Scout to Shoot at Mama Lion

Before "I Will make You Mine," I had never been on a location scout before. I didn't know how much fun they are - kinda reminds me of house hunting for an imaginary friend. You go to all the potential locations you'll be filming with your production team and map out all of the scenes that take place there. One of my favorites was Mama Lion.

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I've been hearing about this Koreatown Supperclub since they opened. Or, should I say re-opened - Mama Lion was actually a night club/cabaret back in 1978 before it was bought out and morphed into different incarnations. But now it's back, and it's beautiful. They've got a strong music/art presence which is why we're so grateful they supported us by letting us film there during the day - one of my favorite music scenes from the movie, actually.

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But best of all, I got to direct my friend of over 20 years, John Newman. John has mainly been working as a screenwriter but in college he was known as THE actor everyone wanted to cast. Well, he's out of acting retirement for my movie, and he did not disappoint.

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When we have more time I want to go back to Mama Lion for a night out - Chef Michael Hung is actually responsible for one of the best brunches I've ever had, so I'd be excited to try his bar bites. Until then, I've got a movie to edit! Check out the behind-the-scenes video below.

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How I Prepared to Direct My First Movie

Yesterday, we wrapped the first half of my directorial debut, I Will Make You Mine. I am still in shock. Like, how did that happen? There is no doubt I could have done it without the guidance of Dave Boyle - my mentor/producer/1st AD/stand in/EVERYTHING.

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But here are some other tools I used to get ready, for those of you gearing up for a film who don't have a Dave Boyle on your crew.

MASTERCLASS

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These online classes are taught by the masters (not just a clever name) - everything from cooking with Wolfgang Puck to Fashion Design with Marc Jacobs. I was introduced to the Samuel L. Jackson course on acting via some friends and loved how thorough it is - that's why I wound up using their All-Access Pass to take directing classes with the greats: Martin Scorsese, Judd Apatow, and Ron Howard (above). Each instructor has a different style, covering everything from rehearsal to scene deconstruction to editing and set design. They're very visual, but in the weeks of preproduction I didn't have time to sit in front of my computer to watch and began listening to them as podcasts in the car, which also worked. Once I'm done with this movie, I want to go back and look at the lesson material, which is a goldmine of resources (see below). The directing class with Spike Lee just launched, and I am really excited to hear what he has to say before we begin filming the second half of our movie.

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Just Shoot It Podcast

This podcast is hosted by Matt Enlow and Oren Kaplan - all about filmmaking, directing, and storytelling in general. I actually discovered it via an acting podcast, That One Audition (also great) and started binge listening to downloaded episodes while I was in Alaska and had no access to the internet. I found them to be really practical - and they made me feel less alone, especially the interviews with people I've worked with before like my Go Back to China co-star Anna Akana and Maggie Kiley (my director on Caring). Check out their latest one with my friend from college, Jessica Sanders!

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Like Brothers Book

I've been a longtime fan of the Duplass brothers - maybe it's because I also come from a micro-budget film background, and they inspire me to believe you don't need money to tell a good story. At any rate, I didn't spend any money on their book, Like Brothers - I borrowed it from the library - and a few weeks ago, I happened to be at a party where Mark Duplass himself was. I went up and told him how I had just finished his book, and that I was about to direct my first feature. He was enthusiastic and incredibly nice, but before I could really go into it, JON FREAKING HAMM interrupted us. Jon Hamm apologized but I wasn't about to continue schmoozing with Don Draper standing there. Maybe one day I'll write another movie about that whole experience.

CineScout Viewfinder App

Dave suggested I download this app to take pictures for our location scouts which would match the lenses we were using. They really helped me visualize the film - and in black/white EVERYTHING looked better. Even my empty living room floor!

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Studio Binder

I have been in front of the camera for almost two decades now but don't know much about camera angles. Watching these Shot List Videos and downloading their Shot List Template forced me to quickly learn how to identify the look of handheld, tripod, wide/medium/close up shots. I'll admit that I spent a day making a shot list and didn't end up looking at it once when we were actually filming - but preparing this way helped me quickly visualize what I was imagining and communicate it with my DP, Bill Otto.

