Filmmaker Iyin Landre speaks with one of her main actors during a Monday night rehearsal. Landre is pursuing her dream by shooting her first film in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Though she has raised funds through crowd-funding, the film is still in need of financial support.  • Photo by Nick Wong
Filmmaker Iyin Landre speaks with one of her main actors during a Monday night rehearsal. Landre is pursuing her dream by shooting her first film in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Though she has raised funds through crowd-funding, the film is still in need of financial support. • Photo by Nick Wong

Iyin Landre is a trailblazer. Currently, she is in Brazil making a run at her first feature film, and for the most part, has done it all on her own. The Fates—a story about an American girl that travels to Brazil and falls in love with a drug dealer from the infamous favelas of Rio de Janeiro—is the first of what Landre hopes to be many cinematic creations.

As one of few Asian women in the film industry, she has taken much of the filmmaking process on by herself: writing, starring, producing and funding her first venture, set in country that is not her own.

After brainstorming the storyline at a UCLA extension course, the Taiwan native set off to Brazil two months later on an idea and $5,000 of personal savings. Within just four weeks, she hired a cast, sorted out logistics, and then shot a complete trailer during the last five days of her stay in the city.

“I felt like I was crazy,” Landre said. “I mean I still have times where I’m like, ‘What am I doing?’ I had a lot of fears. A lot of things happened, like toward the end, we still hadn’t found our main actor, we still hadn’t had our auditions yet, but I just had this one phrase in my mind: ‘If you shoot this trailer, you will get money to make the feature.’”

And sure enough, her prediction manifested from the crowd-funding website Kickstarter. A good chunk of the money went to taxes, international wire transfer fees, and other costs.

When I asked if she’s had support from other sources, Landre said there’s been a few private investors on her mother’s side of the family, and were currently searching for other possible venues of support. Being familiar with the familial expectations of an Asian household, I couldn’t help but ask what her mother thought of her aspirations.

“I think since I was really young, I kind of broke my mom,” Landre laughed. “She thought maybe I’d be a pharmacist, or like anything where I worked at a desk, something with stability. But it wasn’t me. Now my mom has become very supportive in these last two years, so she’s like all for it. But I don’t know if she knows how much drugs or sex is in the movie (laughs).”

Landre isn’t someone I’d consider to be extremely fixated on Asian and Asian-American issues. She isn’t one to be reactionary to the latest racial outrage headlined on the news. But that’s not to say that she isn’t aware that these themes are important or relevant to her life. It’s more that she prefers to focus on her individual talents as an actress and writer, rather than to be classified within a subcultural genre. This fact was Landre’s core motivation to creating the film in the first place.

“You have to take in mind that I’m not established [in the industry], but there wasn’t that much stuff to begin with,” Landre said of her experiences as an Asian female in film. “Commercial work, for example, is great, but for film and TV, it’s always supporting, if even that. And a lot of the time I’ll get the breakdown like, ‘Asian accent’ or ‘knows martial arts’, and I’m really bad with putting on Asian accents and I don’t do martial arts, so it kinda sucks. I just kept thinking: Isn’t there something more that I can do than this? I want to be three-dimensional, you know what I mean?”

One might look at Landre’s venture as a breaking of cultural barriers from many angles. She is defying the parental expectations felt in many Asian families and exemplifies the capabilities of Asians to aspire in the arts.

Landre said she wants to represent something different on screen in terms of her characters. But instead of taking the stereotypes head-on, her strategy is to it in a much subtler way.

“I would say it’s to break [stereotypes], but to break it without calling too much attention to it,” Landre said. “I think here in Brazil, or worldwide in general, it’s like if you’re Asian, you can’t be American, like they’re surprised that you speak English. I think I’m touching upon that. It’s apparent because I look Asian, but it’s more like I’m just letting it be, whoever this character is, whoever this person is.”

For more information and to support the film, visit http://www.twotwelveprod.com.

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