New movie that makes everyone fall in love with Hong Kong

New movie that makes everyone fall in love with Hong Kong
Emily Ting’s debut feature film, a romantic drama into which she’s sunk her life savings, offers Western audiences ‘a refreshing take’ on the city, she says. Reviewers say the Tourism Board should sponsor the movie

Bryan Greenberg (Josh) and Jamie Chung (Ruby) in a scene from It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong.

Alan Yu
HK film

Temple Street, one of the spots featured in Emily Ting’s film.

Asian-American director Emily Ting I-tien‘s first full-length feature, shot entirely in Hong Kong, shows the city in such a favourable light that reviewers have been telling her the Tourism Board should have her on the payroll.

HK film1
Emily Ting
The 78-minute film, titled It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong, is about a Chinese woman from Los Angeles who visits for business, meets an American expat working in finance, and develops a budding romance while exploring various parts of the city, from Lan Kwai Fong and Central to Chungking Mansions and Temple Street. The 35-year-old Ting says she made the film to explore those rare moments when people make genuine human connections in a bustling city such as Hong Kong (inspired by a similar moment of her own), and to show the city in a different light.

“This film shows a different side of Hong Kong that people who are not familiar with Hong Kong have not really been subjected to. To a lot of Westerners, it feels like a really refreshing take on Hong Kong, something that they haven’t seen before,” Ting says.

She feels so strongly about this that she has sunk most of her life savings into the film. She doesn’t want to say exactly how much it cost, except that it was less than US$1 million. “When I say that this movie is a culmination of everything I’ve been building in my life, it truly is on a personal level, on a creative level, and even on a financial level.”

Roya Rastegar, associate director of programming and curated content at the Los Angeles Film Festival, says she knew the film was a success because the programming staff were all dying to go to Hong Kong after they first watched the film.

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“It’s almost embarrassing because I didn’t have any idea of how amazing Hong Kong was. Because it is a romantic story that was set in Hong Kong, it also felt like Hong Kong was a very romantic city, in the way that Paris is, or in the way that Los Angeles is a creative and romantic city.”

I didn’t just pluck Hong Kong out of the blue. I have a real connection to the city; it shapes so much of who I am

Ting is trying to find a distributor to release the film in Hong Kong. Last month, the film played at the Los Angeles Film Festival, the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and the New York Asian Film Festival. It’s received several favourable reviews, including from the industry publications Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

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Bryan Greenberg and Jamie Chung – a real-life couple – in a scene from Emily Ting’s film, her directorial debut.

Almost every reviewer has compared her film to Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, though Ting says she was also inspired by Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation, an Oscar-nominated film starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson as two Americans who develop a relationship after a chance encounter in a Tokyo hotel.

Ting says she took the couple, played by real-life couple Jamie Chung (you may know her as Mulan in the ABC TV series Once Upon a Time or as the voice actor of Go Go in Big Hero 6) and Bryan Greenberg, to shoot in places such as the Mid-Levels escalator with neon lights blinking in the background, Avenue of Stars with a stunning view of the Hong Kong skyline at night, and bustling Nathan Road, because she wanted to show a Westerner’s perspective of Hong Kong.

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Lan Kwai Fong.

“I picked out the most beautiful locations and shot them very lovingly and made everything look sparkly and beautiful, but on the other hand, I didn’t just pluck Hong Kong out of the blue,” Ting says. “I have a real connection to the city; it shapes so much of who I am as a person, to have spent those formative years in Hong Kong.”

Ting, who was born in Taipei but later moved to LA with her family, spent five years in Hong Kong in her 20s, but she came very reluctantly. Her father, toy tycoon Charles Ting, brought her over to learn the family business. Ting says the film is based on an experience in 2012 where she met a man with whom she connected and ended up party hopping until 6am.

“Hong Kong can feel a little alienating and overwhelming at times, because it is so fast paced and everyone is always on the go,” Ting says. “When you do find that sort of connection with someone, it can feel very magical. But when I found out at the end of the night that he had a girlfriend, it sort of threw me for a loop because all night we were building toward something, and then it turned out it was all in my head. Maybe it was from the humiliation of that experience, or this romantic wish fulfilment, but I basically went home after that experience and wrote a screenplay really quickly.”

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Chungking Mansions.

The screenplay was finished in a week. She spent a year refining it, signed on the two lead actors in 2013, and shot the film in May 2014.

This isn’t Ting’s first foray into cinema: she studied film at New York University, has produced 10 other movies, and directed a few shorts and documentaries, one of which – the 75-minute Family Inc – is about her time working in her father’s toy business.

Rastegar says it’s clear that Ting brought her skills as a producer to It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong. Rastegar says that unlike some other first-time directors, Ting didn’t have unrealistic expectations and made a film that doesn’t rely on special effects, a lot of extras, or stunts. Instead, she says the film has a strong plot and nuanced, witty dialogue.

