The initial story concept for “The Earth Below” was pitched to me as an adaptation of Madame Butterfly that takes place in a dystopian world where men no longer exist. I was excited by the project because of the opportunities it presented—it was a chance for me to write a female lead character and create a story in a science-fictional world. The challenge was tying it to an Asian-American theme.
“The Earth Below” for me is a combination of my admiration for Puccini’s opera “Madam Butterfly” and the themes of Alienation, powerful women, and unrequited love.
This little short had a couple of big firsts for us at Moth to Flame. First science fiction piece, and because it’s science fiction it was the first time where the production design played a big role.
When we (Christine Chen and I) decided to make “Ya Albi,” a film about a Syrian refugee, we knew that we may be dealing with a topic that could be political or controversial. We didn’t care about that though, because we just didn’t see it that way. We just wanted to make a good film about the human condition through the eyes of an immigrant that was relevant to today’s world without any political agenda.
I’m so proud of this film. We all worked so hard and so well together.
From the very beginning, we did some serious pre-production. This is one of the first films we were able to meet together and discuss the look of the film. We looked at examples of lighting and coloring to pinpoint the kind of look we wanted.
When I wrote “Ya Albi,” my first goal was to honor the story of my parents. Both of my parents are immigrants from Taiwan. Though they are not refugees, I can only imagine what they still had to go through in order to adapt and succeed somewhere so far from friends, family, and what they know.
When Christine first approached me with what would become Ya Albi (My Heart), I had to literally tell myself to play it cool. She probably doesn’t know this, or that I had written her name down on my wish list of directors I’d love to work with after seeing “A Bird’s Nest” two years prior. I guess I played it cool enough … thankfully!
So I’ll be honest, this was a very last minute thing. I mean I knew what I wanted to do, Christine and I talked about it for a hot second. I knew it had to get done, but yet again here I was editing late into the night to finish it up.
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