"Every “mistake” is just an opportunity to learn." Crazy Rich Asian's Screenwriter Visits Santa Monica College
Crazy Rich Asian's co-screenwriter, Adele Lim, shared her story at Santa Monica College's (SMC) Center for Media Design campus on March 28th. Lim moved from Malaysia to the United States in order to major in Communications at Emerson College in Boston after being encouraged to attend school in a English speaking country. After graduating Emerson, her boyfriend at the time was moving to Los Angeles, California, so she followed. All the media and entertainment she was exposed to growing up in Malaysia, such as movies, music, and T.V. shows, were American. She acquired her first T.V. job through Hollywood Reporter job listings. Her next job was as a staff writer for a Fox show entitled John Doe.
Lim was a T.V. show writer for 16 years, before she began working on feature films. She received a call from her friend Jon Chu, director of Crazy Rich Asians, asking if she had read the book and if she would like to create a movie adaptation. She immediately went to buy the books and after reading the first three pages, she agreed to write the movie.
Casting choices were narrowed in an effort to keep authenticity. They wanted to represent a specific Chinese culture in Southeast Asia, so they cast Chinese actors with ties to that area. Crazy Rich Asians is one of the only recent movies that is set and filmed in Malaysia/Singapore. "Because first and foremost it is a story about Asians in Asia, which is a rarity in a major Hollywood movie. The last time there was a major movie about contemporary Asian-Americans was the Joy Luck Club 25 years ago," explains Lim.
"I think the best part for me was, as an immigrant, it was the first time in my career that I was able to write about my people and my culture and I didn't have to translate everything through the prism of characters that I'd written for in television, which were more often than not, white and male." Lim never even thought about the possibility of telling or pitching stories from her own culture. She says that working on this movie has changed this for her and she now feels that mainstream audiences are open and receptive to stories like hers, and that is very encouraging.
Lim credits the film’s opening box office success to the overwhelming "support from not only Asian-American communities, but also from the African American and other minority communities as well as women's groups who showed up in full force". This movie was important to these communities, because it featured an Asian girl who was raised in America, and touched on many issues of culture, and identity inspiring us to own 100% of all we are in our sameness and differences. When asked if she hopes this movie is going to make it easier for other people to tell stories about people of color, Ms Lim said "yes", and that She “hoped this was not going to be a moment, but a movement”.
The best advice Lim remembers receiving in her early career, is when a writer told her "It's not good enough for your writing sample to be good, or at the level of other things you see on television, but it needs to generate a huge amount of excitement from everyone who reads it. You want to blow peoples minds, not just be good or acceptable. You want the biggest splash". Lim's advice to young writers is, "write early, write often" . She also advised, "Write a lot, don't hold yourself to your first piece of written material, and understand that your greatest work is possibly years ahead of you". She ended by sharing her personal mantra with us, “There are no mistakes, just learning processes.
Adele Lim is currently co-writing a major Disney project that will be announced later this year.