Binge on Tallgrass

Hong Kong takes star turn in Tallgrass feature

Written by Joe Stumpe

You can binge on the 13th annual Tallgrass Film Festival in more ways than one.

For instance, there's a whole menu of "foodie" films on subjects ranging from renowned chefs to the business of craft beer at this year's festival. The program, sponsored by Whole Foods, is dedicated to the memory of restaurateur Tanya Tandoc, who once served on the Tallgrass Film Association Board of Directors and was supportive of the organization through the years.

Then there's the a new Binge Pass, which gets you into everything on Saturday, October 17, including all general admission films, a special happy hour in the VIP Filmmaker Lounge and the Stubbornly Independent Gala movie and after party.

"We all like to binge watch," said Lela Meadow Conner, executive director of the Tallgrass Film Association. "That's how we consume media these days. We thought, why not offer our audience a chance to binge on indie film?"

Additional highlights at this year's five-day festival include:

The Opening Night Gala on Wednesday, Oct. 14, features the comedy film "Band of Robbers" with visiting filmmakers and an after party with food, drink and live entertainment.

For Wichita's sports-loving audience, the festival features three documentaries: "Bounce: How the Ball Taught the World to Play," "T-Rex" and "Out to Win."

Wichita State's Thursday Night Spotlight shines on "Double Digits: The Story of a Neighborhood Movie Star" with an appearance by lo cal director-subject R.G. Miller; it also will be the world premiere of "In The Dark."

Familiar faces in this year's lineup of movies include Taryn Manning (of "Orange is the New Black") in "A Light Beneath Their Feet"; Danny Glover and James Lafferty (of "One Tree HIll") in "Waffle Street"; Josh Hamilton (of "Madam Secretary") and Richard Schiff (of "The Affair") in "Take Me To The River."

Doc Day," presented by Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, happens on Thursday, Oct. 15th and includes eight documentaries from around the world on subjects ranging from war heroes and wild mustangs to finding love and the career of an Elvis Presley lookalike. The documentaries, screening at The Orpheum and Scottish Rite theaters, are free of charge to active military and veterans with proper ID.

As usual, the festival will fly in dozens of filmmakers from around the country to present their films. Get to know these directors, producers, writers and actors at the Q&A's following their screenings. TALLPass holders can hobnob with them in the VIP Filmmaker Lounge at Candela at The Lux.

This year's event is truly designed to recognize how far the festival has come and on making sure even more people can enjoy it. "We want to be accessible to everybody, whether in ticket price general admission is $10 or movie genre. There really is something for everyone." Meadow-Conner said.

An independent filmmaker whose directorial debut is described as a love letter to Hong Kong is about to get some affection right here in Wichita.

Emily Ting, director of "It's Already Tomorrow In Hong Kong," is one of the featured filmmakers at the 13th Annual Tallgrass Film Festival. Two films that Ting has produced "The Kitchen" and "Man From Reno" were hits at previous Tallgrass Film Festivals, and both were part of the Stubbornly Independent competition, as is her newest film. This will be Ting's first visit to the Tallgrass Film Festival.

In an interview from Los Angeles, Ting and her lead actors sound excited. She said festivals such as Tallgrass are very instrumental in getting independent films out there. When you have a film like mine, or 'The Kitchen,' they're basically small budget and they're not going to get a wide national release by a major studio. A lot of times, the only way for someone in Kansas or Minnesota to see them on the big screen is through a film festival."

Thanks to its story based on Ting's own real-life experiences and stars, the film is expected to get a limited theatrical release and then be available on Video On Demand in early 2016. The film stars Bryan Greenberg, of "How to Make It in America" and "One Tree Hill," and Jamie Chung, of "Big Hero 6" and "Once Upon a Time," who are a couple in real life.

Ting said her film is part of the "walk and talk" genre that's been popular at least since Richard Linklater's Sunrise Trilogy, which she called an obvious influence. It follows its stars around Hong Kong, a city Ting fell in love with while living there for five years. Other inspirations include Wong Kar-wai's "In the Mood For Love," and Sofia Coppola's "Lost In Translation."

Hong Kong has been featured in plenty of action films, Ting said, but she wanted to show it in the romantic light that cities such as Paris have enjoyed in countless movies. So she packed her film with scenes shot in favorite restaurants, clubs and other locations.

"What drew me to this script was that it flirted with the question, "When have things gone too far?" You're rooting for the two characters to get together but they are both committed to someone else. It's conflicting," Chung said.

Ting said some people warned her that casting two actors who were dating in real life could be risky. "It was like "Oh my god, what if they break up? Will that be awkward?" Instead, they ended up engaged.

Greenberg, who attended film school at NYU with Ting, said shooting an independent film is a completely different animal that some of the big-budget projects he's worked on. "Emily brought it to us, we developed the script with her and it was very minimalist," Greenberg said.

Added Chung: "Emily was a great director. She is a great listener, and this project obviously meant so much to her."

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