Eat With Me is an independent romantic dramedy showing at Frameline Film Festival on June 26th. It features a primarily Asian American cast that focuses on exploring the relationships between Emma and her grown son Elliot, whom she decides to move in with. Emma struggles to come to terms with her son’s sexuality, while Elliot tries to keep his restaurant and dating life from going under. This is David Au’s first feature film, pulling influences from Ang Lee and Wong Kar Wai, hoping to shed light on the beautiful little nuances of life that are often overlooked—and the power that food has to form bonds and community. Keep your eyes peeled for a special guest appearance by George Takei. Eat With Me was selected to be a part of the Ready, Set Pitch! panel at CAAMFest 2013.
— Brian Ignacio
First and foremost, what was your inspiration for the film? I loved that it was kind of like a dual coming out story and I loved that it was from the mom’s perspective.
I actually made a short film about 12 years ago with some of the same actors from Eat With Me, and the short film basically started with the ring cutting incident again, and we did that again with Eat With Me. It’s actually a real story. My mom called me one time, one night a long time ago and she said that my dad cut off his wedding ring overnight for no reason, except for just a headache and I took on that story. They’re still happily married now, but in my head I was wondering what if she didn’t take it as just a headache, what if she took it a little bit more seriously and thought that she could leave him and go live a new life and begin a new journey for herself. That’s pretty much the basics of the film and the inspiration for it. I wanted to explore, you know, how a mother and a woman of that age and, with her slightly more conservative values, what it would mean to rediscover herself and really feel like she’s trying to make a change for herself and her family.
Were there any other queer films that inspired you to create this film?
I wouldn’t say specifically queer films. But a lot of films inspired it. Ang Lee’s films are definitely one of the biggest things because this a foodie film as well, and there’s a big focus on having food as part of a communication tool among families, and I feel it something very common in a lot of ethnic groups. So, I took a lot of inspiration from Ang Lee’s films like Wedding Banquet, Eat Drink Man Woman, anything he does really—they’re all amazing. Same with Wong Kar Wai, he’s another inspiration of mine.
I love food films too! What did the dumpling represent? Is there a specific reason for the use of the dumpling?
I wish I was smooth and could say that there is, but, I think the main thing is that the dumpling is my favorite, favorite food of all time! I could eat that every day and night, and I couldn’t help but put it in the movie. And, you know I think that there’s something to an extent of the process of wrapping the dumplings, and making them is a very socializing event, and I think I did that with my family and actually I do it a lot now with my friends. We have dumpling parties, you know? People bring their own ingredients, figure out what they like and it could be anything.
What I love about it also is that it fits every culture. In every ethnic group or culture there’s their own version of dumplings. Italians have different kinds, Polish have different kinds, Chinese and Japanese and Koreans, they all have completely different kinds of dumplings and its very relatable. And I used that as sort of something universal that people can relate to and find it’s fun to watch and be hungry after watching it.
George Takei makes a quick appearance, which I was so excited to hear about and see! How did he get involved in the film, and what was it like working with him?
It was sort of random. My producer Joyce [Liu-Countryman], she bumped into George Takei—literally bumped into him in the aisle of the seats. We have been talking about potentially casting George in this role and so, that was such a coincidence and Joyce just took the opportunity to introduce herself and talk to him.
We kept in touch and stayed in communication for about another year or so and once we got all the funding and the script done and everything was in place, George actually loved our trailer. We shot a trailer before we shot the movie that was for raising funding and getting awareness of the film. George saw that and he fell in love with the story and thought it would bring awareness to communities. That’s how it started.
And then, to have him on set was amazing! He was only there for one day, one full day, but working with him was such a joy. He’s the sweetest, nicest guy, and he has so many interesting stories, which I’m very bummed about because I was so busy all day I couldn’t really talk to him that much, but I heard stories from everyone else on set and off set who got a chance to talk to him and really get the time to get something out of his brain and he is such an amazing person. We’re so excited and happy to have him on board and being part of the film. I want people to have a kind of surprise whenever they see him in the scenes.
So this is your first feature film. Was it either easier than you thought, or more daunting. What is some quick advice for anyone pursuing making their first film?
Well, first of all, I think it was definitely daunting. I think we entered into it sort of wanting to make the film and we had a lot of resources, but I think when you actually start a project it’s always overwhelming to get it done. With all the crew and the cast and everyone who was behind us and supported us, that really gave us the strength to get the film going. But once we were in production it went by so fast, we didn’t even spend some time to think about it, you know?
And, I would say, for any first time filmmakers I think definitely take your time to really enjoy the process because it goes by so fast and you spend so much time prepping for the film and during pre-production and funding money, the actual shoot itself is so short. So, I would really tell people to really take the time and enjoy every minute and you will never regret it after.
Eat With Me plays Thursday, June 26th, 4 p.m. at the Castro Theatre. For ticketing information, go here.
Main image: George Takei and Sharon Omi David Au’s Eat With Me.