Some stories take a hold of you and don’t let go. I’ve been grappling with this one for more than a decade. It has stayed with me through breakups, through career shifts, through a coast to coast move. It refuses to release me from its grip, rearing its head every so often to remind me that I have unfulfilled obligations. I’m writing now to ask for your help as I honor those obligations.
In 2006, the Bodies Exhibit arrived with great fanfare in NYC. I couldn’t escape the ads. They were everywhere. On buses and billboards and inside subways. Rubberized human beings posed holding footballs and frisbees or arched like ballerinas.
But what I personally couldn’t get past was how Asian they looked. There was one specimen, in particular, that resembled a loved cousin exactly. I started to dig, and learned that the human bodies displayed in the exhibit come from China. That much we know. The rest? As the Bodies exhibit puts it, they “cannot account for the provenance of their specimens.”
All you need to take away from that legalese is that not a single person currently displayed in the Bodies Exhibit gave their explicit permission to be used this way. In fact, multiple families have filed lawsuits against the exhibit, alleging their missing family members are now rubberized and posed in one of their multiple traveling shows. In short, illegitimately obtained cadavers of Chinese people are being hawked internationally to schoolchildren as an educational exhibit.
When I moved to Los Angeles in 2016, I found the same banners flying, from street lamps and storefronts. The same lines queueing, the same exit through the gift shop.
To me, this level of cynical consumerism and capitalistic savagery is surreal, and almost funny in its cruelty and indifference. I wanted to tell an imagined story about something all too real, the story of the people who work to supply the exhibit. A story about the actual bodies that feed the machine. AMERICAN BODIES is a dark and surreal workplace comedy about 5 women working the line in a body parts factory… when an unexpected delivery changes their jobs, and lives, forever.
It is surreal to announce that begin I shooting AMERICAN BODIES in June. I am so fortunate to be supported by Film Independent in this endeavor. I’ve often wondered why this story won’t release me. I’ve written a play version, workshopped it, staged it. I’ve written a pilot version, scrapped it. Started a feature outline. Abandoned it. I was ready to give up on AMERICAN BODIES as a story that nobody cared about but me…
…until I was accepted into Project Involve. The people I’ve met through that program have shown me that yes, this is a story that deserves telling. Yes, there is an audience for a gory black comedy starring five Asian women. Yes, there is a purpose to all the years I’ve spent trying to crack this. And no… I am not alone.
Fundraising never fails to fill me with terror and dread, but my passion for this story is greater so I’m pushing through it. We’re fiscally sponsored by Film Independent, so all donations are 100% tax-deductible. Your support tells filmmakers like me that stories like this have an audience. It says you support diversity in filmmaking. Behind the camera. In front of the camera. In the director’s chair. In the writer’s room. It says you support women. Underrepresented voices. Underrepresented perspectives. Idk. Sounds like a DEAL.:D We’ve got some stats on our website if you’re interested in learning exactly what your support means to us. www.americanbodiesfilm.com.
Thanks for reading. Sorry there’s no TL;DR. Some things just require putting in the time.
With humility and gratitude,