”

“Not sure which one will go first,” he says, “but it’s good to have a lot of balls in the air.”






‘Find Me’

WHEN & WHERE — 1:30 p.m. May 3 at Apple Blossom Theatre & 1:15 p.m. May 4 at Skylight Cinema

COST — Both screenings are sold out; there will be a rush line one hour before each start time

INFO — FindMeTheFilm.com

Categories: Cover Story