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Interview with Eric Byler

Discover the Passions That is Behind
The Creation of the film "Charlotte Sometimes"

Part 2 of 6 Pages

 
"Uncannily realistic, fascinating and illuminating. Written, directed and acted with the penetrating shorthand of a short story. This is a relationship picture that plays like an emotional thriller."
--Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

"Notably cinematic storytelling... The deft shading Byler elicits from his thesps is of a piece with his dramatics and his understated, artful approach to compositions and movement.."
--Robert Koehler, Variety

"CHARLOTTE SOMETIMES" MAKES ENTERTAINMENT INSIDERS'
Top 10 Films of 2002"
"Simple, deliberate, and insightful, Eric Byler’s Charlotte Sometimes is one of the best films I have seen this year. It is the Sex, Lies & Videotape for a new generation."
--Jonathan Hickman, Entertainment Insiders
"Easily the most sophisticated exploration of Asian American sexuality in recent memory. 'Charlotte Sometimes' navigates psychological cruelty and vulnerability with remarkable subtlety and tenderness."
--San Francisco Intl. AA Film Festival
"A resounding success. ...A well constructed, engaging piece of finely wrought emotion that avoids preaching and manages to heighten our sympathy for all of the characters involved with the mistakes they make rather than the things they do right."
--Palpatine, Ain't It Cool News
"Professionally acted by a convincing (and attractive) ensemble cast that hums with chemistry, Charlotte Sometimes' shifting triangular relationships with their added context of Asian-American cultural bipolarity, and Byler's treatment of sex as a very hot, urgent, but ultimately selfish and manipulative act are especially intriguing aspects of the film." --Todd Harbour, Mobius/Kamera.co.uk
Audience Award for First Narrative Feature:
2002 South by Southwest Film Festival
Special Jury Prize for Narrative Filmmaking:
2002 Florida Film Festival

ENTERTAINMENT COMMUNITY

US ASIANS: What American festivals/events has your film been screened and what were the responses?

ERIC BYLER: I’ve had wonderful experiences at mainstream festivals like South by Southwest, Los Angeles, Florida, Hamptons International, and Hawaii International. We’ve won two jury prizes and an audience award at festivals.

Our Spirit Award nominations also came out of the festival circuit - so responses have been good.

US ASIANS: Has the American public united in supporting "Charlotte Sometimes?"

ERIC BYLER: I assume by American do you mean non-Asian?

A lot of non-Asians really like the film. Most of them view “Charlotte Sometimes” as a refreshing change. They’re intrigued by the idea that there are people in this country whose stories have yet to be told. I’m surprised at how little they mention the word Asian in reviews, or in Q/A’s - other than to ask in some polite way if I am Asian. But I think they recognize how much it adds to the film. It makes me feel justified in insisting the movie keep its Asian spin.

But I guess I shouldn’t say they’re “united” because of the anger the film has caused. Certain people seem to tolerate aspects of the film that fit their preconceptions, but they object to virtually everything else. The characters that Jacqueline and Michael play, for instance, depart from previous portrayals of Asians in mainstream media – and they don’t adhere to Caucasian characterizations either. I can understand why some viewers don’t know what to make of this. The film doesn’t reach out to them the way that most others do.

US ASIANS: What are your views on diversity in films and television?

ERIC BYLER: I think we’re doing a lot better today than when I was a kid, but we still need more.

US ASIANS: What other things do we need and what actions need to happen?

ERIC BYLER: As a community we need to make some noise. We should point out inequities in mainstream entertainment, and support APA films when they come out.

Our filmmakers need to catch up with other filmmakers in making films that are interesting on an artistic or human level, as opposed to an ethnic level. There’s only so much mileage in marketing diversity.

We have to tell the stories that we care about, and not worry about what the mainstream wants from us. In the process, we’ll come up with a variety of unique and personal films, some of which will be strong enough to cross over.

SCREENING & PROMOTION

US ASIANS: What are the future plans (i.e. screenings, promotion, etc.) for "Charlotte Sometimes?"

ERIC BYLER: I’m negotiating a theatrical release as we speak. Announcements will come soon. We’re pretty good about updating the screenings page on our website http://www.charlottesometimesthemovie.com/screenings.html.

US ASIANS: What Asian/Asian Pacific American festivals/events has your film been screened and what were the responses?

ERIC BYLER: San Diego and Washington DC have been the only two so far. But there were large APA turnouts at the Hawaii International Film Festival and Cinema Paradise in Honolulu.

It’s fun screening “Charlotte Sometimes” to an Asian / Pacific audience. People are excited because many of them have never seen themselves represented in this way. There’s sort of an implicit “holy shit!” during certain scenes. You can also hear it in the laughter.

It feels good to know I’ve helped create an experience like that, because I know how exciting it can be. Years back, I felt the same way when I saw the world premiere of Chris Chan Lee’s “Yellow.”


Eric Byler with Konrad Ng (programmer at Hawai'i International Film Festival. Picture was taken in November 2003 by Ed Treschuck

Eric Byler with Konrad Ng (programmer at Hawai'i Intl. Film Festival. Picture was taken in November 2003 by Ed Treschuck
US ASIANS: Could you share in more details about your experience(s) at the Hawaiian International Film Festival?"

ERIC BYLER: It was part film festival and part high school reunion.

The audience at the first screening included friends, teachers, and people who were like second parents to me. I was covered with leis, and I wore them the whole night even though they were hot and slightly itchy.

Jacqueline had met and invited Roger Ebert. He really liked the film and afterwards he offered to take us out to dinner. I had planned to hang with my friends, so it ended up being a huge dinner with Roger, Jacqueline, and 20 other people.

Roger published a wonderful review a day later, and told everyone at the festival to go and see the second screening. Of course, the second screening was a madhouse. We had to switch theaters to fit everyone. It was a fun week.

US ASIANS: Which organizations have been the most beneficial in the success of "Charlotte Sometimes" and your career?

ERIC BYLER: There are many. The film program at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, and the Lodestone Theater Ensemble were my official training grounds.

CAPE (Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment) and Visual Communications (VC) have supported me for years. NAATA (National Asian American Telecommunications Association), and VC have provided some great festival experiences. And of course IFP (Independent Feature Project), not just because of the nominations-- their festival in Los Angeles and everything they do is wonderfully organized and filmmaker-friendly.

 

 
Click HERE to continue
     
   
To read about Eric's views on other subjects, click on the topics listed below
 
    Part 1: Background Information (Family, Personal and Entertainment)    
  Part 2: Entertainment community support, Film reviews
  Part 3: Casting of the film, Michael Idemoto Profile, Plot, Working with the actors
  Part 4: Asian Pacific American Factors, Jacqueline Kim & Eugenia Yuan's Profiles
  Part 5: Community support, APA role models, Purpose of the arts
  Part 6: Film Reviews and Nominations

 

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