Interview with Filmmaker Robin Wang (GRADUATION)

GRADUATION played to rave reviews at the November 2020 LGBT Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

For a long time, I felt that the mainstream of queer narratives in literature and film has been lacking POC representations, where, in fact, intersectionality with different world cultures often present more obstacles than what we usually see. I felt this story was important and necessary to tell — and it’s also kind of personal for me because it was inspired by my own graduation experience (disclaimer: nobody slept with anybody). But the pain of emotional and sexual repression — of not being able to articulate your love and feelings — is something I have always felt growing up in the culture that I came from. And it is not just me — but generations and generations before me — that are bound to the pretensions of society. But when stripped off that fanciful clothing in the dinner scene, we are left with our naked, human desires, perhaps only thinly covered by our pajamas, like in that embarrassing breakfast scene in the end. I wish one day, we can all be freed from the straightjacket of society’s expectations on us, and be all truthful to our feelings and ourselves.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

I got this idea shortly after my graduation from Duke University in May 2019, and finished the product in my second semester at USC in May 2020. So it took me about exactly a year.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Love, bittersweet.

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

We encountered a lot of obstacles, but the one that got me the most is that I am a “rain god” when it comes to filming exterior night scenes. It happened twice during our production: one during the pool side scene, and the other during the rooftop scene one week later — even when the weather said it was going to be clear. I was extraordinarily lucky to have the film finished nonetheless, because one week after we wrapped, the entire LA shut down because of COVID and we haven’t been able to get back to work ever since.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

Wow! They really understood and appreciated everything I did in this film. They are such smart and appreciative audiences — and their feedback really made me look at the film again in such refreshing ways. And for sure, to echo the last audience’s feedback, I’m planning to turn this film into a feature.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

It was inspired by my own graduation experience last year — but also because I always wanted to make an Asian Call Me By Your Name, and explored queerness in fun and insightful ways like Ang Lee’s The Wedding Banquet. So all those influences soon led to Graduation.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

Oh Gosh… there are so many. Most recently, I’ve been re-watching Billy Wilder’s The Apartment. Such a screenwriting God.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

I thought it was definitely easy, fast, and accessible as I’ve been using it since the beginning of my career. My only hope is for it to include more film festivals, like SXSW and Clermont Ferrand.

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

Shape of You.

10. What is next for you? A new film?

I’m producing two USC Thesis films and one Sloan project. In the meantime, I’m writing my own advanced projects at USC as well as turning Graduation into a feature.

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