“She’s a producer so she’s very familiar with what’s possible and what isn’t,” Rastegar says.

“She wrote a film that was based heavily on dialogue, and that really relied on two people, meaning there’s not a lot of people to coordinate and things like that, but she also was ambitious in setting it in a totally different city outside the US.”

Ting is still trying to get the film a wide release in Hong Kong, and says she’s happy with what she made.

“I feel like I made a movie that I definitely would want to watch in the theatres myself; it’s a movie that’s very representative of who I am as a filmmaker and as a person,” she says. “If this is it and I never get to make another film, I’m very happy that this is what I put out.”

However, it’s unlikely that this is the last we will see from Ting. She says she has other projects in the pipeline that she now needs to cast and finance, and hopes to make and direct more films in Asia, such as a family drama based on her own family in Taiwan, and a movie set in the factory world in China.

For this story and more see The Review, published with the Sunday Morning Post, on July 26

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 July, 2015, 7:39am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 July, 2015, 3:42pm

#EmilyTingItien   #ItsAlreadyTomorrowinHong KongFilm  #RichardLinklaterBefore Sunrise   #SofiaCoppolasLostinTranslation   # JamieChung   #BryanGreenberg

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Robert Chaen

Global CEO-Founder of ChangeU and Movsha Movers & Shakers, Hero-CEO Whisperer, Writer, The #1 Alpha Change Expert, Father of Asian FireWalking Robert Chaen is an International Keynote Speaker, writer, researcher, and corp games designer. He is famously known to be the “Hero-CEO Whisperer”, 1-on1 coaching with many CEOs and Celebrities for corporate strategies, staff & office political issues, personal branding, and even public figure OSHA safety drilling called Drager Defense. He has transformed CEOs and managers in Coca-Cola China, TVB Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airport Services, VADS, TM, Public Bank, Auditor General's Office Maldives, etc. He is the prolific creator and online Author of innovative management tools such as DragonCEO, Diamond Leader, Papillon Personal Effectiveness, OSHA Drager Defense, KPI Bank, etc. He is also the Founder of Movsha, an international networking with monthly mingles with MOVers & SHAkers, Angels, Entrepreneurs, CEOs, Celebrities, HR-PR-CSR, HODs, and the Most Influential IDEA people. ​Chaen is widely considered as one of the top International Platform Keynote Speakers for Resorts World Genting Senior Management Conference (Manila), 7-Eleven HK, Samsung, Coca-Cola China Mini-MBA @Tsing Hua University, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Jockey Club, The Story Conference where he interviewed Datuk Kamarudin (Chairman of AirAsia) and Siti Nurhaliza. He has been widely featured in TVB, AWSJ, CNBC, SCMP, The Star, and Sin Chew. As “The Father of Asian FireWalking”, he coached TVB celebrities (Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin) to walk on 650°C fire; and raised HK$68M in the world’s 1st and only live TV Charity FireWalk (TVB Tung Wah Charity Show), before Tony Robbins even came to Asia. If Robert can get you to walk on 650⁰C fire, he can inspire you to be THE BEST. He champions CN-HK-EU-US Tycoons to be philanthropic, and to be angel investors to support the next generation of Jack Mas, Steve Jobs, Richard Bransons, Steven Spielbergs, or Barrack Obamas. With some slick motivational speakers with fake doctorates out there, graduates often describe Robert to be "the most credible, empowering, truthful Coach" who believe in his graduates to believe in themselves. ​However, clients have described Robert as "The #1 Cool Badass Alpha Change Expert". He has the coolest first class stature, rapport and trust from clients. He will not hesitate to tell the badass truth ever so gently because clients are paying him big bucks to reveal the truth, find solutions, persuade the hostile HODs, and align cross-teams within the organization. Originally based in Hong Kong for 20+ years, he had worked with top Branding/Ad agencies at J Walter Thompson and Leo Burnett, and was a certified FranklinCovey (7 Habits) in USA, and NLP MasterCoach (USA). His warmth is known to soften the most hardened, resistant sceptics. He will inspire your team to Go for Top 1, or to be a Dragon CEO. With boundless energies, Robert owns 15+ successful business Joint-Ventures, and created unique products under his global VC network called Chaen's Angels VC. He is deeply passionate about ChangeUTH Youth CSR, Science-Based Medicine (vs. quackery), short films and Reality TV. Touched by a personal tragedy through the loss of his HK-born Portuguese wife, co-coach and business partner, Brenda José of 18 years, Robert explores the many ways in which the spirit world is communicating with the living with real scientific studies and evidence. He gives inspiring conferences on The Secret Afterlife.

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