Hi gay geeks and gaymers, I go to talk with Alex Myung, the creator of the animated short Arrival. The film is a coming-of-age queer film about a young man’s journey of self-discovery and a long-distance relationship he keeps with his mother.
So Alex, without giving too much away, what is the film about?
The plot is loosely based on my own experiences as a gay Asian male in NYC. A lot of Queer Asian Americans are not out to their families and I saw how much of a strain that put on the different relationships I found myself in. I’m out, so I had never really thought about what it mean to be with someone who knows what they want but isn’t quite sure how to get there.
I heard you’re shown this film at several different festivals. What were the reactions?
The initial feedback has been great! We’ve screened at 20+ festivals over the past year, and the response has been very positive with many people telling us that they saw their own lives reflected on screen. We’ve even had a large number of straight men and women tell us that they could still relate to the mother/child relationship.
Each film has different hurdles, what was the hardest part of making Arrival?
The hardest part about MAKING the film was just disciplining myself to wake up early every day for three years to work on it, even if I had to go to my day job. I’d wake up around 5-6am, get a couple hours of work in, go to my job, come back and work again until around 10-11pm. You have to really remind yourself that it’s worth it and that at some point you WILL finish. It was really hard, there were definitely days where I thought I couldn’t do it or I thought it was pointless.
In a weird way, the hardest part was also my favorite part. I had gone through a really bad breakup, which was one of the main reasons I wanted to do the film at all, and working on it became very therapeutic. I imagine it’s how runners feel- you sort of work through your own demons while simultaneously doing something else. It was really nice having something to focus on and know what my goal was. Unfortunately, I hate running, so instead of becoming a cool lean athlete, I chose to sit at my computer for a million hours and grow calluses on my fingers.
How did you initially approach the subject matter and how did your concept about the film change once you producing the film?
The initial story was actually quite different. It was originally about a boy and his cat living in a lighthouse. I realized at some point though that I write better when I have personal experience. My thesis film centered around my experiences as a Korean Adoptee so it felt natural to write about another part of my identity, especially since it was something I was actively confronting.
Did any personal experiences come out or resonate with any of the characters in the film?
A lot of people tend to think I’m the main character. In the beginning, I was, but I sort of came to the conclusion that I’m not super interesting myself, hahaha. I’m too mellow so nothing dramatic ever happens. I think I can see facets of myself in both characters, and the main character is this sort of amalgam of various people I had dated. If you are close to me, you know what parts are fictional and what parts have actually happened to me.
I’m not sure I can think of anything that I wish I had known, per say. I do wish, however, that I was a better animator. I hadn’t animated in a couple of years when I started this, and animating itself isn’t what I think is my strong suit. When it’s just you working on something for three years, you definitely see a change in technique and skill so I wish I could have started at the level I’m at now. There are so many shots I’d love to go back to and redo but at some point, you have to say to yourself, “It’s done.”
LGBT stories are becoming more common in mainstream media what’s your take on this?
I think it’s great that there’s more LGBT representation in media. I think it’d be nice if it started to diversify from here on out. There’s a lot of stories out there and a lot of experiences. People of Color make up a huge part of the gay community and contribute so much to it, I’d love to see more of that mirrored in Film.
What do you hope the viewers will take away from the film?
I hope the film helps connect people, regardless of their feelings towards the LGBTQ+ community. The mother and son’s relationship is so central to the story and I think the main character’s fear of coming out could be anything really- anything you might be afraid to tell someone. Fear of these hypotheticals we build in our minds keeps us from progressing in so many ways. I hope people can find courage in telling their truths, but I also hope parents can watch this and know that all their children want is to be loved by the people they care about.
Thank you so much Alex for agreeing to do the interview today. If you’d like to see the film we have a link below!
Producer: Amy Benaroya
Executive Producers: John Compton, John Truex, Eric P. Sherman.
Original Score: Upright T-rex.