After hundreds of hours in the editing room, I am pleased to announce that we have reached “picture lock” for Breathin’: the Eddy Zheng Story! A major part of this editing phase involved showing the film to people … lots of people. We held focus groups with filmmakers, writers, and editors. We sent out online screeners to colleagues, film programmers, and friends. I showed my wife, sister, brother-in-law, and mother-in-law. Christine Kwon (Producer) and Deann Borshay Liem (Executive Producer) watched many cuts and provided detailed notes. Scott “Chops” Jung (Composer) insisted on watching nearly every new version and continually developed new music cues. And finally, I showed the film to Eddy.
Despite us following him and working on the project for over four years, he never once requested to view the earlier drafts or hounded us with questions about the film’s creative direction. Along with the Asian Prisoner Support Committee (APSC) and a small group of friends, we screened a near final draft of the film for Eddy in a crowded hotel room during a conference. Eddy laid on the bed and chomped on sunflower seeds throughout the entire screening. When it was over, we held a constructive feedback session with the small audience. I could tell that they really liked the film, but I was still waiting to hear from Eddy. He ate a few more sunflower seeds. Finally, he responded, “It’s kind of hard for me to respond right now. I think I’m still processing it. That’s my life up there.”
I would probably feel the same way if I was in his shoes—it must be strange to view one’s life on a screen, for others to watch and evaluate and judge. That’s my life up there. And life becomes complicated, story lines get messy, personalities show vulnerabilities. After a brief pause, Eddy chose a few specific scenes to discuss; he was curious about some editing choices. He talked about what impact the film could have, and started getting excited about future screenings, its distribution, and audience engagement. The reality of the film began to sink in for both of us. We continued talking and discussing through the night, and I anticipate reactions will continue to evolve. I am excited about the next phase: screening the film to even more people at the world premiere! I am pleased to announce that Breathin’ will screen in San Francisco and Oakland in March 2016. More details to come!