We are so excited to premiere HOW THE MOON FELL FROM THE SKY AND NO ONE EVEN NOTICED: a musical drama about falling in and out of love and growing up gay in the middle of nowhere by Christina Xing and written by Jack Fossett. I had the pleasure of discussing with Christina how a group of extremely talented high schoolers put this film together, getting rejected from film schools, and what it's like to be Asian-American in this crazy ass country.
Also! Before you click play or go on to read our interview, Christina is currently raising money to produce her next short, THIS OLD DOG. A PG-13 drama told from an Asian-American perspective based on events in Christina's own life. Check out their indiegogo link here!
When best friends Benji (Peter Carroll) and Ruben (Nick Trivisonno) decide to make a film in their free time, they don’t realize they’re signing up for the end of the world as they know it. But when a love triangle develops on set and the lines between reality and fantasy start to blur, the boys must reckon with their developing feelings for each other.
Produced by and starring high school students from Interlochen Arts Academy in Interlochen, Michigan, HOW THE MOON FELL FROM THE SKY AND NO ONE EVEN NOTICED is a testament to the power of young artists who work together to achieve what no one thought possible.
@DOLESCENT CONTENT: What was the inspiration for making this film and how did the collaboration with all these people to create it work?
Christina Xing: Okay so, The biggest inspiration actually was the fact that like I was in my senior year of high school. And basically I had not gotten into any film schools. And it was really sad, and I was really sad, and I was leaving all my best friends in high school. We went to boarding school together so we basically had grown up together. And, I remember I was just at a certain point I was just like "You know what? Fuck this." Like, why do I care so much about what these schools are saying, the SAT scores... and all this stuff that ultimately doesn't matter. Like, the only thing I know how to do is make movies so why don't I just do that? And one day I was taking a bath and I called my best friend who also shot the film and it just like hit me like a fever dream. I was like, "I think I want to make a musical film." And he was like, "Why?" And it was because growing up, I watched musicals and all those films are always about like friendship and collaboration and they were magical and that kind of propelled me in the beginning to even start making films and I need to go back to that to remember like who I am and why I create in the first place. And he was like, "Alright. Let's do it." And I don't know how we did it but we did it and I made it with my best friends and now every time I look back at that movie I remember every single memory. It was a love letter to every one of my friends. And it was kind of like a screw you to all the schools that were telling me I wasn't good enough.
@: Yeah, like you created this thing without film school and it's like a total "fuck you". We can do this without your help.
CX: Exactly. All my favorite creators are from the French New Wave and all of those directors always talk about the institutionalized learning and you know, how film school doesn't necessarily mean that you're creative, you know? Like it's just a way to help you create better.
@: Yeah, definitely. You don't enter film school and magically exit as a filmmaker. Filmmakers don't get made in film school. I mean, they can, but not getting into a prestige film school doesn't mean anything. But, yeah, you know, you took something bad and made something out of it.
CX: I think a quote that really stood out to me that made me have this realization was from one of my professors, Andy. We were watching Ozu films. And he told us that a big theme in all the Ozu movies is "Now that my barn has burned down, I can finally see the moon." And that's when it hit me, like holy shit. It's not about you know the barn on fire and losing everything in front of you. It's nothing like that at all. You have to look up and you have to see the moon because life is so much bigger than just your materialistic possessions being burned. It's more than that.
@: Is that how you came up with the title of the film?
CX: So, our writer Jack, he's so freakin' brilliant. It was original called How The Moon Was Made Of Cheese, But I'm Lactose Intolerant, and I was like, I think that might be a little too vague... and he was like, "Okay", and came up with How The Moon Fell From The Sky and No One Even Noticed and we just loved it.
@: It's like a poem in a title.
CX: Right? He's so smart.
@: How was that process like writing and collaborating with the musicians and choreographers? How Did you find your crew?
CX: Basically all of middle school through 10th grade, I play clairnetin band and orchestra. I was the literal, typical marching band dork. Not even kidding. The reason I chose the clarient in the first place was, oh God, I was like "Oh, Woody Allen plays the clarinet" and then I ended up loving it. And yeah, that's kind of like where my thirst for music from. Music was like my first love and then I went out and discovered movies because of music.
@: What music and films were you inspired by for HTMFFTS?
CX: I loved watching the French New Wave musicals like THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG and THE YOUNG GIRLS OF ROUCHEFORT. And, also I was really inspired by the classics like SINGING IN THE RAIN, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, GIGI...
@: So, I heard that everybody who worked on this film was in high school at the time. Do you think that made things easier to work on it or do you think it made it more challenging?
CX: The coolest thing about making it with everybody in high school was the fact that everybody was doing this like in their free time. Like a) They really cared out the project or b) They really cared about the people involved or c) They just really connected with the story or d) They like just wanted to be in a movie or they wanted to play in the orchestra. Everybody was doing it on the weekends and in their spare time and that was incredible because we had no money and we couldn't pay them anything. I think the biggest challenge was that because everybody was doing everything for free, I didn't want rehearsals to ever be longer than two hours. I knew that everyone had other priorities. And trying to cram in as much as I could in little time as possible was a big constraint.
@: Totally. It's a huge collaborative effort on everyone's part to make it happen and everyone is in school, everyone has other things going on.
CX: Right! There's So much trust involved with that too, because if like three violins leave, then it's like "Oh, what am I going to do now?" But it was like a dream like sitting in the theater and hearing them play these scores that we've been spending weeks and weeks talking about and to hear it come to life... I felt like a little kid again. It made me cry it was so crazy.
@: That's some pretty crazy stuff to pull out of nothing. And to sit there and realize that it's all happening. There's not feeling like it, I'm sure.
