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Volume 79: November 23, 2018

Featuring Jenny Soo, actor/producer, FOR IZZY

WE'RE VERY FULL ... OF GRATE

Since Chery and I started The Slant a year and a half ago, we've learned a lot—and most of it was from y'all. (The rest of it was from Twitter, for better or for worse.)

And not to belabor the point for something you've probably heard a lot from Brands and Facebook Friends over the past week ... but we're pretty ridiculously grateful for y'all.

That's why this week, we're taking a back seat to our incredible, talented, and possibly unreal friends of the Slant. Because if there's one thing that inspires our newsletter every single week, it's the cool stuff our friends do all the time.

So without further ado, let's grab those leftovers and dig in.

- Andrew

P.S. Got something to plug? E-mail me at andrew@slant.email. Let's talk!

Support us on Patreon!

OUR FRIENDS ARE COOLER THAN US AND HERE IS WHY

We're dedicating this issue to highlighting the awesome stuff folx in the Slant community are doing, because it turns out the treasure really was the friends we made along the way. WHICH IS GR8, BC JUST LOOK:

 NEW YORK CITY 

  • Karen Chee is, bar none, one of the funniest people I have ever listened to/read/followed clandestinely on Twitter (check out our interview and also her podcast ep with friends of the Slant Asian, Not Asian) and she's doing a show with Alex Song in Brooklyn on 12/5! Tickets are already on sale and it definitely sounds like it's going to be a good time. SO GO.

  • Speaking of Asian, Not Asian, funnymen Fumi Abe and Mic Nguyen run that show, and there's no better time to start listening to the podcast than with all your extended family around for the holidays. Plus, catch them at their monthly comedy show, Hack City, at Black Cat LES (172 Rivington) every third Wednesday of the month at 8pm. (Also, they got thoughts. Read our interview!)

  • This year, Cassandra Lam and Karen Mok founded The Cosmos, an organization dedicated to helping Asian American women flourish and thrive. And seeing the incredible ways they've inspired the Asian American community, I think they've succeeded. On November 29, The Cosmos is hosting a social media workshop for women of color, led by designer and art director Catherine Kim at Primary (26 Broadway, 8th Floor.) RSVP today.

 SAN FRANCISCO 

  • April Pascua and Brian Teng run Untold Improv, a non-profit that helps people of color practice improv. That's already cool itself (read our interview with them), but they're also offering FREE drop-in workshops each month, starting 12/13. And another cohort/class is coming up on 01/17!
  • It's never too early to buy tickets for a Lauren Yee play. Her semi-autobiographical-slash-magical-realism play, King of the Yees, is playing at the San Francisco Playhouse from January 16 to March 2, 2019. You can already buy tickets now, and you'll want to. I've already seen it and it's one of those plays you'll never stop quoting.

ACROSS THE INTERNET

  • Lysa Chen, who I still think has the world's coolest job title, just released a new Dungeons & Dragons adventure: Blades of Terror, where players organize a heist ... on an airship ... at 30,000 feet. If you've been rolling initiative for a hot sec now, you already know this sounds cool. If you haven't played D&D yet—what are you waiting for??? 

  • Singer-songwriter and actor Jae Jin has a voice like hot chocolate stirred with cinnamon poured directly into your soul, and that's probably why he's so constantly on our newsletter-writin' playlists these chilly last days of fall. Which is why we're super stoked to share that Jin just released his third album, Letter and Drinks. You can listen to it on Spotify, Soundcloud, iTunes, or anywhere else you get your music.

  • Adina Luo and Vivian Huang's miniseries, The Kids Table, has been making the rounds across Asian America, and with folx home for the holidays, there's no better time to watch it! Meanwhile, why not take a photo of your own kids' table and tag @thekidstableseries?

  • Issue 2 of Slant'd Magazine is up for order, and if you caught the first one, you know this is a perfect mag to browse in the park for a relaxing afternoon, or hold by your side, arms akimbo, as you stare down some racist jerks. Slant'd: this magazine kills fascists. Get it today.

  • And lastly, Greg Pak (Action Comics, The Totally Awesome Hulk, Mech Cadet Yu) and Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese, Superman Boxers & Saints) were two of the very first people to support (and more importantly, believe in) The Slant, back when it only had 13 subscribers and they were all my friends. And as you might expect from two guys who wrote Superman comics, they're doing some awesome stuff. Check out Ronin Island from Pak, a samurai-horror mashup due next March. And while Yang is touring and making more kickass speeches on diversity, he's still writing stories, like his Plastic Man tale in The Terrifics Annual #1.

AND NOW OUR FEATURE PRESENTATION

If you're looking for a poignant and hilarious movie to put on for Friendsgiving, For Izzy, now out on Amazon and iTunes, will be right up your alley.

Laden with awards from film festivals across the country and boasting an all-Asian American cast, For Izzy follows a queer photojournalist recovering from addiction and her friendship with her neighbor, who's on the autism spectrum, as they inspire courage in each other—and the audience. 

