Interview with Reuben Lim Producer of Half-Life

“Why must people focus on the darkness in the world when all most people want to do is achieve some kind peace.” This line from director Jennifer Phang’s and producer Reuben Lim’s film elucidates one of the primary tensions of the film: an impeding sense of doom about human relantionships, our treatement of our homes, and our spiritual growth. Recently, Half-Life took the Grand Jury Prize at Gen Art and went to Sundance Film Festival.

Half-Life director Jennifer Phang with award presenter, Alan Cumming. What inspired you to make the film, Half-Life?

Reuben LimAs a producer it was the strength of the writing, the unique nature of the visual and emotional landscape that Jennifer intended. As an Asian American filmmaker it was important for me that the story portrayed ultimately a suburban family which happened to be Asian American but ultimately delved more into the family drama and the story than the ethnicity of the family.

QFR: In what ways do you think Half-Life is timely for Queer issues?

RL: As a film Half-Life touches on Jonah and Scott as a gay couple but focuses more on their relationship and their interaction as a couple. Even the broader social issues are couched in the context of their personal development and ultimate deterioration as a couple. I think the film is progressive in not making an issue of the fact that Jonah and Scott are gay but rather exploring the the dynamics of their relationship and the pressures on it.

QFR: Why use animation and color effects?

RL: There is an emotional space that exists in both the reality and the minds of Timothy who is one of the focal points of this story and animation allowed us to relate that space to the audience in a more visceral way. It was also we also approached our visual effects from a very emotional standpoint rather then a technical standpoint in terms of its presentation as most of it was motivated through a child’s perspective on a failing world.

QFR: When Queerness is brought up in the film, what role do you think it plays? Why does it matter?

RL: When Scott tells his friend Pam that he had sex for the first time with his gay lover, it isolates Pam, one of our principal characters, and shows her loneliness as her best friend and crush is in a different emotional place. As we are introduced to his lover, Jonah, as a school teacher and then brought into their relationship, that relationship takes on a life of its own. While we know that Scott and Jonah are gay, we are more

concerned about how they treat each other and how they express their love or neglect it. While familial and social pressures are definitely a factor specifically because this is a gay couple, their relationship is another way for us to explore who we as people and how we treat each other while we are caught up in our own day to day wants and desires, regardless of orientation or color.

QFR: Do you consider your film experimental, why or why not?

RL: There is a strong narrative to Half-Life though not in a typical structure. The way Jennifer uses visual effects and animation as well as sound design to allow our audience to enter the emotional world of our characters is unique and lends to the success of the film. All these are non-traditional methods in cinema story telling. I would say it is more purposeful than experimental, though. It definitely expands the vocabulary of filmmaking and story telling to a degree.

QFR: When did you know you were going to be a filmmaker?

RL: About 7 years ago.

QFR: How did the crew of the film come together?

RL: Jennifer and I met on a project in 2002 and started developing Half-Life in writers group that she was one of the founders for. Many of the crewmembers were people that either she and I had both worked with before or that she went to film school with. Others were through referrals and many of our bay area crew came from the months of pre-production that Jennifer and I spent in Walnut Creek scouting and prepping for the production.

QFR: Why shoot the film in the Bay Area? Does this hold any significance?

RL: The bay area has a unique landscape of manicured lawns amidst the natural summer/fall beauty of an arid landscape of golden rolling hills that spoke to us in many ways. The story was also conceived from Jennifer’s life in the bay area and it made sense overall to incorporate a lot of those elements. We also received a lot of support from the local communities.

– interviewed by T. Nova

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