Actress Eugenia Yuan talks about her latest feature, the Director’s Cut of Strangers, a feature by her longtime collaborator Michael Idemoto. Stranger will world premiere on Dec 7 at 7 pm in Los Angeles. Get your ticket for the screening now! And will also stream on CHOPSO.
How did you begin as an actress? What was your first role?
EY: I guess I fell into acting even though I had tried to deny the pull (since I grew up watching my mom in movies) and then I just fell in love with it completely. My first role was probably a small movie my mother was in and they gave me a role and I suddenly had to know how to fight, ride a horse, act, everything. That was a huge lesson. Also, it was probably the worst conditions I’ve ever worked under. But I was happy.
How did you meet filmmaker Michael Aki? What has been your collaborative relationship like over all these years?
EY: I met Michael when we shot Charlotte Sometimes together. That is what I’d call my first real movie. I auditioned for it, I knew why I was there and that it was my choice to be doing this, and I really lucked out to be part of a pivotal movie which at that time I didn’t even understand what it meant.
Since then we have always wanted to work on our own projects and formed a production team called CineHous with Pryor Praczukowski, Michael, some of our regular writers and actors and producers including Matt Westmore who was also in Charlotte Sometimes. We’ve worked on so many shorts together and some very low budget features and we know each other so well that we are all a family and that’s why it’s fun to create with this same group of people. We all want our chance to shoot our big feature together and hopefully we will get it. I think Michael is very talented as a director and an actor and his love of film runs deep. He and Pryor watch every movie. Past, present, every genre, good, bad, it’s all learning for them. It’s awesome to hear them discuss film.
Out of all the features you’ve worked on, what has been the most memorable / or your favorite and why?
EY: They’re all wonderful because I’m getting to do what I love, right? I have great memories from every one. I feel like I was very lucky right when I started. I loved doing Mail Order Wife. It was a genre and style I didn’t even know I could do and I just had so much fun. I still can’t believe I got to work with Peter Chan, my favorite director, on Three: Going Home. Too much to say about that one…dream come true for sure.
Strangers is pretty much your vehicle. How did it happen?
EY: I wouldn’t say Strangers is my vehicle. I feel like it’s both Michael and I. The story came from a short that Michael did with Pryor actually and they wanted to develop it further and see this world. It is a noir film with a lot of silence where the audience isn’t being spoon fed every single thing. I love that. I personally love this film. Sure, I wish we had budget so we could have made it even better. But for the zero money we had with our three person crew including us actors? I think we made a pretty awesome genre film. Again, everything is learning and leading up to the bigger ones coming.
What would you, as an actress, like the audience to take away from Strangers?
EY: I’d love for them to be able to enjoy the ride, it is after all, a road trip movie. Enjoy the silences. Breathe. Watch these characters go thru their battles with each other and with themselves. And just have fun because I actually think this movie is quirky and funny but maybe that’s because when we all watch it we are either laughing at each other or ourselves or criticizing every little part we wish we could have done better.
Can you talk about the project in the works with Michael Aki?
EY: That project, Section of Sky, I would say is more my vehicle. I had this idea and we discussed it and developed it more and wrote it together. It’s very personal, this film. But I also think it’s very relatable. Again, it’s a road trip film. Only this time we follow her as she comes to terms with decisions she made in the past that suddenly don’t feel like they were the right ones. That’s what people do. You have to make decisions throughout your life. But often you wonder when you’ve hit a low point, all the WHAT IFs and…the little girl saves her really. Reminds her of why she made the choices she made…everyone needs these reminders. Or else there’s just regret.
Now being a veteran actress, what advice / suggestions would you give a director who will be working with you?
EY: Wow, “veteran” that sounds hella old. 🙂 I don’t think it’s up to me to give a director advice on how to work with me. It all begins and ends with trust. The more I trust you, the more I unknowingly but willingly am giving. And for directors I think it’s just important that they know what they want. And fight for it. I’m just a puppet as an actress. I just want to help make their vision come true and be even better than they imagined it to be.
And for a young Asian actress starting out in Hollywood, what would be the one advice you would give to her?
EY: I would say know that it’s not easy. It’s not an easy business. You better really love it. It’s hard to keep going and keep getting rejected every day. Don’t take anything personally. It’s hard, after all these years even for me, it still is. And also, feed yourself with so much life experience because that is what will make YOU a better artist.