37th BFI Flare 2023
When basketball-obsessed Aleks moves across the street, Asian-Canadian teen Jake finds himself trying out for the basketball team to get his attention in this classic coming-of-age drama in the digital age.
Hi Jason, thank you for talking with The New Current; how has your 2023 been treating you so far?
It’s been a whirlwind year so far!
Golden Delicious has already had an incredible festival run winning multiple awards. Did you imagine you would get this type of response for your debut feature?
I am very happy the film resonates with a broad group of people, and since this is my debut feature, a lot of thought, time and resources were put into realising this. I am very happy to see all our hard work pay off.
What does it mean to you to have your debut feature Golden Delicious in the HEARTS section at the 37th BFI Flare?
The HEARTS section at BFI Flare celebrates LGBTQ+ love, romance and friendship stories, and "Golden Delicious" has all this. It's an outstanding place for my debut feature.
Are there going to be any nerves ahead of the screening, or are you able to enjoy the ride?
There are always going to be some nerves ahead of any screening. Audience reactions will be different across regions. I am proud of the film and the fact that I made it on my terms, so this is my voice out there in the world.
How essential is it for LGBTQ+ filmmakers to continue to push the boundaries of the stories and themes they want to explore in their films?
As our stories become accepted by more mainstream society, I think it is essential for LGBTQ+ filmmakers, especially those from BIPOC communities, to explore experiences often marginalised in mainstream cinema, such as ageing, HIV stigmatisation, and transphobia.
It's also essential to give us space to find our voice, show the world what we are capable of, and learn how to pivot in terms of artistic growth.
"There are multiple ways to shoot a scene; sometimes, we get married into a specific way of shooting, which can trap us in the editing room."
Can you tell me a little bit about Golden Delicious came about? What was it about Gorrman Lee's screenplays that interested you so much?
As a storyteller, I am strongly influenced by my formative years with family and contemporary queer adult life. Stories involving male fragility and measuring ourselves to role models regularly resonate with me. I was drawn to how writer Gorrman Lee blended all this within an Asian family drama in "Golden Delicious"; the story had levity, and all the characters felt real. In 2018, in the middle of my Masters of Fine Arts Program, I felt confident I could tackle a feature-length, so this story felt right in scope to take on.
How important is the creative collaboration between a director and the screenwriter when working on a feature like this?
It is vital to have healthy discussions when working on a feature like this, as it accelerates innovation and invites different perspectives. I think this is one of the reasons why the film is universally accessible. I previously worked with Gorrman Lee, so we had that mutual trust when problem-solving; he called it "brain trust."
Looking back, is there anything you would have changed or shot differently?
I would have loved more time shooting the last two scenes in the film to pay off more of the symbolism set up earlier. The current ending works because it’s grounded in the characters, which is where it should be, but I had to be very economical.
What has been the most valuable lesson you have taken away from making Golden Delicious?
There’s not always enough time, and things go sideways, even with the best intentions. While it is healthy to feel sad, it is important not to dwell on things beyond your control and move on. I am trying to be less sentimental and precious.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
Yes, I have always had a passion for it from an early age. Filmmaking allows me to understand myself better and the world.
How much did your extensive background as an award-winning short film director help prepare you for directing your debut feature?
It helped me a lot. I felt confident in my visual aesthetic and how I want things to play out. My extensive background also helped me evaluate risk, listen to my gut, and problem-solve.
What was the first LGBTQ+ film you saw that really left an impact? Mine was Beautiful Thing, still is, a beautiful British film!
Oh, mine was "Beautiful Thing" too! What a coincidence! The second LGBTQ+ film that made an impact was John Greyson's "Lilies" in 1996. Released around the same time as "Beautiful Thing", "Lilies" was about a bishop forced to watch a play about his young adult life and sexual awakening performed by male inmates. The characters in the play were very diverse and gender-fluid, which made a lasting impression on me.
Do you have any advice or tips you could impart to any emerging filmmaker?
I advise any emerging filmmaker to know how to articulate your theme and be open-minded in scene coverage. There are multiple ways to shoot a scene; sometimes, we get married into a specific way of shooting, which can trap us in the editing room. Often the theme is distilled into a topic. For me, a theme is an opinion on a topic, and it is actionable. Knowing your theme lets you quickly discern a scene's value and how that scene supports or subverts the main action.
And finally, what message do you hope your audiences will take away from Golden Delicious?
Social media today creates pressure for us not to fail, which can be anxiety-inducing for many young minds. We want to be happy, but when regularly overwhelmed with messaging, it can be challenging.