YI NING WONG WRITES — I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Lu Han, director of the short film, The Shuttle (2017), which has been the official selection for renowned festivals such as the Palm Springs International ShortFest, Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, New Orleans Film Festival, Hollyshorts, Hong Kong Arthouse, Seattle Asian-American Film Festival, and Irvine International, to name a few. Han also recently graduated from the School of Film and Television from Loyola Marymount University, with an MA in Film/TV Production in 2017.
Han specializes in telling “slice-of-life” stories that ultimately aim to explore our human relationships.
To begin with, could you tell us a little bit about how you started working in film?
My career in film actually started because of a breakup. I was an anthropology and sociology major in college, so my focus has always been about how society works, how we interact with one another, and why we do the things we do. I was going through a bad breakup during my senior year, and I realized that my experience was something that’s relatable to most people, but there are not a lot of stories out there that talk about what happens during the end of a relationship. I thought I could write down my relationship and turn it into a film. That’s when I decided to apply to film schools. Funnily enough, I never actually wrote the story, but my breakup experience gave me the idea to become a filmmaker.
Han (left) reviewing lines with her lead actress, Alice Ko, on the set of The Shuttle (2017).
You mentioned you wanted to do film because you like exploring relationships through mundane interactions. What specifically do these interactions look like?
To most people, I come off as a really social person, but in truth, I always find myself feeling awkward in social settings. So, whenever I feel awkward, I just keep talking. And I talk a lot. If you don’t talk then you risk the dreaded silence. That’s what I like to depict in my characters: human reactions to likely, but difficult scenarios. I create situations where loved ones, acquaintances, strangers, or even enemies, are trapped in these spaces and they’re forced to interact with one another. These dynamics reflect something about who they are–personalities we get to understand better.
The Shuttle is set at a local nail salon in Los Angeles.
You recently released The Shuttle. What was the relationship you wanted to show in this story?
One of the emotions I wanted to deliver from the story is helplessness. The story comes from the perspective of a wife and the mistress’s, both of whom are trapped, specifically, in two ways. First, as Chinese immigrants to the US, there aren’t many opportunities for them out there, so they’re confined to a nail salon, unable to even be ambitious for a better future. The second jail is their love lives. For the wife, even though she and her husband have a lot of problems, she can’t leave him. You can say the same for the mistress as well, a woman in her early 20s who’s feeling lost and helpless, and her relationship might be the only thing that gives her some sort of comfort or direction.
The mistress confronts her secret affair.
The wife is forced to confront her relationship with the mistress when their feelings of entrapment manifest physically, and they are stuck in a car together. They both have to face their fears. When you’re trapped in a closed space, it’s actually ends up helping you, makes you do something.
So, what’s next for you?
I want to keep directing and writing. The Chinese market is booming right now. Since I grew up in China, I am very interested in Chinese societies and interactions. I haven’t seen many stories about middle class Chinese families, even though that strata is increasing. That is something I want to shed light on. Right now that’s exactly what I am doing–constructing stories about the Chinese life and the life of the Chinese middle class.
Most of my past films have been about everyday portrayals of people, but I would love to delve into more dramatic films or explore different genres like thriller or comedy in the future as well.
The Shuttle is currently available for viewing on Vimeo.