Tea & Justice: Defying Stereotypes, Changing Law Enforcement

Production Notes

The Director Cried

It's “NG”/”No-Good” for a film director to break into tears on the set, except that one time...

I was interviewing NYPD Detective Christine Leung on camera. She's a senior detective–very tough. She explained that she refused to smile on the job because others would get the wrong impression that she was a pushover and a “silly giggling female.”

“What was your most memorable case?” I asked her. Christine started to recall the kidnapping of two young women, tortured and raped for two weeks. Although she omitted the graphic details it was still a harrowing, heartbreaking story, as I could see by the emotions Christine still remembered, indeed, relived in front of the camera. One victim in particular grew close to Christine, and when during the court trial the young woman stood up and spoke in the courtroom, she held on to Christine's hand while describing her horrific ordeal at the hands of the rapists-torturers. At this point in the interview Christine, the tough detective began crying. And I couldn't help but join in. The camera kept rolling.

Eventually, Christine smiled to say that she and the young woman were still in touch after 10 years. She still refers to her as, her little sister. My tears of outrage and sadness turned into triumph for the survivor's perseverance and strength; then turned into tears of gratitude for the bond of sisterhood and for Christine her protector–a tough cop who is confident enough to show her humanity.

The Well-Grounded P.A.

I wanted an exterior location as a setting to shoot some lengthy interviews. But where can you find a New York City exterior free from blaring horns, sirens and other megalopolis traffic din? Answer: Up On The Roof! Friends offered me their terrace with gorgeous views on the 46th floor. On the day of our shoot the sky was overcast so we had to use a reflector-screen to bounce extra sunlight onto the interviewee's face.

This reflector screen was a luminous metallic gray circle of strong nylon, 4 feet in diameter. However, my ultra-low budget production meant there was no adequate light-stand tall enough to hold the reflector. So Magdalena, our P.A. held up the reflector, standing above the crew on a concrete planter next to the edge of the terrace, a dizzying 500 feet in the air.

Windy gusts blew up from the East River below, blustering round nearby high-rises and our rooftop location. Magdalena had become a para-sailing P.A. Several times during the hour-and-a-half interview, I had to yell, “Cut!” whenever the reflector swooped and dipped in the wind like a high-flying kite with Magdalena as its tail. But our stalwart P.A. kept her feet firmly planted with the bushes in the concrete planter. She can now add “Wind Surfer” to her resume.

Viva! Hail to every well-grounded P.A. rising to all kinds of tasks, be it dirty and dangerous. Mabuhay!

Photo credit: Ann Fremont Smith