I humbly present SNAKEHEAD, a passion project that I've been working on for over 9 years.
Inspired by true events and based in New York's Chinatown, we follow our anti hero, Sister Tse as she rises to one of the most sought after human smugglers in FBI history. From the moment she lands in American waters she quickly learns that the American dream wasn't what she was promised. We will explore the reality of the modern American immigrant through the lens of the Chinatown underworld.
Ultimately, this is a story about a Bad ass Asian woman who finds her community as a feared and respected boss.
I started Snakehead over 9 years ago. I moved to New York, wrote a script, and was all ready to make it when...Jeremy Lin blew up. This put a slight detour in my path, but Linsanity never hurt anyone. I spent the last 3 years trying to raise money for a bigger movie but this proved to be difficult. I realized if I ever wanted to see this movie made, I'm going to have to make it myself.
This is a passion project in the truest form. Whether it is research, building relationships, writing, producing, Snakehead has been a part of my daily existence for almost 10 years. At this point, I'm not doing this for fame, glory, or money. I need to tell this story and see this character and world come to life.
Telling our own stories
As a 6th generation Chinese American, sometimes I feel foreign in my own country and according to the current tide America feels the same way. And while Hollywood white washes everything, who is to blame? We complain, tweet, and write articles but at the end of the day they're just entertainment companies. They make entertainment to make money, they are NOT the cultural pioneers that invoke cultural change. It is through interaction, shared experiences and stories that we can promote common ground. We can debate all we want, but until we tell our own stories (and tell them well) we will never have a piece of the pie.
The perspective of the immigrant is one that is usually stereotyped, looked down upon and illegal. All immigrants want the same thing that the pilgrims did, opportunity. Even though what she does is illegal, Sister Tse believes she is righteous and a provider of opportunity. While I don't condone this, human migration is happening whether we agree or not. We have seemed to forget that we were all immigrants to this country.
So how is 28,000 going to be spent? Frugally. Movies can cost a couple thousand dollars to millions. I'm going to use every favor, every free location, every sponsorship, and any help I can get to tell this story. I'm going to use every production trick I've ever learned to keep this movie looking beautiful and epic. I'm going to cast from my community and build a crew that is down for the cause. From my days on Better Luck Tomorrow to my days on big budgets, I've learned that money can only get you so far. The true currency in filmmaking is passion.
Every project that I've originated has been for the community and by the community. There is a powerful organic quality to a project that has the support of a community. The group belief in a story creates a collaboration that is greater than the original. This collaboration is why I love what I do.
I've done a lot of documentaries and the journey of the process is always an enjoyable story. So, I'm going to try something new. Instead of holding all the goodies to myself I'm going to share everything with you all. Every production day, every major plot development, and every awesome behind the scenes will be open game. I will share everything on digital media. Follow us!
You only get one chance to make your first feature film. This is an opportunity that I don't take for granted. Realizing a dream is exciting, scary, and rewarding. I hope you can join me on this journey.
Evan Jackson Leong is a 6th generation Chinese American director and documentary filmmaker and is the founder of Arowana Films. Evan is known for his documentary Linsanity about Jeremy Lin, which made its world premiere at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. A majority of his work is based in the Asian American community. He directed the documentary 1040: Christianity in the New Asia (2010) and the documentary short BLT Genesis (2002), which tracks the behind-the-scenes making of and trajectory of Justin Lin's film, Better Luck Tomorrow. Under the mentorship of Justin Lin, Evan honed his craft directing various music videos, short films, commercials, and documentaries in the Los Angeles Asian American community.
Evan then moved to New York working for MTV News and other various cable networks. In addition to directing, Evan is a capable cinematographer, steadicam operator, photographer, and editor. In short form digital, he has worked on various projects with Michelle Phan. And some of his most recent work has been with the acclaimed fashion influencer Chriselle Lim.
Risks and challenges
It took me 9 years to get here. There are always risks and challenges in making movies. There are too many variables to count and too many things that can go wrong.
But, this movie is getting made even if I have to shoot it on my iphone. I've worked too hard and too long to not see this through. My experience has shown me that perseverance, creativity, and faith always get things done. Snakehead will get finished if it's the last thing I do.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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