An Interview With Filmmaker Norman Yeung

NORMAN

Norman Yeung is a filmmaker who is currently raising funds for his new project Anne Darling; here is a link to the website:

Q: What is Anne Darling about?

A: Escaping sadness to become happier. What will you do? Booze, parties, sex? Those things are a happy distraction but nowhere near a solution. The protagonist Daniel tries to break out of his depression by distracting himself with sex. He uses a chat line to meet Marnie but their encounter is more intimate than they expected – she reminds him of his mother, he reminds her of her son. They are both haunted by family problems. At a party, his best friend Charlie hooks him up with Maggie, a young writer who has family problems of her own – she wants to run away to California, abandoning her depressed mother. Daniel and Maggie offer each other a way out, but in order to escape sadness, they will have to betray their family bonds. So what’s up with Daniel and his mom and Marnie?

Tonight, these characters will be the happiest they have felt in a long time simply because they meet each other. You never know – the person you’re about to meet might bring you happiness. “Anne Darling” is an optimistic film.

Q: What inspired you to create it?

A: Taking the subway one early morning and seeing a guy who clearly was up all night. We passengers were all fresh for a new day while this guy just had a night of booze and sex. Probably. He looked like it. I have no proof, obviously, but that was my story for him and I found it interesting. I’m fascinated by private life vs. public life, how we never know what people are up to. In Anne Darling, Daniel goes to a party and his friends have no idea where he had been. He says he was at home when the truth is, he was having Freudian sex with a stranger.

Q: Why should it be produced?

A: The characters in this film deal with depression. “Approximately 8% of adults will experience major depression at some time in their lives” (Canadian Mental Health Association). If not depression, I believe that most of us will experience deep sadness. What will we do to get better? I hope the audience of Anne Darling will reflect on their own choices to become happier, to get better. I hope this film will inspire people to get the help they need, or reach out to friends and family who are struggling with depression. I make my creative work not with the intention of “Look at me!”, but with “This is for you.”

Anne Darling features a diverse, multicultural cast. Unlike much of our media, this film represents our population responsibly and realistically. Anne Darling features actors of Chinese, Ojibwe, Italian, English, and Pakistani descent, among others. It’s time to reflect the reality of our American and Canadian societies: Our populations are diverse, and that is our strength.

Anne Darling is a self-contained short film that is one chapter in a bigger story. The feature film will follow the intersecting stories of each of these characters – and new ones – as they connect with strangers who offer them escape, hope, and happiness. But first, I have to get Anne Darling made.

Q: What do you think causes sex addiction?

A: Not the act of sex but the circumstance of sex. For example, I enjoy going out for a drink with friends. It’s not the drink itself I want, or getting tipsy, no… I crave the stuff surrounding going out for a drink: the camaraderie, the conversation, the socializing that occurs around booze. Back to sex… I know people who prefer sex in unconventional ways, like public sex. It’s not the sex itself that they’re addicted to, but the thrill and danger of banging in an alley, and they keep craving that excitement. For sex addicts, I believe sex represents something bigger, something not physical but psychological. Mind you, I’m not saying all people who bone in alleys are addicts.

I don’t believe the character Daniel has a sex addiction, but I can see a similarity between sex addiction and his situation. What Daniel needs is stimulation and distraction. So he decides to break out of his misery by meeting Marnie for sex. He is not particularly horny – he simply needs stimulation, and in this case, it’s the company and situation of sex. His encounter with Marnie is layered with so much complexity: she’s a stranger, she’s older, she reminds him of his mother. It’s those circumstances that attract Daniel, not the act of sex itself. Their sex is more like psychotherapy. …(that sounds like the worst/best sex ever).

Q: Do you think the internet makes people open up to each other more or lie more?

A: Lies. The internet allows everyone to craft the identity by which we want to be represented. Our social media identities are a collection of carefully curated photographs, videos, and text. About opening up to each other, let’s take a blogger who blogs diary-style. They might be blogging about only real actions and thoughts in their lives, like honest confession. But then some of them blog under an alias. And if they do present themselves with their actual name, they are still opening up through carefully phrased writing. Or video-recording. In the case of people who open up on the internet with great honesty, like a diary-blogger, I wouldn’t say they’re sharing lies. I’d say they’re presenting constructed truth.

Q: What is your own background in film?

A: Watching the movie Twins in a New Zealand hotel as a kid inspired an existential crisis and a decision to become an actor. First got paid to act on screen at age 13. Did acting training for stage and screen for many years. Right before beginning my acting degree, I saw an image from The Seventh Seal, of the knight playing chess against Death, and I figured that you can really say something with movies. Got my filmmaking degree and made some short films. Now I’m making a film while acting.

Q: What kind of day job do you have and how does it influence your work?

A: Along with filmmaking and acting, I write and make visual art. I mostly write play scripts and screenplays, although my love for writing prose is growing super fast. My visual art is mostly paintings and drawings. My disciplines inform each other. One common thread between these disciplines is my love of narrative. I tell stories while minding the visual form. My paintings are like a still from a film: there are characters in action, something is happening. What’s happening is up to the spectator. I invite the spectator to be engaged and craft their own story from the image. And with filmmaking, acting, and writing scripts, well, they’re quite obviously mediums for telling stories.

Q: What is the secret to a successful Kickstarter campaign?

A: Our Kickstarter campaign is still on but I can say with conviction: Time. Spend the time before you launch to organize contact lists, strategize media and publicity, building up a social media network, creating tons of content for your Kickstarter page, like videos, images, and text. Then, be prepared to spend ALL your time managing the campaign after its launch. You’ll still have to create tons of new content to keep people engaged, facilitate media and publicity… I spend so much time writing/answering e-mails related to this campaign that casual e-mailing has not existed for me for a month. Crowdfunding will take up all your time. The secret upon that secret? Don’t do it alone.

Q: What do you like about the film industry?

A: Having my creative work being available to the whole world is intoxicating. That’s a virtue of film being a recorded medium. Live performance is, by nature, local; its virtue is ephemerality. In terms of industry… It is not impossible to obtain a comfortable life by doing what you love. But it’s not easy. As frustrating as the industry can be, I enjoy the challenge. And the glamour can be there if you need glamour. I also like the itinerant nature of this industry, where the project-to-project structure keeps things exciting.

Q: What don’t you like about it?

A: The itinerant nature of this industry, where the project-to-project structure keeps things terrifyingly unpredictable.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

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