When Lynn Chen first heard about A Shot Through the Wall, she was looking to tell different kinds of stories. This movie definitely fits that bill as a thought-provoking exploration of what happens when an Asian-American police officer accidentally shoots an African-American man. Based on a true story, the movie offers up difficult questions about racism, accountability and other timely subjects—with no easy answers.
Lynn’s character Grace Tan finds her family at the center of the story because her brother Mike Tan (played by Kenny Leu) is the police officer in question. She spoke to me about what originally interested her in the project and how the movie feels even more relevant today.
Brittany Frederick: What do you remember about that time four or five years ago when you first found out about A Shot Through the Wall? What was your initial reaction to the film?
Lynn Chen: I remember I was at a place in my life where I wanted to be making art that really got conversations going, that moved beyond just entertainment. When I read this script I remember thinking “Whoa, this is a bit much,” in terms of broaching some topics that were at the time subjects that we didn’t really talk about, especially in the Asian-American community. Racial justice and the specificity of what it means to be a person of color and to acknowledge the differences between people of color. Up till then I feel like we were all lumped into one category; you’re either white or you’re a person of color. This was ahead of its time. I remember thinking “I’m a little nervous about this.” But that was also exciting.
BF: The context of the film is completely diffferent now because, as you said, these are subjects that are now being talked about much more extensively. So how does the movie feel to you today?
LC: I think it’s become even richer. When we finished it I remember thinking to myself, this is going to provoke people to start conversations that honestly I didn’t think they were ready to have. I felt almost like it was removed as a form of entertainment—something that you watch and then it stays with you but that’s it. But now given everything it’s become a reflection upon what our lives are like today. In a much more dramatic fashion, obviously, but I think a lot more people have spent time imagining what it’s like to live life with fear about the color of your skin, and also in terms of just police brutality and police violence. These things don’t feel so removed and don’t feel like they’re just something that you would watch and be like, “That’s not something that would happen in my life.”
BF: Often in a film like this, the family shows up for a scene or two to support the protagonist or to allow them to angst, but they don’t get fully developed. A Shot Through the Wall completely develops Mike’s family. So is there a scene that you felt stood out for Grace?
LC: I think that is part of the story, how this affects everybody and how it does impact our everyday lives. There was one scene that I was particularly proud of because I didn’t find out until closer to shooting it that I was going to have to do this very emotional scene. It was supposed to be for Fiona [Fu]’s character [May Tan] and [writer-director] Aimee [Long] decided last minute that it didn’t really make sense for Fiona’s character to have that sort of reaction. So suddenly, it was up to me to carry that.
But I have to say this was definitely a set where we really, truly felt like family. Kenny and I and Tzi [Ma] and Fiona were all coming from out of town, so we were all staying in the same hotel and would hang out during our days off and have dinner with each other and ride to set each day. We did start to feel very familial—not only as people where we just felt comfortable with one another, but as actors too. Once the cameras are rolling it’s easy to do what you have to do, knowing that the people who surround you are 100 percent there for you.
BF: What comes next for you after this?
LC: I wrote, directed and starred in a feature film that went to South by Southwest in 2020 called I Will Make You Mine. It’s currently streaming everywhere and it’s on Video on Demand. And I feel like part of me becoming a filmmaker has to do with the women like Aimee Long who’ve paved the way. I would love for people to check that out.
BF: Is there something that you’d recommend people watch after A Shot Through the Wall? Whether it’s another project of yours or something else that’s spoken to you in a similarly impactful way?
LC: There’s been a lot of emotions and a lot of changes in the last few years, and we consume media, the way we talk to one another, the way we communicate, the way we’re around one another is constantly changing. I think that movies like this, movies like the one I made, movies that are made by marginalized filmmakers, people who don’t usually get a chance to have their voice heard—this is the time to watch these kinds of movies. Because we are at home and that is the place where these kinds of movies really get to thrive and get to find an audience. When we are hanging out at home with our families and wondering what to watch, let’s not just see whatever’s on Netflix, that happens to be advertised to us, that’s easily accessible. I say we take the time to research what’s going on. Hear whose stories we haven’t heard before and have an open mind and watch those.
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.