Though Vancouver’seastside has a reputation for sexual radicalism, it is equally well known for its flourishing families-are-welcome-here environment.
It’s fitting, then, that two prominent Eastsiders, Desiree Lim and Karen X Tulchinsky, have paired up and produced some sweet-tempered TV programming whose multiracial, pansexual and multigenerational characters promote love, familial bonds and the value of commitment.
Floored by Love-directed by Lim, but the fruit of their shared writing labour-tells an upbeat 45-minute story of love’s powers of transformation within a single apartment building. It’s love that gives one woman the courage to come out to her conservative Malaysian parents (and soon after propose marriage to her girlfriend). And for a neighbouring family, love allows parents to give their gay teenaged son enough freedom to make a very adult choice for his future.
Floored, which has already screened in several American festivals, is also expected to air on Canadian television in the fall, part of an anthology series called Stories about Love. That series, produced by CHUM-CityTV, also aims to help “overcome an acute shortage of opportunities for filmmakers from ethno-cultural communities,” Lim notes.
Co-writer Tulchinsky, who is currently working on a screenplay for her recent novel, The Five Books of Moses Lapinsky, says that while she was writing Floored her aim was to make an accessible story for a “general audience” that would likely not be all that familiar with current issues in the queer community.
As such, the program would illustrate the sorts of every day dilemmas faced by ordinary people-some of whom are queer.
Remarkably wholesome, Floored will provide that general TV audience with an interesting contrast to the lighter than-helium-frivolity of Will & Grace and the what-addiction-this-week? soap opera element of Queer as Folk.
Tulchinsky explains that while writing she also considered racial and sexual diversity an important fact to address and depict since it’s an accurate reflection of the mix in many Canadian cities today.
For Lim, Floored by Love was a welcome opportunity to expand the breadth of her storytelling.
“In Japan I was female and queer,” says Lim, recalling her last interview with Xtra West in 2002, when she released Sugar Sweet, a lesbo-erotic, made-for-Japanese-pay-TV production. “Here I’m female, queer, Asian, coloured and an immigrant… If I were to think of ‘my agenda,’ it’d be finding a place for voices and perspectives like mine.”
“As you can tell,” she adds, “I like to make all kinds of movies.”
In fact, since Sugar Sweet, Lim has worked with Winston Xin on an experimental film, made a short family comedy and directed a musical fantasy featuring lesbian vampires.
This latest film project, then, is part of Lim’s ongoing evolution as a teller of diverse tales.
Like Tulchinsky, Lim was aware that she was writing a script for a TV audience, the majority of which is non-queer: “It would be different, of course, if I was making something for a specifically queer audience. But with this script that audience is different and that requires a different way to tell a story. And if it reaches a larger audience, that’s great. Besides, for me, each and every project has its own set of interests and goals.”
Floored presented many technical challenges for Lim, as well.
While a budget of $100,000 seems sizeable-as a point of comparison, each 45-minute episode of the locally shot Smallville has 10 times Floor’s budget-Lim points out that with cast, crew, set building, props, rentals and miscellaneous costs there were about 50 people involved with the project. “They built the set from scratch,” Lim says. “I think the crew performed a small miracle with what we had.”
Lim and Tulchinsky applied for funding for the autumn of 2003 and received it in April 2004; following casting and pre-production Lim was able to shoot over eight days last September.
Logistical concerns notwithstanding, collaboration was a fruitful challenge for both women.
For Tulchinsky, who usually writes entire books in solitude, working in film, which is collaborative by nature, does have its rewards: “There’s the old ‘two heads are better than one’ factor in place,” she says.
“When you work together you can bash ideas back and forth and, like musicians, jam with each other.”
As for the flip side: “Not all your ideas will make it into the script. You have to be willing to be more flexible… and, yes, to check your ego at the door. After all, the director is the boss.”
For writer/director Lim, the writing collaboration was a benefit because brainstorming with another adds both perspective and insight. And then there’s that X factor: “It’s a matter of chemistry. Once you’ve found it, the whole thing just takes off.”