130: Jean Tsien Goes Outside Her Comfort Zone


Coppel and roger ross williams. She's been a mentor to emerging filmmakers. Not only in the us. But also in china and taiwan where she spent her early years gene is also moved into producing her. Latest project is seventy six days set in wuhan. China during the city's lockdown for covid nineteen. The film was directed by how wou wasting chen. And a third collaborator whose anonymous it's now shortlisted for the oscars documentary award last year. The and y c festival honored gene for her lifetime. Achievement filmmakers shared memories of how gene has touched their lives. Nan foo wan described the making of her. First film. hooligans sparrow about a chinese dissident. Engine asked me what my plan was about hooligans barrow ahead of just finished and premiered it and she asked me if i had any plans of releasing the film in theaters i had no theatrical distributor and i did not know how to do it. I had no money and no resources. So i told no i. I didn't plan to do anything in the in the middle of the night. I got an email notification from my physical sponsored account. Somebody donated a solid dollar to count and it was gene. I was very very surprised. Not because of the mummy but because of the faith that she had in the film and how much ship believed in me and in the film what jin did that night changed the trajectory of my career. I have my own gene stories in the year. Two thousand i was directing documentary and looking for an editor. I only knew gene by reputation. Reached her on the phone. And she bluntly told me. My rate was too low. For most editors that would be the end of the call but she stayed on the line and opened her contact list sharing dozens of candidates who might want the job and giving her candidate advice on their strengths and weaknesses. My next encounter with gene came seven years later. I was one year into my job program at the toronto international film festival. Our team had selected documentary from china. Called please vote for me. That stood out for a sense of humor and brisk pacing the director wage john. Chen couldn't travel to toronto. But gene was the editor. And i asked if she would do the qna. She professed to have a fear of public. Speaking but i always knew her to be talkative. So i didn't take no for an answer. Indeed when she got on stage she was great. And i invited her back to tiff when she edited waging. Chen's next film the biggest chinese restaurant in the world. i came to understand the gene. Wasn't kidding later in the podcast. We talk about her fear of public speaking. The thing is gene has stories. She recently said to me. Did i ever tell you how my father helped. Invent general towels chicken. Let's start there much thirty first. One thousand nine hundred seventy two. I was eleven years old and that was the day. I love taiwan. If you've seen my farewell the lulu wang's found in. There was a scene with grandma you know when she's in a taxi would grandma's image was in the far distance. That was my image. When i had to say goodbye to my grandparents. Yeah so so. That was the beginning of my immigration. Like that was the beginning of becoming american right and so we moved to the bronx i and it was. It was a cold winter. Actually that was a cold winter. I remember 'em my first impression was okay. Let me just tell you actually so my father. She love taiwan in nineteen sixty seven. He went bankrupt. He had a plastic business. He went bankrupt so he first went to canada for the work expelled and got a job as a restaurant. Worker washing dishes in montreal. Then he went across border and got a special. What chinese cook was. One of those specialties. So he got his green card through chinese cook. Basically he had to learn from scratch and he wasn't because he was a businessman who learned how to cook to get this visa. Exactly in. yeah also. He went bankrupt so he had to start from scratch so he started as a. He watched dishes in canada and then he came over as a chinese cook which i knew. He wasn't the factional one then. He ended up working in chinese restaurant in new jersey. I actually So in the nineteen seventies. I was in high school. He had my father and his friends started the biggest chinese restaurant in the bronx picking garden. Nine hundred and seventy-five it lasts a two years. It was two hundred seats. But you know in the seventies i- remembered there were tons. They would blackmail by the mafia's i remember. He was getting phone calls. Say put cash in the soda can and put it in certain telephone booth and and there were times. Actually my mom would freaked out. You know the immigration officer were calm and just randomly come and took a couple of undocumented restaurant workers so it was really tough. It was tough times in the seventies in the bronx. Jean's father went on to become a chef app pens. Restaurant in midtown manhattan. Mr paying had been the banquet chef. For china's nationalist leader. Chiang kai shek mr paying opened a restaurant on forty four th street. It was one of those first high end chinese restaurant and so my father was the chef and my mom was to catch share and my brother worked as busboy and waiter and i ended up in a courtroom on weekends house. Making great tips in the nineteen seventies. I was making a hundred

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