I Will Make You Mine (My Directorial Debut)

I've been hinting at this for a while now - there have been signs all along - from ending my podcast to neglecting my YouTube channel. The announcement just came out in The Hollywood Reporter, so I can finally share with you what I've been working on this past year.

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Last Thanksgiving I was taking a walk with my friend and longtime collaborator, Dave Boyle. Dave has directed me in three films - two of them being the feature "Surrogate Valentine" and its sequel, "Daylight Savings." I blogged about both of them and was always very attached to this particular project. Anyway, during our walk, I asked Dave when the third one was happening (when we were doing press at SXSW he always joked that this was going to be the most low-budget trilogy in history). Dave pretty much confirmed what I didn't want to hear - that it was never going to happen.

"Well, what if I make it happen?" I asked. Half serious.

Dave's reply was that if I wanted to take the reins on the third movie, he would help me. That's all I needed to hear. A few days later I was on my way to Boston for Thanksgiving with Abe's family. The entire plane ride there I wrote half the script. Three days later, on the return flight back, I completed the first draft.

I was surprised at how the story poured out of me. I wanted to tell the female perspective of the three women from the first two movies, which centered around my now good friend Goh Nakamura (playing himself). Not to get all woo-woo, but never before had I felt such a clear artistic calling. These characters, and this story, wanted to be reborn.

Several drafts/meetings/months later, here we are. Ready to give birth to my first film! About to direct my first anything (I've never even done a short before) that I also wrote, that I'm also producing, and that I'm also starring in. The weird thing is, I'm not even afraid or nervous because I feel so taken care of. Along with Dave, my producing team is highly experienced and nurturing - and my crew is equally supportive. I feel lucky to have so many people equally dedicated to telling this story. We have many of the original cast, and the same Director of Photography (Bill Otto) from the first two films.

Follow the action over on social media @IWMYMfilm on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (my producers have already begun posting Behind-The-Scenes InstaStories every day). More info at the official site, too.

I've learned a lot. When things calm down, I promise to share more via blog posts and videos about what this process has been like.

My father passed away 6 years ago around this time. Actually, the day he died is the same day we begin filming scenes in my house. I haven't felt his presence in a long time but lately - especially when I'm alone in the car listening to music - I get this overwhelming sense that he's with me, encouraging me, and guiding me through this next phase of my life.

Thank you for always following my journey on this blog.

Last Day in Shenzhen

Back in Shenzhen from my Hong Kong weekend getaway to film the last day of "Go Back to China."

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I will miss working with this cast...

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...this crew...

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...and our fearless, bilingual leader, Emily Ting.

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When I was a little girl I used to do puppet shows for my Dad with stuffed monkey toys. It's funny how life turns out.

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Filming in China

Hello from Shenzhen, China! I've never been to this city before (I actually haven't been back to China in over two decades) - unfortunately I haven't really had the time to explore because we've been working, but I've been having a ton o' fun.

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Filming food scenes is a lot more challenging now that I'm gluten-free, but I am loving this cast and crew...

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...also, the Go Back to China production team has been taking incredible care of my celiac needs with homemade meals and snacks. Anna Akana, the star of the movie, is vegan - so between the two of us these Chinese chefs are learning a lot about cooking for dietary restrictions.

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When I'm on my own, I've been making do with snacks that I packed (oatmeal, miso soup, energy bars/protein powder) plus REALLY plain stuff like steamed veggies/meat/rice and fresh fruit that have low risk of cross-contamination. As long as there isn't soy sauce in it, I've been pretty safe.

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Of course, I've been missing home like crazy!

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Here's a quick vlog I was able to put together while we were staying at The Mission Hills Resort. We're off to another city soon - follow along on my Instagram stories, where I have the entire trip saved in the highlights.