June 28, 2004
High-profile film industry guests visit campus
By Scott Rappaport
Hollywood film director Alexander Payne (About Schmidt, Election),
actress Sandra Oh (Under the Tuscan Sun, Arli$$, Double Happiness),
and groundbreaking new Asian American director Justin Lin have each
paid a visit to UCSC in the past two months as guests of the Film and
Digital Media Department.
L.S. Kim, assistant professor of film and digital media (left)
with acclaimed film director Justin Lin, and student Grace Su,
at an Oakes College reception during Lins recent campus
Photo courtesy of Grace Su
Lin, voted one of Varietys Top 10 Directors to Watch
after the release in 2003 of his first feature film Better Luck Tomorrow,
appeared on campus early in June for a special screening of his movie,
as well as hours of discussion and interviews with students.
The appearance was made possible in part through the persistence of
L.S. Kim, assistant professor of film and digital media at UCSC, and
Clifford Yee, program coordinator of the campus Asian American/Pacific
Islander Resource Center.
I teach a class called Asian Americans and the Media,
and we study Lins film because he is one of the most prominent
and contemporary Asian American film directors working today,
Kim noted. Hes incredibly busy right nowworking on
two studio films for Disney and Universal, developing a film with Spike
Lee, working on an independent project for MTV, and he even just did
a pilot at Aaron Spellings request. So we were very lucky to get
Actress Sandra Oh
Photo: Tim Roller
Film director Alexander Payne
Photo by Michael Lewis
Lins debut feature was the first film acquired by MTVs
new distribution company, MTV Films. It first received recognition at
the Sundance Film Festival where it sparked a controversy over its unusual
portrayal of Asian American characters as amoral role models. The film
depicts a group of high school students who appear to their classmates
and teachers as model students, but in reality lead double lives as
edgy, freewheeling participants in a darker world of crime and material
Lins film speaks to one of the issues we explore in my
classes, Kim said. Asian Americans are usually stereotypically
portrayed as good students who are well-behaved. But to see Asian Americans
who are smart, but seriously out-of-control, is threatening. It really
throws that model minority myth into turmoil.
A culturally diverse mix of nearly 200 students also had the opportunity
to view a separate 30-minute video documenting Lins struggle to
get an independent film distributed about Asian Americans.
I can count on my hands how many Asian Americans have recurring
roles on television, and there are virtually none that have lead roles
in Hollywood movies, Kim noted. Lins Better Luck
Tomorrow is the first film in 10 years since Joy Luck Club
to feature Asian Americans as main characters.
Students questioned Lin about everything from issues of race in the
film industry to the difference between working on independent and studio
films. At one point, Lin noted that the entire budget of Better Luck
Tomorrow was equal to just one day of shooting for a typical Disney
He was a very gracious and generous guest--he answered questions
right down to the very last student, Kim observed. Lin is
at an extremely exciting point in his career right now, and it was truly
special to watch him interact here on campus.
In May, Kim and associate professor of anthropology Nancy Chen helped
coordinate visits to UCSC film classes by noted director Alexander Payne
and award-winning Canadian actress Sandra Oh. Payne received much acclaim
for the Reese Witherspoon/Matthew Broderick comedy Election in
1999, and recently directed Jack Nicholson and Kathy Bates in the 2002
film About Schmidt. He visited UCSC classes in screenwriting,
American film history, and production, where the professors also showed
clips of his work.
Payne talked about making the decision to work in Hollywood as
an intern or production assistant versus concentrating on your own projects
to create a career, Kim said. He really encouraged students
to pursue their own specific goals and spoke about how he got to where
he currently is in his career.
Oh, who recently played Diane Lanes best friend in last years
Under the Tuscan Sun, fielded questions from a class studying
Canadian cinema after a screening of her first feature film, Double
All three of our recent guests showed the students a great deal
of respect by responding to them directly as future filmmakers,
Kim noted. I think that really affirmed and encouraged the students
in the pursuit of their careers.
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