From the Oscar stage to the streets of Hong Kong
It’s no secret that all of us at Sassy HQ loves a good Hong Kong story. After all, the 852 is home, so when we heard a new mystery flick is being made by none other than Oscar-winning Co-Producer, Andrew Hevia (of Moonlight,) and local Director, Joshua Wong (and former front man of Noughts and Exes), we had to find out more. From their common interest in Star Wars, they will tell a tale about a galaxy-not-so-far-away, but rather, right here on the streets of Hong Kong.
Titled, Dark Room, the story follows a British-born Asian woman who takes a picture at an inopportune time and happens to finds herself involved in a thrilling twist of events. I had a chance to catch up with the two extremely talented (and understandably busy!) men in between interviews and Andrew’s post-Moonlight promotions, and guess what? They confess they are huge Sassy fans!
Congratulations, Josh and Andrew, on launching this exciting new project in Hong Kong! Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into the film industry.
Andrew: I’m from Miami, Florida. As a kid, I was obsessed with Star Wars and wanted to live in that world somehow. When I got a little older, I learned that movies were fiction, and making them was an actual job. I’ve been aiming for it ever since.
Joshua: I was born and raised an Aussie, spent three years in the U.K., moved to HK at 21, and have been here since. I’ve grown up loving film since watching Star Wars and Kurosawa films as a child (my mum started me early), but always thought making films was about as realistic as flying, so never gave it much thought. My journey toward it, though, began through skateboarding and making independent skate videos with my mates.
How did the two of you meet? Have you worked on projects together before?
Andrew: Josh was actually the second person I met in Hong Kong! I moved here two weeks after we wrapped production on Moonlight. I had won a Fulbright research grant and came here to make a documentary about Hong Kong’s art community. I got a tiny apartment in Sai Ying Pun and noticed a free screening of The Empire Strikes Back at the coffee shop next door. I went and met Josh.
Josh: What he said.
Congratulations, on all your success with Moonlight, Andrew! We have to ask… what was that moment like for you when you realised the movie had won Best Picture at the Oscars?Thanks! It was pretty incredible, and not just because of how it went down. Getting on that stage was surreal, exciting and, hugely humbling. Ever have that dream where you show up to school without pants on? It was like that, only Warren Beatty was there too.
Josh, you’ve previously worked with the franchise Star Wars amongst other incredible projects and short films. How is this project (Dark Room) different?
Well, this is the first long-form story I’ve had the privilege of being able to tell. It’s a very different challenge but not as daunting because of all of [my] experience working on shorts, commercials and music videos.
What is the appeal of filming and shooting in Hong Kong for the both of you? Why tell a “Hong Kong” story?
Andrew: Because it’s a fascinating place! It’s a rich, complicated and layered city and that’s incredibly attractive as a storyteller.
Josh: I LOVE the prospect of making films in Hong Kong because it’s, without a doubt, one of the most unique places in the world. As a third culture kid growing up too Asian to be white in Australia and then finding I’m too white to be Asian in Hong Kong, I found this to be a similarly eclectic and interwoven cultural hub. Couple that with the incredibly rich surroundings and characters you meet here and you’ve got a wealth of inspiration right outside your front door.
What are the pros and cons of filming in Hong Kong?
Josh: I think the only major con with making films in HK is that there isn’t a thriving independent film market here. There are definitely indie films being made but not nearly on the scale of the U.K. or US. I do think that very con is what makes it a pro, though. It’s exciting to be a part of something that is developing and growing stronger. Plus, it’s just visually such a rich city.
Where did the idea of Dark Room come from? Was the story inspired by real-life events?
Andrew: Josh pitched the basic premise of a British-born, Asian woman who takes a photograph and stumbles on a mystery. We spent weeks going back and forth working out exactly what that mystery was going to be. Once we had a strong outline, we found an extremely talented writer named Dave Boyle and he brought it to life. While the events themselves are not pulled from a single real life event, we did a lot of research and made sure that the film is grounded in truth.
Recently, several Hollywood films based on Asian characters have been portrayed by non-Asian actors and actresses. What is your approach when it comes to casting for movies? Do you have a lead actress in mind?
Josh: That’s a great question, and one that is constantly at the front of a lot of conversations we’ve been having. Unfortunately, the harsh reality is that movies are a business, and the people putting money into it need to ensure the actors involved will help make their investment back. If Asians were proven to be bankable then we wouldn’t be in this quandary, and this was part of our dilemma in deciding the ethnicity of our main protagonist. In the end we felt the more important thing for our story was to have an Asian female at the centre of it. We haven’t yet cast anyone but have a few people in mind. Of course we’re also open to finding more talent.
Any chance to turn this into a movie series? Like Sherlock?
Andrew: A producer can dream, can’t he?
What do you hope your audience will feel after watching the film?
Josh: My heart for everything I make is that it will connect with audiences and hopefully inspire them in some way, whether personally or socially. Films are one of the most powerful means of storytelling that can impact both cultures and lives.
We’re very excited to see an English movie, filmed and directed in Hong Kong. When will it be out? How can we follow along and get updates on Dark Room?
Andrew: Right now, the movie is still in the early stages, but we hope to be in production within the year. For now, I suggest diehard fans follow me on Twitter @andrew_hevia. Of course, we’ll send pertinent updates to Sassy and Sassy Mama!
Thanks to the talented Michelle Proctor of Michelle Proctor Photography for all of the beautiful images above! Follow her on Instagram @michellejproctor