Premiering in the New American Cinema program at this year’s Seattle International Film Festival, Egghead & Twinkie is a multi-textual, Gen Z-driven coming-of-age meets road trip movie. Centering on a recently out Asian American teen and her best friend in the weeks before they part ways for college, the film is a light-hearted yet heartfelt exploration of love, friendship, identity and self-expression.
Multi-hyphenate Sarah Kambe Holland, who directed, wrote, produced and edited the film, an extension of her 2019 short of the same name, spoke with us about what it was like to revisit this story and making art inspired by personal experience.
Misa Shikuma: Congratulations on the film! How was the festival premiere?
Sarah Kambe Holland: It was amazing. Seattle might have been the best audience we’ve ever had. People were super vocal and really receptive.
MS: When you first made the short film, did you know back then that you would eventually want to make it a full-length feature?
SKH: Definitely not. I’d like to think that I had the sort of foresight but, no, I wrote the short just to be a standalone short and then it was during postproduction that I kind of realized that I wasn’t ready to bye to the characters just yet. And I started to think about what would happen after the events of the short. So it’s funny, the short ended up being the inciting incident of the feature.
MS: How is it working with the same lead actors several years later? Do you feel like you all discovered new things about the characters?
SKH: It was awesome. I really lucked out with my two lead actors, Sabrina Jie-A-Fa [who plays Twinkie] and Louis Tomeo [who plays Egghead]. It’s been a pleasure to see – Louis especially – grow up, because when he came on to play Egghead in the short he was like 16 and now he’s 21 or 22. So I’ve quite literally seen him grow up. And with the two of them it was very much a collaborative process. [With the short] there was only so much backstory that we could work in, but with the feature we just had so much more time to really flesh that out.
MS: I’ve spoken to some other filmmakers during this festival who also had to do production during Covid. Could you talk about your experience on set?
SKH: The main way that Covid set us back was in terms of our schedule. We were supposed to shoot the film in the summer of 2020 and then we ended up pushing production by an entire year. So the majority of our shooting was in the summer of 2021. And that was really tough. We lost access to funds, we lost crew, locations. By the time we were actually shooting, on the day to day, everybody wore PPP, we had required testing at multiple points throughout shooting. We had a Covid safety team on set. It’s thanks to them that even though we shot over forty days, we didn’t have a single outbreak on set.
MS: I really liked the use of animation, which emphasizes Twinkie’s artistic talents. What was that collaboration like?
SKH: I really love animation, but I knew very little about how we would [incorporate] it with the live action. I knew that I needed to bring in an animator that had that experience so we could figure it out together. I ended up posting a crew call on TikTok, which is very Gen Z of me, and that’s how we found our lead animator, Jill Cefalo-Sanders.
MS: How was it for you doing this project that draws upon your own life experience?
SKH: The good news is that it’s super fictionalized. So a lot of it is mainly pulling from emotions that I’ve felt as a mixed Asian person and as a queer person…and pulling from the feelings of growing up. In terms of Twinkie going on a road trip to meet BD [an online crush], that’s something that I kind of pulled from my life in an abstract way in that when I was younger I was a YouTuber so I had a lot of online friends and sometimes I would go meet them in person. And there’s always that weird moment when you’re like, ‘Oh my god, this person actually exists in the flesh. Are we gonna get along?’
MS: I notice from your IMDb page that you’ve dabbled in a lot of areas of the filmmaking process, including acting. Is there a particular one that you see yourself focusing on?
SKH: My main three are writing, directing and acting, but I’d put directing at the top of those. I think directing is what brings all of those things together. I love working with actors as an actor myself and I’ve found that having a background in acting has helped me in my communication with talent as a director. And likewise as a writer, having an understanding of story.