"Eggbaby" was screened at the Newport Beach Film Festival with other shorts, including the Oscar-nominated "Kavi," as part of a program entitled "Challenges Growing Up." It is described on the festival's website as follows:
Allison, an innocent 15- year-old Asian American Catholic school girl, who is assigned to care for her own little Eggbaby, is trying to understand the world around her. The Eggbaby class assignment on responsibility coincides with her very first romance with an older boy [Matt]. Allison must come to terms with love, loss, responsibility, and growing up.
I spoke with producer Andi Hamamoto Kowal about the project and her involvement with it.
Few people get into movies to be a producer. What has drawn you to the job?
Simply, I love storytelling. As a producer, I’m involved in every step of a project. I’m drawn to the creative and collaborative processes. Filmmaking feeds my artistic and academic sides. But, I also find producing to be very entrepreneurial. Every project is different and everyday brings new challenges and things to learn.
What was the appeal of this project and at what stage did you get involved?
"Eggbaby" was my AFI (The American Film Institute) thesis project. The writer was in my thesis-development class and I found that I could identify with the story. In high school, I participated in caring for an eggbaby. I’ve been involved in one way or another with the project since the beginning.
Did you have any creative input or do you leave that to others and work to realize their ideas?
As producer, I’m always involved in the creative process. But, there are different ways to be creative. Producers have to keep the integrity of the story and characters at the forefront. Filmmaking, despite what some people believe, is a very collaborative process. You want each person to do what they do best to further the creative vision. That’s why you hire them or choose to work with them. But, there are always conversations that spell out what that vision should be.
For "Eggbaby," the core team (producer, director, director of photography, production designer, and editor) had meetings to discuss tone, theme, and to bring our own individual interpretations of the story (script). It’s always a great way to see how the audience is going to respond to the story or characters.
Other ways producers have to be creative are with the budgetary and logistical aspects of production. We have to find ways to bring high production value to a low budget.
Did the project change much from the original idea to the final cut? If so, how and why?
Yes and no. The story didn’t change much at all. We had to cut and rewrite some scenes, for the usual reasons: budget or because they didn’t add to or they took away from the story. From the start, we knew who Allison was. We knew her background, her naiveté, her confusion, and her relationship with her parents, Matt, and her best friend.
Plus, many of us related to the cross-cultural aspect. I’m Eurasian and my dad, while raised in Hawaii, is a very old school Hawaiian local boy (mom is a blond blue-eyed California girl). Nadine Truong, the director, was raised in Germany by Vietnamese immigrant parents. Our DP is from Spain, but she studied in LA; and our production designer is half African-American and Filipino. The writer’s parents are from Korea.
Besides that, the story resonates with anyone who has ever felt out of place, confused, or torn between what they were raised with and what they discover in life.
What did this project teach you about producing?
I’ve produced dozens of short films and there is always something to learn from each experience. On this project, I anticipated many challenges. For example, our first day of filming fell on Halloween (our location was in a very popular trick-or-treat spot). That was easy enough to plan for.
But I didn’t count on other things happening that would affect our shoot. While filming, there was a mass murder a block away (in Long Beach) where five homeless people were shot, then later that day there was a police involved shooting on another block. They closed the freeways and helicopters whizzed overhead all day. The 2008 election fell during our shoot and a few days later, we shot in a Hollywood parking lot a couple blocks from church that attracted protesters. We did our best to adapt with the noise, added traffic, and delays. Adapting is just a natural part of filmmaking and all the added challenges taught me how to be better with thinking on my feet.
As a local, is there any extra significance playing the NBFF?
This festival was wonderful for me. I grew up in Huntington Beach and went to undergrad and business school at Chapman University in Orange. NBFF was a chance to expand my local film contacts and meet up-and-coming OC filmmakers. I have very supportive loved ones who weren’t able to make it to the LA screenings (or other festival screening around the world), so this was a great opportunity to finally have a fun hometown screening. The festival has grown and evolved so much since I first attended in 2000.
What's next for the film, if anything?
We are screening at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, which starts the day NBFF ends. Our screening is on May 4th.
What's your next project?
I’m working on several projects. Right now, we’re in post-production for a Stephen King adaptation called "Gray Matter." I’m currently finishing up production on a doc that explores the consumer behavior of stay-at-home and single fathers. And, I’m in pre-production and development on a few more projects.