Screenwriter’s Commentary: “Breath of Writing”

Within recent years, I’ve begun acting on another goal of mine as a writer, which is the goal of becoming a screenwriter. Since then, I’ve done quite a bit of it; from spec scripts to my first feature-length screenplay. However, so far, none of this body of writing has materialized into being something that can be experienced onscreen.

Well, that all changes today. In collaboration with Asiatic Productions, I am please to announce that my first screenplay to have been successfully produced as a film, “Breath of Writing,” is now available for viewing.

How this project came about dates back to December. I am one of many members of the Asian Creative Network; a group on Facebook made up of Asian creatives who are working towards pursuing their passions in life. Sometimes, people will post about the work they do and what they’re all about. Other times, opportunities for collaborations will appear, as was the case with this project.

It came in the call for submissions for “VIVID: Asian-American Re-written (or “VIVID” for short); a series of abstract, experimental short films that aim to break the mold of what mainstream media has otherwise constructed of an Asian character. My life experience both as a writer and as a mixed race Filipino American is something that I consider to be unique enough to center a short film on, so I decided to submit to it.

Writing the piece alone was quite an experience. Mind you that this was in December, right before the holidays, and so everyone was rushing to get things done. In between activity going on at my day job and other things, I struggled a bit with carving time to sit down and actually write my piece.

However, when I did, I knew exactly how to go about it. I wanted it to be alternative to how my writing career was portrayed in that TFCU spotlight I did last year. I wanted to open up about the struggles I deal with as a writer and let that be the view in this time around. It’s a good thing we were told not to write it in the format of a screenplay, as I let out a rant like no other. I submitted it in, not knowing what would come of it, and moved onto other things.

Fast forward to earlier this month and I received an email from the two women who’re making this project happen: Tara Mercene and Mai Thao, current students at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota. They wrote to tell me that they liked what I had written and that my piece was selected to be the next short film they make. Also, they were very open about the fact that despite being nearly across the country from them, I would be involved in every stage of the process. As someone whose received a lot of rejections as of late and whose previous attempts at collaborations were far from par, this was quite an uplifting email to receive.

Throughout the month, in between everything else going on, I worked with Tara and Mai as they submitted material my way. They sent me the treatment they had written to accompany my piece and I gave feedback. They sent me the rough cut for me to look over and I gave feedback. They sent me the final cut for me to look over and give the go ahead.

It was indeed a very collaborative process and the fact that they truly listened to what I had to say played a big role in that. When I wrote to them telling them how important it was to cast a mixed race actress in the film, they completely understood and were already ahead of me on that. Despite Tara and Mai living in the Twin Cities (which, for those who don’t know, is not exactly the most diverse place in the country), they managed to find two mixed race Filipino American actresses; one to do the voiceover and one to act in the film (and let me just say, the film actress’s resemblance to my appearance is uncanny).

Another example is regarding the music. After they had sent the rough cut, I had suggested swapping out the track they used in that version for a different one. I wasn’t sure how tall of an order it was, but they wound up making it happen, with a track that reminds me so much of Joe Hisaishi’s score for the Studio Ghibli films.

To have this film come out both at the end of my birthday month and on a leap day makes this debut all the more significant. To say that I’ve written a screenplay that has successfully become a film is something that I’ve been working towards the past few years, and this is only the beginning. I want to thank Tara and Mai for all their hard work in making this happen and also for being the best collaborators I’ve had in a while.

Please go watch “Breath of Writing” and subscribe to Asiatic Productions for all the other films in the “VIVID” series.


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