Started editing today on our Final Cut Pro system. Definitely feels good to finally be at this stage, when all the footage gradually morphs into comprehensive scenes. I’m looking forward to developing our main characters into the fullest and most meaningful realization of who they truly are.
In order to do that, though, I have to force myself to analyze what truly lies at the heart of the film. My editor and I talked a few days ago about forming a “narrative mission” that will help to keep us on track through the many months of editing. We haven’t finished yet, but some key phrases popped up during our brainstorming session: “redefining success”, “born into hardship, rising to excellence”, “creating hope”, and “breaking stereotypes”.
That last one reminded me of why I set out to make this film in the first place. As a minority, it’s always been hard to escape the stereotypes that the world tries to force upon you – especially the ones about Asian males. As evidenced by two recent documentaries (Jeff Adachi’s THE SLANTED SCREEN and Arthur Dong’s HOLLYWOOD CHINESE), film and television have constantly portrayed Asian men as weak, nerdy, and effeminate; in the few instances where we are given some sense of power, we are then consigned to the role of either heavily accented drug kingpin or sexless kung-fu warrior (who never gets the girl).
With my documentary WHATEVER IT TAKES, I want to break these stereotypes through the portrayal of my main subject Principal Edward Tom. Here is a visionary and powerful Chinese American man who sacrificed everything to invest himself in the lives of at-risk African American and Latino children in the South Bronx. Backing down from no one, Ed shows his strength through a potent mixture of charisma and heart.
This is the kind of character I’ve always known existed, but rarely was allowed to see. I’m betting that viewers – especially Asian audiences – are just as starved for someone like Ed. And now, I’m fortunate enough to be able to tell his story.
Check back next week for an update on how we are handling some of the film’s first scenes.