Emily Ting’s name has shown up in movie credits as a producer for years, but it wasn’t until recently that she decided to take a stab at directing. In her directorial debut, “It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong,” Ting examines the concept of emotional cheating and the parameters that define exclusive relationships.
Jamie Chung and Bryan Greenberg star in the romantic indie flick, as Ruby and Josh. Chung plays Ruby, an Asian American woman whose visit to Hong Kong is shaped by a random encounter she has while trying to meet up with her friends. Greenberg portrays Josh, an American expat who leads Ruby on a seemingly romantic journey through the streets of Hong Kong. After spending the night getting to know each other and strolling through the cityscape, a miscommunication between the two sends them each on their own way, but it’s not the last time the universe puts them together.
“It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong,” premiered at the LA Film Fest on June 12th, and Hollywood Times Square got to sit down with Ting and the cast to discuss the film and the inspiration behind it.
So the film is pretty autobiographical, right?
Emily Ting: Yes so, on one level I am a toy designer so Ruby’s job is very much my day job and I was also able to plug a couple of my favorite toys, Justin Beaver and Moos Like Jagger. But in addition to just like having the same job, I channeled a lot of myself into the Ruby character in terms of what I was feeling when I was living in Hong Kong as an expat, you know the irony of being Asian, being a fish out of water in Asia, so all of that was very autobiographical. And you know on top of that the whole thing was inspired by a real life encounter. So there’s so much of me in this film for sure.
So how did you, Bryan and Jamie, get involved with the project?
Jamie Chung: Bryan worked with Emily on two different projects, I met Emily on one of the two that she was a producer on, and this is the way I remember the story, you [Bryan] tell it differently, but–
Bryan Greenberg: We’ll let Emily tell it
Ting: So we were at the Kitchen premiere in LA, and I was chatting with Bryan and he’s like ‘Oh are you working on anything new’, ‘Well yeah I have this script about this Asian girl who goes to Asia and its like an interracial love story,’ and Bryan’s like, ‘Did you know my girlfriend’s Asian?’ I was like ‘Yeah I think I do,’ so I did that very like sly Hollywood thing like, ‘Do you mind passing the script along to Jamie.’
Ting: But that’s only because it was written as a British expat originally, but then when I sent it to him I said ‘Look, if you guys wanna do it together, its so easy to re-write the part’, and to cast a real live couple, that would be the dream.
Greenberg: I guess we’re both right.
Ting: It’s a dream come true to be able to work with a real life couple. Like I know its difficult for you guys, but for me as a director I’m like, ‘Oh they already love each other,’ like they don’t have to pretend to be falling in love because when you’re making a romance chemistry is like the biggest factor, and you can’t engineer chemistry you either have it or you don’t. They clearly have it cause they’re getting married, so for me I just like turned the camera on and they just exuded so much chemistry it was like ‘Oh my god this is like rom-com gold.’
Greenberg: And the first time we read it, when she gave us the script we just read it because we were like ‘I dunno, I don’t even know if she can write’, because I’ve only worked with her as a producer.
Ting: You were reading it as a favor.
Greenberg: We’re like, ‘Let’s just read it, lets just read it out loud and then we’ll know what to tell her.’ And honestly we were like, this script is good, like we loved the concept, the dialogue was really smart and the characters were refreshing, the setting was refreshing and interesting and real and honestly, I think Jamie is an unbelievable actress and shes never really gotten the chance to be like this romantic lead. She always talks about like ‘Man I really wanna do one’ so I was just really excited for Jamie to really get chance to shine because I think she’s so good in this movie, so charismatic, and audiences haven’t seen that side of her so it was really an honor to be able to work with her and see her. She’s so good in this movie.
What I loved about it is like, in other romances they kind of fast forward through the part where they’re actually falling in love until they get to a conflict or something, but the whole movie is just you guys, and the moments that make you fall in love with each other.
Chung: I really do think the hardest part about this film wasn’t anything towards the ending, like the second act was easy for me personally, you know emotionally but the hardest part was unknowing each other, that moment when they first meet. I do think there still is like a hint of familiarity, you know what I mean? But I think that was the most challenging part.
Greenberg: Yeah we got separate hotel rooms.
Did you? I was going to ask!
Greenberg: Yeah no, we stayed in different rooms.
Chung: He was totally fighting it in the beginning. But he was like, ‘This was actually a good idea.’
Greenberg: I didn’t want that! I was like ‘What, we’re going to Hong Kong together and you wanna get separate rooms?’ That sucks!
Chung: But I looked at it as like, we’re working 12 hours.
Greenberg: And she was right, because honestly we needed a break.
Chung: I don’t know any couple who works together and then goes home.
Greenberg: And it was a rough shoot because it was hot, and we were shooting on location, and it was hot.
Ting: Did he mention it was hot?
Greenberg: And you know with the crew, not everyone spoke English, not everyone spoke Cantonese so it was not the easiest shoot, so it was nice to have a little downtime. And maybe it did build the chemistry a little bit.
When you guys were acting were there moments where you forgot it was supposed to be Ruby and Josh and it just felt like Bryan and Jamie?
Ting: I will say in the Temple Street Market there were definitely moments where you were like ‘Hey Bryan, look at this!’
Chung: Oh I know! And I was like ‘Oh shoot are using sound?’ But that moment was like, literally us, like we were trying to shop.
Greenberg Yea, that was cool because she would just let us go and we were improv-ing a lot
Ting: That was all improv.
Chung: The haggling part I am genuinely terrible at, but I was really trying to buy a selfie stick.
Greenberg: And you did, you bought that one.
Chung: I did, I bought it. I took it home.
Greenberg: It’s a little dated now ‘cause selfie sticks are so big.
Chung: But back then you could only get it in Asia.
Another thing I really loved about the film was how it plays with time, and even in the title obviously, the film is concerned with timing, were there ever moments where you tried to intentionally play with the time or did you just let the pace of the city do that for you?
Chung: It was super intentional, you were like ‘Jamie needs a watch, you need to be looking at it.’
Ting: Because the whole thing takes place over the course of two nights and we shot it over two weeks, [we needed] to keep everything consistent throughout like this is one night. And the thing with shooting everything exterior in the start of typhoon season is that you can’t control the weather. And it rained every single day that we were there but somehow when we would roll cameras it would stop.
Greenberg: Well we had a blessing ceremony
Ting: We did! We slaughtered a pig.
Chung: We didn’t slaughter the pig
Ting: The pig was already slaughtered.
Chung:: We ate the pig.
Greenberg: So you know you show up on set and usually you get your call sheet and its like where you have to be for rehearsal, and then we got the call sheet and its like ‘Okay you have the blessing ceremony’, and we were like ‘what?’ And this is something that they do for every film, it’s a blessing ceremony ceremony with this pig–
Ting: That’s slaughtered beforehand, and roasted, and then we get it.
Greenberg: It was a very interesting experience but apparently it worked ‘cause it did not rain.
What are you guys working on next? Do you have any upcoming projects?
Chung: Do we? You [Bryan] have some stuff in the works that you cant really talk about. I have some stuff that I don’t wanna jinx. We have Flock of Dudes at the LA Film Festival, and he just put out an album.
Greenberg: Yeah I just put out an album two weeks ago called Everything Changes, yeah I’ve got a couple things in development.
Ting: I have a couple scripts that I’ve been attached to to direct that we’re trying to go out to cast soon and find financing, but I feel like wuth a lot of these indie projects, they’re not real until you have money so there’s almost no point talking about it. We’ll see what happens.