Interview with filmmaker Nadine Truong, director of EGGBABY and SHADOW MAN
Q&A by Phillip Lorenzo
PL: First, I have to ask, how does it feel to have not just one, but two films in the Festival this year?
NT: I am very honored and excited to have such a great venue to screen my films at SDAFF. I have always had a great and amazing time ever since I first attended in 2006.
This festival feels like home.
PL: SHADOW MAN approaches the Vietnam War from a different perspective, what inspired you to explore the war through the complex view of a Vietnamese guide?
NT: I was especially interested to expose a potentially different point of view of the Vietnam War, one most audience members are not too familiar with. Like so many other Vietnamese Americans, I have many family members who were refugees and who immigrated to either the United States or Europe during that time. Many have endured similar hardships depicted in the film. As a Vietnamese American of the generation after the war's conclusion, SHADOW MAN is really just my interpretation of the events.
In the end, I don't necessarily consider SHADOW MAN purely a war film. I've always seen it more of a family drama, a story about a man who has trouble connecting with his wife and child because of emotional baggage and scars. I think we all have gone through periods of disconnect with loved ones in our lives. It's something that I could relate to, and it's a theme I visit often in my other films as well such as EGGBABY.
PL: What inspired you to make EGGBABY? Is this based on any personal experience or was there someone you knew who had a coming of age story like this?
NT: My co-writer Christine No conceived the initial story. She conceptualized the foundations of each character and incorporated the eggbaby project.
I suppose the project is often times done here in the states, but having grown up in Germany, I had never heard of it. I remember thinking to myself "wow, what a strange way to teach the youth about the responsibilities of parenthood. I wonder if it actually works?"
During our writing sessions, we found that we both had a lot in common. Like our main character Allison, we both went to an all-girls Catholic school as teenagers, and grew up in an Asian household, that often times suppressed open conversation about sexuality. It's a confusing time to grow from being a child to becoming a young woman. Teens and parents often times don't know how to deal with this and awkwardness ensues. Especially when there are slight communication breakdowns and cultural and generational barriers. Perfect material for a comedy or dramedy!
PL: These two films show a broad range of themes that you are capable of capturing on film, was there one project that was more rewarding than the other? Is there a certain genre you like staying in or do you want to do everything?
NT: Both films are very different in tone. I also collaborated with two entirely different teams. Both are AFI thesis films. I had originally conceived and written SHADOW MAN and had assembled my team around that script. EGGBABY on the other hand had lost their director and so I was brought in to take over. I learned a lot about people's different work styles from both projects.
EGGBABY is probably my most lighthearted film so far. I have a lot of respect for comedy filmmakers. In many ways, comedy done well is so much harder than drama, and prior to the filming of EGGBABY I was terrified of doing one. I feel more at home with dark dramas, which is probably why EGGBABY became a dramedy and not a straight comedy. I lean more toward drama (I like films like "Blood Diamond" and "Brokeback Mountain"), but would like to continue to dabble into other genres. It's good to open up your horizon, keep your instrument tuned, and get out of your comfort zone.
PL: Given how prolific you already have proven to be, what can we expect from you in the future?
NT: I am currently working with a team of very experienced and awesome Vietnamese American producers on my very first feature, which will hopefully shoot by the end of this year or the beginning of next. It's a love-drama between a man and a disabled woman. The tone will be rather lighthearted and inspirational and less dark, but very deep and meaningful nonetheless. There's a huge wave of films coming out of Vietnam, and I'm so excited at the prospect to be able to contribute to that. Other than that I am constantly writing and developing more projects.
Aside from being a writer/director, I am also a professional photographer and Asian Ball Jointed Doll collector. I am working on a short film that combines all these elements into one. It's a very long process though, as I plan on doing this entirely on my own. No camera team, no actors, no production designer, no costume/wardrobe designer etc.... Film usually is such a big collaborative enterprise, and I'll be experimenting with it being literally a one-woman-show.