We got in touch with actress and producer Jenny Soo over e-mail to chat about the movie.

The stories of Dede and Laura are not those of your typical Asian American protagonists. How did you come to tell those stories?

Alex Chu, our director, had worked with me (along with Elizabeth Sung and Jim Lau) in his first feature and wanted to work with the three of us again. He started writing this film, all he knew was that he wanted us to play roles that were different from our previous characters, as well as give us all opportunities to play roles that we might not typically get the opportunity to in mainstream media. As for the role of Dede, Alex was struck by the fact that he had seen addiction portrayed frequently in the media, even glamorized, but rarely recovery. He was interested in exploring a narrative focused on a recovery narrative and seeing what that might look like.

What was most challenging about telling those stories in For Izzy?

One of the most challenging aspects of the film was the shoot itself. We had over 200+ locations including a company move to and from San Francisco in a 17 day shoot. Total madness. By the end of it, we had no idea if what we had shot would work, so it was a relief in the editing process to see it come together in the way that we had hoped.

Otherwise, it was surprisingly smooth! Alex workshopped the script with all of us for a number of months before the shoot, so we all had a hand in developing our roles. Having that type of ownership and deep familiarity with the characters was crucial to being able to get through that schedule relatively unscathed. 

Does the cast and crew feel any personal responsibility to represent Asian Americans? On a related note, are they worried, like other AsAm artists we've spoken to, that they'll be pigeonholed as an "Asian American" film or being "Asian American" actors?

I don't want to speak for our entire team, but that is definitely something that was on my mind while we were working on the film. Alex wrote this film extremely conscious of the fact that this was not your stereotypical Asian-American family drama, and I think we all responded positively to that. Elizabeth, Jim and Michelle have all been working in the industry for a long time, and it was exciting for them to be given the opportunity to work on roles outside of the traditional "Asian-American" roles. It's actually how we got Michelle on board, despite the fact that we were a no-name indie film holding auditions in a tiny low-budget casting studio.

So I guess to answer your question more directly, I think we all feel a personal responsibility to represent Asian-Americans outside of what people normally get to see, and that responsibility stems from the fear of being pigeonholed by the leading roles that have traditionally been available to us.

What was the research process involved in faithfully and respectfully portraying Laura and Dede's autism and addiction, respectively?

For Laura I got in touch with local organization like Exceptional Minds, The Miracle Project and F.A.C.T, and I interviewed a number of people who work with autistic young adults, as well as a number of autistic young women. In addition I watched a bunch of documentaries, the main one being "How to Dance in Ohio," and read books like "Neurotribes" and "Look Me in the Eye." I also spent quite a bit of time on YouTube. While I was doing all of the research, I also did a deep dive into the script to flesh out who Laura was outside of the label "autistic:" what scared her, what drove her, what made her tick. Once these qualities became clear, I explored how they live in my own body and life. How does my voice sound and where do I hold my tension when I'm feeling anxious? What does it make me feel like when my parents are being particularly overbearing?

Michelle also did a number of interviews, as well as watched documentaries and youtube. I remember her saying that she was really moved by Lisa Ling's segment on the opioid epidemic. 

Asian American media has been on the rise over the past few years, well beyond the "model minority" stereotype and hopefully beyond East Asian-only representation. What do you see in the future of Asian American media?

I've been in LA for about 7 years now, and I've never been more hopeful than I am now. There are certainly still huge steps the industry needs to take, but progress is undeniably happening. I flip on Netflix and I see To All the Boys I've Loved Before, Hasan Minhaj, and episodes of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. It's exciting to see the increasing amount of Asian American faces, but what makes me most excited is hearing about the amount of Asian-American folks that are getting opportunities behind the lens. 

What are some other pieces of Asian American media you've been excited about?

I was a big fan of "Gook," and I'm looking forward to seeing what Justin Chon comes up with next. "Searching" screened as the opening film at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, we were huge fans of that, so we were excited to see that it got a healthy theatrical release. We've been doing the festival circuit with "Ulam," a food doc on Filipino food, which is just a delight. Definitely keep an eye for that!

I'm also really excited and inspired by my fellow indie filmmakers who are putting content out there on the internet. There's "Kat Loves LA" and "Just Doug." I just read about "Susaneland," which is next on my list to watch. There are so many talented folks out there just waiting for us to catch up to them.
 
Born and raised in New Jersey, Jenny is an actor/producer who moved to Los Angeles after spending her early twenties in NYC performing in small theaters on the Lower East Side and in Brooklyn. Despite being an East­Coaster, she has been completely seduced by the palm trees, beaches, and the thriving intimate theater scene in LA (but is still looking for a worthy bagel and slice of pizza). You may recognize her as a concerned neighbor in the Lifetime movie Murder in Mexico or as an anxious stewardess on LA to Vegas. She received a BFA at NYU and an MFA: A.R.T./MXAT Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard where she spent a semester in Moscow sleeping in her winter coat.
See ya next time.
Copyright © 2018 The Slant, All rights reserved.


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