A Shot Through the Wall may be the most important film viewers see all year. The film is timely, telling the story of a Chinese-American police officer who accidentally shoots an innocent African-American man, and the reckoning that unfolds. But just as importantly, it’s an honest film—one that doesn’t suffer the usual pitfalls or stir up the same controversies. It’s real and human, and that’s what makes it so compelling.
It’s also the first full-length feature for Aimee Long, who not only directed but also wrote and produced the movie. I spoke to her about taking on such an ambitious topic for her debut feature, the logistical and emotional process of getting the film made, and what she hopes audiences will take away after viewing.
Brittany Frederick: What was it about this script that made you want to utilize it as your feature debut? Did something about the subject matter resonate with you to say it needed to be a full feature?
Aimee Long: I started this process working on a different film as my first feature. It was another script that I wrote, and then a couple weeks before we were going to actually shoot that project got postponed and shelved. This was at the very end of 2014, beginning of 2015—and then there was an incident that happened where an Asian-American cop killed a innocent black man in in Brooklyn. When the cop was indicted, I was living in New York at the time [and] I went home for a weekend. There was a dinner with my friends and family, and they were getting into this heated debate about this Asian-American cop, whether he was scapegoated or whether it was just that here’s someone that’s finally getting some accountability.
I remember going home after that and thinking about the story. Doing a lot of research and jotting down some ideas and thinking, this is something I really want to do. I want to tell this story from a fictional point of view, from a very fictional narrative, and to talk about where I stand as an Asian-American person in this spectrum of racism today.
BF: You want to explore these issues of racism and police accountability, but you also want to do so honestly without leaning too far in one direction or the other. What are the conversations you have with your cast and crew about the tone of the project and the approach you want to take?
AL: There was a lot of notes on the page and I talked to [the actors] extensively, especially Kenny [Leu, who plays the officer Mike Tan]. We talked extensively about his character. When I started this process, I didn’t want to just write a cop story; I wanted to write a story about an Asian-American family. It was very grounded in real relationships. This was before Crazy Rich Asians and the wave of a lot of Asian-American films that came out in the last few years. Back then, I didn’t see any Asian families on screen that were depicted authentically and in a grounded way. The conversations all started there. The relationship between the family, the relationship with him and his fiance—I wanted the story to be very grounded in that, first and foremost.
BF: You mentioned starting the project at the end of 2014, which is the better part of a decade ago. Did living with the material for that long affect the finished product in any way?
AL: I spent a long time researching and doing draft after draft. I’m very fortunate that I have a group of very supportive friends and writers that workshopped the film with me. Also the casting process took so long, [because] this was before Asian-American actors got a lot of exposure. It took me about nine months to just find that family. We shot part one in 2017 and part two in 2018, the post-production process took about a year or so, and then we finally finished it right before the pandemic…I think that really helped me with where I needed to take the material and things like that.
BF: The world changed immensely over those years, particularly in relation to some of the topics that are in the movie. Is there anything you’d say to audiences before they watch it, knowing that it might look different now?
AL: I just want people to watch the film. A lot of people [may] come into this with preconceived notions and judgment. I totally understand [that]. If I saw this right now, today, in 2022 I would be in the same shoes. But I just hope my audience keeps an open mind and doesn’t judge the film before they watch it. Watch it and then form your opinion. That’s something I really want my audience to do if possible.
BF: A Shot Through the Wall is a very low-budget film, and obviously with the pandemic it’s not getting the same exposure that the movie might have gotten two or three years ago. So how do you judge the success of the film? Because the metric has changed so much with streaming releases like this one.
AL: Just having people watch the film and talk about the issues. I’m very happy and content that people get to see it and there are platforms that I can show it. I’m very happy just to have people spend the time. I’m very proud of this film. It is a labor of love with a really tight-knit group of people. I’m really excited for people to see it.
A Shot Through the Wall is now streaming on Amazon Video and other digital platforms.
Article content is (c)2020-2023 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr and on Instagram at @BFTVGram.