CX: It's all worth it. Even if you like tell yourself, "Oh man screw this I'll never do this again". It's all worth it!
@: I was so impressed watching this. I had to remind myself that a bunch of high schoolers came together and made this.
CX: Honestly, me too! I'm so grateful. I don't think any other time in my life will I have that experience again. I'm so thankful!
@: What advice do you have for filmmakers your age for tackling a huge project like this? What did you learn from this whole experience?
CX: I think so many people get really discouraged to make something. Because it's like the whole block of like "oh, my camera isn't good enough" or "my idea is stupid". There's always these endless excuses that we have to get over and all of these insecurities that really stop you from creating. But in an age where everybody owns an iPhone or some kind of camera there's really not an excuse not to create and you have to get past the idea of failing. There were so many points when I was making this movie where we literally could have failed at literally anytime. I can endlessly tell you the stories where we had to compromise a lot of things. But once you get past that fear, you can do anything. If you're so stuck on a vision and an idea and you're not willing to compromise anything, not only are you throwing everybody who supported you in the drain, but you're selling yourself short of a different perspective. And in convincing people to get involved, I found a pamphlet from my school's orchestra and I literally individually emailed everybody on the list, fully expecting nobody to reply. But when I woke up the next day, a bunch of people had responded back. I even kind of lied in way, because I was like "this is for people interested in playing in a real life film score... you won't get opportunity again... we have the mics, we have everything" and we hadn't solidified any of this at the time. You just have to believe blindly in yourself and your friends believe in you and it just worked out!
@: Yeah, I think people forget that others do want to be involved with cool projects and be a part of things.
CX: The worst thing is just like you know someone would be like "F you, this is stupid." But it's okay, because you're gonna hear that anyways, so you might as well ask.
@: Yeah. That's great advice. Unabashedly believing in yourself! Asking for forgiveness instead of asking for permission. What resonated about Jack's script? How did you embody it and bring his experience to life as a director?
CX: When I read the first draft, it really resonated with me. I grew up in a small town in Alabama. And-
@: What! Really?
CX: Yeah! It was the weirdest experience of my life, oh my gosh. I was basically the only Asian kid in the whole school system and was a huge dork in marching band. So often I felt really, really alone. I felt kind of what Ruben in the film felt. I had one best friend and I was very isolated and I just felt very not seen or heard. When I was in high school, and I think everybody has a story like this, I fell in love with somebody who didn't love me back. And I remember how was sad and heartbreaking that was. To realize realize that it's not that you want a person to love you back, necessarily... like at the end of the film during the argument, Reuben is trying to be seen, he just wants to be seen again. And his best friend doesn't get it and thinks that that he just wants to be loved. But that's not it. That was a reality for me. There was a person I had in mind when I was directing it. And I remember, I didn't want them to tell me that they loved me back. That wouldn't have been the truth and it wouldn't have been honest, but I wanted so badly for them to see me for who I was again and to not forget about me, but that's not how they interpreted it. But then I found my art and I made this film through all that.
@: Yes, it's definitely important to be able to really feel waht you're directing for those experiences to translate and it's really cool to see like that it definitely comes through in the film!
CX: Thank you. Yeah! You know, everyone always says "Write what you know, write what you know!" And I was always that kid that was like, "Screw that! That's stupid! I want to make cowboy movies!" And finally, I like took that advice and, God, you know it's the best advice because it's true.
@: From one Asian girl to another Asian girl. Do you ever feel small or that you don't belong? Like you had to overcompensate for being Asian and assert yourself more as a director? I mean, I know you have that support with your friends, but I'm curious to hear from your age and your perspective.
CX: Yes. I bet you feel this too, but growing up in Alabama... like I really didn't want to be Asian and I wanted to be white. Like, so badly. I hated my culture. I was so embarrassed of it. And I think every Asian kid has had that experience. You like take something like really great like dumplings to school and white kids are like "Ew, are you eating like turds?" It's so sad, it's so heartbreaking. It makes you detach yourself from your culture in way. For a long time I was hesitant to even try to direct and I wanted to be a writer for the longest time, which is funny, because I think I'm a horrible writer. You know, all my life I've been told by people like "Directing? That's for some white Italian dude, you know, who is assertive." But it's like... so stupid and like now it's my goal to channel that Asian-American experience because I denied wanting to make films like that because I was embarrassed of being Asian. But I'm over that now.
@: Yeah, man, yeah. A lot of people don't realize that it's a really hard hurdle to jump over being a person of color. Just accepting yourself and your culture.
CX: Did you have that experience growing up?
@: Yes, absolutely. I mean, I was born in the Bay Area, but moved to Thailand, which is where my mom is from, when I was like 7 and was there until I graduated high school. But when I moved back to California. It was a really different experience. Like "Oh, this is new, I have to constantly explain myself and prove myself for people to take me seriously now?" I started feeling like being Asian was a burden. People thought I was too weak to carry a camera, or that I was less than or not as educated because I moved here from Thailand. It's messed up. Why do we feel like we need to prove ourselves or in order to be taken seriously we need to be "more white" or separate ourselves from who we are.
CX: Yeah, you're reminded that you're Asian. And you're made to feel like it's a bad thing.
@: Yes it's exactly that. Why do we feel like we need to prove ourselves to be "more white". In order to be taken seriously we need to separate ourselves from the culture that we come from.
CX: It's so messed up and like. We never see that in movies or in the media like the struggle people color have trying to figure out their identity. It's not us trying to be white, it's not about that. It's about being accepted.
@: There are so many different messages, or even lack thereof... that we have hitting us from all sides about our identity and about who we are. I know a lot of Asian kids don't feel any different from the next white kid until someone makes them feel that way.
CX: I want to see more Asian-American films and like finally help everyone understand that experience.