We were on the red carpet for the 2019 IFP Gotham Awards.
A24’s The Farewell was nominated for three awards: Best Screenplay, Best Feature and Best Actress. Awkwafina won best actress that evening. She was in shock after her big win!
The Knockturnal: You just won. How are you feeling?
Awkwafina: It was unreal. I literally couldn’t believe it.
The Knockturnal: And why is this project special to you?
Awkwafina: This project is so special. It was about something that I’d never seen before. It was written directed by an Asian American woman [Lulu Wang]. I was raised by my grandma. So in that way, it resonates deeply and to see any recognition for it, it means a lot.
The Knockturnal: What has the response been like from attendees, when you meet them at screenings?
Awkwafina: I think that people are moved by it and not just the story, but I think they see a projection of their own life, of their own loss, of their own family. And I think that’s the most common thing I’ve seen when I screen it.
The Knockturnal: How did you get on board to produce?
Andrew Miano: When Lulu, the director, was on This American Life, we were lucky enough to hear it and be the first ones to get to it.
The Knockturnal: How long was the production process?
Andrew Miano: Shockingly quick. I want to say from the time it aired to us making the movie was about two and a half years, so you know smoothly and quickly, a rarity.
The Knockturnal: What do you think of all the support and box office love the film has been getting?
Andrew Miano: The response to the movie has honestly been overwhelming and humbling. I’ve been lucky enough to have made a few movies and the response has been insane to be honest. And it’s been very humbling.
The Knockturnal: What makes the movie so special in your opinion?
Andrew Miano: Its relate-ability. It’s such a specific movie and I think we realize that it is a very universal in its specificity and that’s been what people responded to. We all have grandparents, right? We all have a grandmother and we’ve all been touched by illness or cancer and such. And I think that has been what people can relate to.
The Knockturnal: And what’s next for you?
Andrew Miano: Hopefully Pinocchio at Disney. The live action one. We’ve been working on it for three years. As we know these movies take a long time, but hopefully next year we’ll be making it with Robert Zemeckis directing.
The Knockurnal: Tell us about your production company.
Peter Saraf: Big Beach is the name of the company. I’m one of the founders, but Dani’s has been with us for a long time.
The Knockturnal: Speak about collaborating with Lulu Wang.
Peter Saraf: Well it was a great experience. We first heard her story on This American Life and called up saying that we thought the story sounded like a movie. We didn’t actually know that Lulu was a filmmaker at the time and we just called up saying can we get the rights? And then it was “wait, Lulu is going to make this movie.” We met Lulu, we started working with her on this story and its been a great process.
Dani Melia: I think its been two years now since she wrote the script and we went to China and started scouting and all of that. I
Peter Saraf: Incredibly quick from “Hey, this would be a great movie” to actually making a movie.
The Knockturnal: What were production challenges?
Dani Melia: I mean, the biggest challenge was just shooting in a different country with not only a different language but sort of a cultural translation as well. But it was also an amazingly international production team. Like we had all key crew who spoke different first languages. English wasn’t everyone’s first language but neither was Chinese. So that was just an amazing challenge. But also I think it made it a truly international film.
The Knockturnal: Speak about working with Awkwafina.
Peter Saraf: She’s amazing, but she’s not just having incredible success, she’s extraordinarily talented and whip smart and making great choices and just wanting to do good work. She came to this movie having never done anything like this before and just wanted to be as good as she could be and she was fantastic.
The Premier Sponsor of the 2019 IFP Gotham Awards is The New York Times, and the Philanthropic Supporter is The Rockefeller Foundation. The Official Water Partner is FIJI Water, the Official Airline Partner is JetBlue, the Official Wine Partner is Robert Hall Winery and the Official Auto Partner is Cadillac.
The film is now playing.