Two Wellesley Alumnae Direct a Queer Asian American Short Film
After Nicole Tay ’14 and Tina Xu ’17 competed against each other in the Boston Asian American Film Festival’s (BAAFF) Short Waves contest in 2017, they decided their next project would be a collaboration. The result so far: the short film Tomato & Eggs.
The film follows Lisa, a queer Chinese American woman who wants to marry her long-term girlfriend. Lisa’s decision to break the news to her single father, Yun, uncovers the intergenerational challenges of family and culture.
The subject matter was personally relevant for the filmmakers, who wanted to explore LGBTQ identity across cultures, race, and generations. “As queer Asian American millennials, we can often feel caught between the conservatism and shame associated with queerness in our parents’ generation and the pressure from white liberalism to claim gay identity with unapologetic pride,” Tay said.
At a time when cinemagoers are demanding that Hollywood produce more diverse stories, Tomato & Eggs subverts a popular genre, creating a space for queer people of color while inviting all audiences to empathize with its characters. “We hoped that the film could speak to people on the level of emotional honesty,” said Xu.
Before Tomato & Eggs, Tay, who also wrote and produced the film, had already experimented with satire in her web series Health FX, a parody of Law & Order SVU, which has won awards from IndieFEST and BAAFF.
Tay said her experiences at Wellesley greatly contributed to her creative process. During her senior year, she took Margaret Cezair-Thompson’s Art of Screenwriting class, where she learned the basics of film narrative structure. (Tay included a shot of one of Cezair-Thompson’s books in Tomato & Eggs.)
Just a year after graduating, Xu, who edited Tomato & Eggs, is well on her way to a career in film. Last year, she won the $20,000 first prize from the NESN Next Producer with her short film Wushu. She is currently in post-production for a documentary about migration, for which she received funding from the Pamela Daniels Fellowship and is being advised by Winifred Wood, senior lecturer in Wellesley’s writing program.
Tomato & Eggs was a Wellesley group effort, involving current students and alumnae. “It takes a village to make a film,” Xu said. Once the project was underway, Tay and Xu were joined by producers Tessa Kim ’19 and Claire Shin ’17; the team of four saw the project through to the very end. Along the way, they worked with boom operators Lucky Bommireddy ’17 and Paige Miranda ’14; production assistants Vicky Wang ’19 and Huiying Chan ’16; poster artist Shaina Lu ’12; and makeup artist Jean-Yve Daniels ’17; and got editing feedback from Cathy Ye ’19. When the crew needed spaces in New York to film, Julie Chen ’15 invited them to use her family home in Queens, and Danielle Zarbin ’16 offered them her apartment in Brooklyn.
The film is not yet available for distribution, but it is making its way into the film festival circuit. To learn more about the creators and crew behind Tomato & Eggs, please visit the film’s facebook page.
Photo: Nicole Tay ’14 (right) watches as Tina Xu ’17 works with a cinematographer on the set of their short film, Tomato & Eggs.