Thoughts on “The Perils of Growing Up Flat-Chested” (2013), filmmaking, short films, and online premieres:
About two years ago now, I had just wrapped production on my senior thesis film, First Kiss, which followed Adam Schoenberger, a 14-year-old boy who finds out a pretty girl wants to kiss him at his best friend’s spin the bottle party. Feedback was positive, but one question kept coming up:
"Why don’t you try writing from a female perspective, since you’re, you know, a girl?" At first, it bothered me because I was all, “Screw you, I’ll write from an awkward teenage male perspective if I want to.” But then it started to bother me because I realized I gravitated towards that perspective because I had grown up on television and movies that were so often created by the men that used to be those awkward teenage males. So I decided to try something new and write a story from the female perspective. #radical
I also wanted to write something for an Asian American lead. In high school, I’d always be pleasantly surprised whenever there were actresses who “looked like me” on screen, but they were usually in supporting best friend roles or minor comedic guest spots. There was a short list of films I’d managed to find back in 2008 that were told from the Asian American perspective (Justin Lin’s Better Luck Tomorrow, Wayne Wang’s Joy Luck Club, end of list.) I wasn’t a huge fan of either - not that the films weren’t good, they just weren’t the kind of stories I liked. I grew up on Dawson’s Creek,Gilmore Girls, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Freaks & Geeks. I was obsessed with romantic comedies and stories of awkward teenage adolescence. I liked stories that were small and honest and shippy.
So I set out to write a movie for my high school self. The Perils of Growing Up Flat-Chested is about Katya Liu, a sixteen year old girl who’s determined to increase her bust size before a study date with her science lab partner. I chose a story that I felt could be specific to an Asian American female lead without making it entirely about her ethnicity. Mostly, I just wanted to make a movie I would have wanted to see – or rather, should have seen - when I was sixteen. Somewhere between the teen angst and makeout sessions, there’s a message in a bottle that I was trying to get to my past self.
Traditionally, today’s filmmakers keep their work guarded with password-protected vimeo links for fear that putting their content online will somehow devalue it to prestigious film festivals. We shot the film in the summer of 2012 right after I graduated from Carnegie Mellon University, with a local production grant I had won with the screenplay. We completed post production in January of 2013 and began our film festival circuit. Over the past 11 months, we screened at 8 festivals. I attended some great filmmaker panels, saw some truly phenomenal short films, and met some talented filmmakers I am honored to call my friends now. My festival experiences have been nothing short of fantastic - attend them always if you can.
Short films can be wonderful standalone works, showcasing the filmmakers’ abilities to capture something special and unique that they found worth sharing. There are some incredible filmmakers in the short film community that are relatively undiscovered (see: Short of the Week, a site that does a wonderful job curating the best shorts online). It’s one of my favorite mediums for storytelling, yet it was also one I was totally unaware of back in high school. Because as a sixteen year old girl growing up in the suburbs, I wasn’t attending film festivals on the regular. I was spending my time watching TV at home, reading Harry Potter, writing fanfiction online, and sharing it with my fandom friends.
And so that takes us to now. The audience I want to see this film - the audience I specifically made this film for - isn’t going to film festivals. They’re here. They’re watching The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Squaresville, they’re writing epic meta-commentary to The Autobiography of Jane Eyre and reblogging photosets of DailyGrace and the VlogBrothers. They’re at once so much smarter than I was as a teenager and then somehow still insecure about the exact same things I was back then. Actually the things I’m still insecure about now, on my particularly unsparkly days.
So that’s why I’m making The Perils of Growing Up Flat-Chested available now online. Because I somehow just remembered that I made this film to be seen, not to be locked away somewhere the people I’d made it for would never find it. I’m posting it to tumblr in the wild and random hope that you guys will find it and watch it and share it and talk about it. It’s been almost two years since I wrote it, I’m not sure I achieved 100% everything I set out to do. You might like it, you might hate it, that’s all fine. But I made it for you and if you’re reading this now, that means you found it, and I am so, so, so glad.
Over the next couple weeks, I’ll also be uploading to my channel some of my past directing projects that have been previously password-locked and tucked away. Not because they’re particularly accurate testaments to my current directing skill, but because I’ve personally always liked being able to trace the careers of my favorite filmmakers back to their early student short films. It’s always nice to be reminded that they aren’t magic, they’re talented humans who were also hard workers that stuck with it. Context is everything.
This was much longer than I thought it’d be.
This was absolutely incredible, everyone should watch it.