Photo of Lawrence and friend Facetiming with face filters
Photo : Virtual cafe writing with Bhaveek Makan AKA Skinny Local who recently released his new album “Radio Bombay”

Check out Lawrence Le Lam's website for more goodness :

Continuing our series 'Covid-19 Response.' We are asking our creative friends how they are holding up, but more importantly we want to speak about the future of their industries, as we look forward to beating this pandemic. Are there positives to be taken from this collective experience? What are we contributing, and how will their respective industries change?

The third installment of our series takes us back to our hometown. Vancouver, BC to speak to filmmaker, Lawrence Le Lam, on the who, what, why's with him during this time.

SPITGAN : Hey Lawrence, introduce yourself to our readers. Tell us some about yourself.

Lawrence Le Lam : I’m a filmmaker, director/editor reppin' Richmond, BC with an affinity for stories that explore music-centric underground worlds in the Asian diaspora. Currently I’m working as a story designer for the multi-media animated VR experience CHINATOWN XR (produced by Hammer & Tong, in partnership with University of British Columbia's Asian-Canadian and Asian Migration Studies Program) which will take audiences back in time through an elderly Chinese Canadian WW2 veteran's stories about growing up in Vancouver’s Chinatown told to his granddaughter. I’ve recently decided that I'm going to do a fun little music doc about Richmond’s/Vancouver’s/Lower Mainland’s new wave Asian rap scene, and I’m developing my first feature, a coming of age, hip-hopera, and crime drama, "Chinatown Diner".

SG : When was the first day the Coronavirus really hit home for you?
LLL : I really remember March 13, Friday the 13th. My friend was shooting her documentary web series, and she had just finished her last day of shooting when the week after everything shut down. My good friend’s brother got word from work that the next week there was gonna be a lockdown, and when he told me I couldn’t believe it. Everything had change so much within that one single week March 16-20th in Vancouver, BC Canada.

SG : How do you feel about your country's response to the Covid-19 pandemic in general, and specifically to your industry?
LLL : I'm very proud of Canada’s response to the pandemic. I feel safe. I feel supported. I feel my friends are supported and safe. I am happy to be in Canada and not in some other nearby places.

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SG : What have you been doing during this global lockdown period?
LLL : Fortunately there's still work for me to do during this time. I primarily work as an (film) editor, so everything I do can be done virtually. 

In the beginning, I was struggling immensely to be focused and productive working from home because I work best around other people, or in a studio environment. 

One mind-hack I discovered that has been extremely helpful, for writing specifically, is FaceTiming another writer friend. We will chat a little and put on funny face filters. Then we don't talk and just write for a couple hours while sometimes I play coffee shop ambience in the background from YouTube. It actually helps me get into the zone and I can write a lot.

Lawrence's work for Missy D, 'Yes Mama' :

Now I feel like I’ve gotten used to the quarantine, and I’ve been keeping myself quite productive and creative, whereas before I was feeling stir crazy as fxck and just could not focus. Maybe I was slightly depressed. 
My good friend and collaborator, Alex Farah and I recently co-directed, edited, produced, and released, "Yes Mama" by Missy D. It's a Mother’s Day music video which we completed in a week and a half before Mother’s Day. I’m very excited to be a part of this mixed media, animated VR experience (produced by the good folks at Hammer & Tong in partnership with the University of British Columbia’s Asian-Canadian and Asian Migration Studies Program) that takes folks back in time to explore the history of Vancouver’s Chinatown, through the eyes of an elderly Chinese Canadian war veteran telling stories to his granddaughter, Princess Bride style.

SG : What's the first thing you gonna do when you can move freely?
LLL : First thing I’m doing after everything is back to “normal” is dance on a crowded dance floor! I feel like things will never return fully back to normal.

Screen Cap of Lawrence Le Lam facetiming writing partner

SG : Has the pandemic made you assess your business model? What changes will you be making?

LLL : It’s partly made me consider animation, not just because animation post-production is less affected by the pandemic, but because I used to draw a lot. I used to draw cartoons, and design t-shirts. The pandemic has made me wonder if I should pick that skill back up. I might just.
For live action production, that’s a whole other animal in terms of production safety. We shot our music video (for Missy D’s Yes Mama) on a beautiful Friday on May 8th, and we wanted to be as safe as possible. It was hard. We did a four person crew in a large interior house, and we all wore masks and gloves at all times. The gloves on our cinematographer, Leonardo Harim kept breaking because of the equipment he was handling. Also, his glasses kept fogging up because of his mask (poor guy). We had hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. I had a little hand disinfectant spray that I would regularly spray the crew’s hands with. All the crew members including the folks whom we rented the house from had been diligent in quarantining and self-isolating. We did our best, but it feels almost impossible to eliminate all possible risk especially in an interior location and if you’re in the camp that believes our spoken 'moistness' lingers in the air for several hours. As a director, producer, and friend of the crew members, I felt that they were safe, but I was always a little paranoid. It’s hard to tell if you’re being too paranoid with Covid-19 because you just never know. I don’t think it’s possible to eliminate all risk until a vaccine has been widely distributed. I know that BC’s film industry folks are writing up a playbook for how to best and most safely go back into production, but I imagine those big budget large crew productions being a safety nightmare.
I haven’t fully realized how it will change my work on the live action production side of things. I’m still figuring it out and experimenting in that world.

SG : What positive changes do you envision happening to the industry or society in general? Or hope will happen?
LLL :  I can imagine this pandemic forcing a new wave of live action indie films all shot with small crews and long lenses, or more animations or desktop/smart phone device films. That’d be fxcking rad! My hope for society in general is that everyone better develops their ability to be introspective and sit with their thoughts.

SG : We are now all on our own 'islands'. What music is getting you through?
LLL : When I get an ear worm, it stays with me intensely and for a solid period of time.

The opening guitar on, "Colors" by Black Puma hits a sweet nerve in me that gives me those good spine tickles that trickle up to those brain tingles.
The Hood Internet recently released new remixes to all the songs from a certain year and turn them into one song. It’s pretty sweet.
I recently discovered Austra, a Canadian electronic band from Toronto from my bestie, Alexander Farah, and I find "Utopia" to be a great driving song:
Lawrence's work for Janette King 'Love Another' :

Screen cap 3 of Lawrence Le Lam laughing it up with friend on Facetime
Photo 3 : Facetiming and laughing with the homie, Alexander Farah as we plan for Missy D’s Yes Mama music video shoot.

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1 comment

  • Arthur Leung

    Very cool interview guys.

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