It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong
Synopsis: Ruby and Josh spent an unforgettable night together in Hong Kong a year ago, and now their brief encounter is about to get a second chance. As effervescent as a perfect first date, this charming walk and talk romance takes full advantage of the chemistry of its leads, the playfulness of their exchanges, and the magical landscape that is Hong Kong at night.
There is something about real-time romance drama that I find intriguing. Perhaps because it automatically made me think of the Before Sunrise trilogy. Now, this film is set over the course of two nights, but for the most part it takes place a year after the first night they met.
Ruby is a Chinese American toy designer from LA who visits Hong Kong for the first time on business. I think that’s so cool to see an unusual profession for the female lead, and the more I spend time with her, the more I like Ruby. As she was stranded trying to get to her friends’ party, she runs into Josh, an American expat who ends up escorting her to her destination. The more time they spend talking through the vibrant and colorful street of Hong Kong in the nighttime, they find themselves being more drawn to each other.
I feel that perhaps there was an instant attraction the moment they met, but it’s obvious there’s a connection. Jamie Chung and Bryan Greenberg are a couple in real life, so perhaps that helps make Ruby and Josh’s connection so palbable. There’s an effortless chemistry between the two, even though all they do is talk and having drinks in public. I’m familiar w/ Jamie but this is definitely her strongest performance I’ve seen from her. On the other hand, this is the first time I saw Bryan in a film and I definitely want to see more of his work.
The second time they find each other again, a year has passed and there have been changes in their lives. Ruby’s got a promotion and is now in a relationship. Josh has left his job in finance and now pursuing his dream to be a novelist, something Ruby suggested in their initial meeting. I LOVE great dialog in movies, and It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong is full of them! I find myself nodding as I witness their conversation, and think about them long after the film’s done. Ruby asked Josh the difference between being an expat and an immigrant, for example, why he is considered an expat living in Hong Kong, whilst her Chinese parents making a new life in the United States is considered an immigrant. I also like how the film plays with stereotypes, as Josh can speak Chinese whilst Ruby can’t as she grew up in California, that sort of thing.
Emily Ting‘s done a lot of short films prior to her feature debut and I must say I’m impressed in the way she crafted the story. Everything flows nicely and in a natural way, the actors seem comfortable and fit the roles perfectly. But the strength of the film is in the dialog, which comes to life as the night wears on. The combination of the undeniable chemistry of the leads, set against the backdrop of the glittering lights of the city is rather intoxicating. I never thought of Hong Kong as romantic, but it certainly feels that way here.
The ending might frustrate some as it doesn’t tie things nicely in a big, red bow. But that’s the idea. The filmmaker is set on asking the question, ‘What happens when you meet the right person at the wrong time?’ Well, that question will certainly linger with you long after the end credits roll.
Interview with Emily Ting
Q: Before I jump into the questions specifically about Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong, I have some general questions about you as a filmmaker. There’s been much [welcomed] discussion about the blatant gender inequality in Hollywood, even FBI is now involved with an investigation into gender discrimination. What has been your experience as a female filmmaker, do you encounter much hardship in getting your projects into fruition?
I actually think this is a great time to be a female filmmaker right now, only because there is so much welcomed discussion about the issue. But I do hope that someday being a female filmmaker would just be the norm and not the exception to the rule. As for my own projects, because they’re all independently financed and many of them self financed, being a woman didn’t really factor much into the equation. But it would be interesting to see what kind of opportunities I may get going forward. And that is why it’s important to support indie films because they provide a platform to voices that are often underrepresented in Hollywood.
You’ve done several short films before this one, what made you decide to make the jump into feature film?
I think that most filmmakers dream of making a feature at some point in their career. But I do think that it’s important to learn the process and hone your skills on shorts before you jump into your first feature. Even with several shorts under my belt, I still felt extremely nervous tackling my first feature!
How’s the experience been in directing your first feature? Please tell me what your biggest challenge or most memorable moment making this film.
Making my first feature was both extremely satisfying and incredibly terrifying. And making that first feature in a foreign country only made it that much more challenging – from working with mostly a foreign crew to shooting most of the film in an uncontrolled environment. I think the biggest challenge for me was to overcome the hurdle of my own insecurities as a first time director. The majority of my set crew had more experience with their respective jobs than I did, which was a daunting but exciting feeling. Sometimes, I would let that knowledge get inside my head, but I also learned to let go and really listen and trust my crew and cast. It gradually became a very collaborative process.
I love the premise of this film, where did you come up w/ the idea? Is it something personal to you or something that came about through someone you know?
I had lived in Hong Kong for 5 years as an expat prior to moving back to the US. As much as I found the city exciting and gorgeous, I never quite felt at home there. I found it quite hard to connect to people for some reason. I’ve always wanted to make a film about two people connecting in this occasionally alienating city and build a love story around that. The idea sat with me for a long time until one night, I actually met a fellow expat, and we spent a night wandering around the city and talking together. I thought we were building a connection, but then, I found out later that he had a girlfriend. I felt like a fool for making this flirtation up in my head. So, I went home and wrote the screenplay that eventually became the film.
Sounds like you shot the film on location in Hong Kong. I read that The Avenue of Stars is currently closed for revitalization, so that must be a relief you’ve captured it on your film. Tell us about the filming process, how long it took, the challenges, etc.
Yes, the Ave of the Stars is a major location in our film and I can’t believe that it’s being closed down for so long! And I am so happy that we were able to capture it on film for the time being. If we had gone into production now, we would’ve lost the most beautiful location in our film. Shooting in Hong Kong definitely came with a unique set of challenges. We shot at the start of Monsoon season and it would rain every single day. But some how we got really lucky and it would always stop raining when we would roll cameras. It was really easy and cheap to get permits, but we didn’t have the budget to close down any streets so my two actors were constantly just acting amongst the real crowds of Hong Kong.
The film is designed to have these really long walk and talk sequences that’s meant to all be done in a single take, but they were often ruined by people on the street waving to the cameras. And sometimes people were downright hostile, yelling at us to get off the street. We would either go and appease them or change location on the spot. But all those challenges were worth it because we now have a beautiful looking film set in the gorgeous city of Hong Kong, which totally sets us apart from so many other films out there.
Lastly, how did the casting process go? Did Bryan Greenberg and/or Jamie Chung audition for the roles?
I got really lucky with the casting of my first film. I’ve always wanted Jamie for the role of Ruby. And I had a relationship with Bryan already, having produced two films with him. At the LA premiere of one of the films, I was telling him about this script I had written, and he mentioned that his girlfriend would be perfect for the role. And it turns out that he was dating Jamie at the time! Talk about serendipity! I sent the script to him and two weeks later, they signed on. Casting your first film really doesn’t get much easier than this!
Thanks for the interview Emily, it was lovely meeting you at TCFF!