SAVING FACE WITH ALICE WU

How did Saving Face come about?
The general idea for this story, actually, I thought this would be my first novel. So I took one of those “boot-camp” writing things, where we had to write constantly. I wrote this treatment and then I realized it would make a better film than a book. At that time, I was working at my job and it got to the point where I just wasn’t passionate anymore. At some point, it just became more of the same. When I began writing this, I remembered what it felt like to be passionate again.

What was the writing class like?
There weren’t any lectures or anything like that. We met once a week and we had to read aloud what we wrote, which was excruciating for me, and why I never took a Creative Writing class in college.

I understand. Reading your work in front of an army of students and a teacher isn’t the most fun thing you can do. Especially when they shoot criticism at you mere seconds later.
Yeah! I know, but I always wanted to write a novel, and secretly I never thought I would ever show it to anyone. And in this class, we had to announce every week to the class what page we were on, which was frustrating because I was always on page 5 and the rest of the class was moving right along. Some weeks, I’d throw pages away and I’d be back to 2 pages.

So, you were expected to complete something before the class ended?
Yes, we had to have a finished screenplay. The week before it was due, I went up to the teacher and told him there was no way I was going to finish. He is a great guy but at the time, he scared the crap out of me. He said, “You are delivering me a script. Here is my home address. I’m giving you three extra days.” So I went home, didn’t sleep for three days, and finally got it.

What happened then?
I went home the day I turned it in and went to sleep. Later that night, he called me up and said, “Actually, I think you may have something here.” After numerous conversations, and after it started getting serious, I knew that I really wanted to direct this project.

For a first-time stab at a feature length film, you sure picked a lot of ground to cover as far as subject matter is concerned. You did a great job of mixing a plethora of themes – like tolerance, family and cultural issues, honesty and being truthful to yourself – how hard was it for you to write this film, as far as personal experience goes?
Wow, that is a great question and you know, I never really thought about it like that when I was writing. The way I write isn’t thematically, like I didn’t sit down and tell myself to touch on this or that. If I do that, I tend to write incredibly boring. Here, it just started from a moment. I found a character and loved working on it and figuring out where she was going. At the time I started this, I didn’t really know that I was going to tackle all of this stuff. When I finished it, I just saw what I wanted, which was that I wrote this for my mom to show her that it is never too late to fall in love.

It’s also very obvious to the viewer that this is a very personal film.
Right. Someone asked me the other day, whether the main character (Wil) was me. And while a lot of her may be me, all of the characters are me. You write the characters that you really wish you were and you also write the characters that you are scared to become. That’s what helps shape your story and ultimately, that is how your story takes shape.

I tried my hand at the filmmaking process numerous times. I always dreamed of that day, the day when someone would come up to me and tell me how much something that I created touched them. How did that make you feel?
(She pauses…) Hmm. It makes me feel like I am not as big of a freak as I thought I was. I mean, you write this stuff for yourself. It’s amazing to me when people come up to me like that, it’s almost unreal. Sure, I gave birth to it, but it somehow became so much bigger than me. It’s almost a little… like if I really thought about that, I’d probably cry.

Later on, Alice told me of some her favorite films. Some of the usual titles were on her list but she also included others like “Say Anything” and the 1996 French comedy, “When the Cat’s Away.”

She also assured me that the 2000 cheerleader epic Bring It On was one of her favorite guilty pleasures and actually finds it a well made film. Who can argue with that? It’s easy to see some of that film’s humorous moments and when it works, it works well.

Wu also said that directing is something she is going to continue to do and is even open to the possibility of directing other people’s scripts. “Saving Face” has been touring the festival circuit this past year and opens in Los Angeles and New York on May 27th. It should make it to your town sometime in the summer, so save your own face and look out for it.




Posted on May 27, 2005 in Interviews by

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