Another Wednesday, another Front Seat Chronicle! This week we welcome writer/director Devon K. Lee, who if you are paying attention, is also the main Director of Photography for the series.
Devon, glad you could take time for this. Right off the bat, some may want to know how do we pull off the look of FSC? What’s been the biggest challenge?
Thanks for the opportunity. Well the look of FSC is pretty simple, I try to use as much natural light as I can and am often just amplifying light sources when needed. I didn’t want the polished look that you normally see on TV because these pieces are supposed to be a slice of life as is; so you’ll notice that a lot of angles are handheld to give you that voyeuristic feeling. We also desaturated the colors to play down the visuals a bit so that the dialogue and acting are at the forefront for the audiences.
The biggest challenge as always is time, it doesn’t help that we are shooting about 3 episodes in one day. So while as a DP I can set my shots up fairly quickly, but as a Director there is never enough time. We did rehearsals, but once you’re on set I think the actors get into the role a little more. So you’ll see performances you haven’t seen before and want to explore them more. But at the end of the day you still need to get what you need. So that was hard.
This episode deals with immigration, but not in the conventional sense. What was your intention?
Well I was born here in the States, so like the masses I believe that this is one of the best places to live. And you’ll often hear people say how lucky immigrants are to be here and to be able to take advantage of the resources our country provides them. But like everything in life, there are always two sides to the coin. So I tried exploring that other side; where some immigrants who come here may have no desire to live here.
When you were casting how did you settle on choosing your actors? And I might add, though we’ve shot several in Spanish, this was the first one where most of the dialogue was in Mandarin.
I just gotta say, this was tough. There just are not enough Asian actors out there. Understandably by the representation you currently see in our media there were more females who came out for the part than males. I literally had my choice of three male actors to choose from, and only one actually looked Chinese. So you know how that choice went. As for the female role, I had more actors to work with but the decision was also simple. All of the actors who came out to read for the part were born here in the U.S., so their Mandarin speaking and understanding of the role was limited. But when Yi Tian came in to read, I knew she would be perfect for the part, not only because her Mandarin was perfect, but because she was an immigrant. When I heard her read for the first time I knew she understood the emotions to the scene.
Now in taking on immigration, did you rely mostly on family history? I imagine the male character was first generation, no?
Yeah I took elements from experiences I’ve had with Aunts and Uncles who have immigrated here. But this is by no means a personal piece.
First generation, second generation; I always face a little confusion with those terms. To some first generation means those that immigrated to another country and settled, while others define it as the children born to these immigrants. Either way I had no specification of which generation Wayne’s character was from only that he was U.S. born. To me first generation, second generation that is a whole other issue that I didn’t have time to explore in this piece. Maybe another time.
From people you’ve talked to what has been the biggest challenge in regards to acculturation?
Language is always factor. But I distinctly remember my mom’s answer, which was speed and size. She was describing her experiences in Sacramento, CA when she first immigrated here and said that everyone always talked too fast so it was hard for her to follow along with her limited English. The other thing she recalled was the obesity, she was shocked when she went to an American restaurant for the first time and saw the serving sizes of the plates that people had ordered. That had a direct correlation for her with the amount of overweight people she saw.
Can we look for more writing credits from you?
Perhaps. When I run out of stuff to shoot for other writers.