Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | “Lumina” Asian American/Canadian online web thriller filmed in Hong Kong debuts
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“Lumina” Asian American/Canadian online web thriller filmed in Hong Kong debuts

"Lumina" is an online-only series, an independently-filmed thriller written and produced by Asian American Jennifer Thym in Hong Kong.

You’ve gotta love the Internet. I was contacted some weeks back by Jennifer Thym, the Asian American writer and director of “Lumina,” a new online-only thriller serial debuting this summer.

The movie project features an Asian American lead as well as Asian Canadian actors, and the whole thing is filmed in Hong Kong, where Thym has lived for the past two years.

The trailer certainly is cool and mysterious and makes me want to see the series kick off (I subscribed to the email alerts from YouTube whenever a new installment is posted):

Here’s what she says about the project on her Rock Ginger blog:

Lumina Wong is pretty and hardworking, but still feels lonely and isolated in a city of millions. Late one night, Lumina has a chance encounter with Ryder Lee, a handsome young man from another world that she can see in mirrors and darkened window reflections. She revels in the fantasy relationship until mirrorspy Eben Sanchez comes into her life, warning her of the treacheries of the people of the Dark Realm. Soon Lumina must choose between the safety of the world she knows and the deadly allure of the unknown.

Directed and written by Jennifer Thym (RockGinger) and produced by Sommer Nguyen (Sommertime Productions), LUMINA stars JuJu Chan (The Other End of the Gun, TVB People’s Choice Award for Miss Chinatown USA 2009), Michael Chan (star of the viral YouTube sensation, Wall Street Fighter IV) and Vince Matthew Chung (winner of the Amazing Race Asia 3) as well as many talented AlivenotDead artists.

LUMINA is a daring thriller web series filmed on location in Hong Kong with the cutting edge RED One camera at 4K resolution (2:1 aspect format) by Directors of Photography XiaoSu Han and Andreas Thalhammer (Baseline, Flashes, Fremdkoerper (English title: Impurity)). The series will feature music from the independent Asian music collective, The Enigmatic Army.

I wanted to find out more about the movie and its origins, so I sent Jennifer an email, and she responded with such straighfroward answers that instead of trying to edit everything together, I decided to just copy the exchange here as a Q and A:

Tell me something about yourself. Are you native to Hong Kong? Or are you Asian American -Canadian? Did you study film? What’s your previous experience?

I’m Asian American – born, raised and educated in the US – but I’m also a long time expat, having lived in Austria and the United Kingdom prior to relocating to Hong Kong. I’ve been in Hong Kong for two years now, and I’m enjoying it immensely.

I have no formal film training, but that’s the beauty of the internet nowadays. You can teach yourself so much by reading tutorials and film blogs online, as well as listening to the director commentaries on DVD’s. When I decided to enter the film industry in July 2008, I went to a few indie film social gatherings and then I volunteered as a line producer on a short film in August 2008. I wrote LUMINA in September/October and then we filmed it over two weeks at the end of last year.

I may not have the most traditional approach to filmmaking, but it was most certainly fun! I am a big fan of interdisciplinary work as well, so I feel that my previous experience in law and finance has in some way contributed to way I approach filmwork now.

Tell me the concept behind the web series. Why online? To stir up interest in an eventual theatrical; release, or TV deal or DVD package? And, how will it work? That is, will new episodes be posted weekly? I subscribed to the YouTube feed so I’ll be alerted when you post something new.

Thanks for subscribing! The first season of LUMINA will be released weekly via our website,, YouTube and other platforms. Viewing is free. If you like us, please support us by buying our merchandise and (eventually) DVD’s and CD’s!

Our goal at this stage is to test our filmmaking craft with a global audience – we know we can make films, but can we make distinctive films that are worthwhile to watch? If we entertained our viewers, if we brought something different to their day, then we’ve succeeded. If we get really lucky and alot of people like us, then hopefully we’ll get more projects financed!

Is it already done? That is, are you just breaking up the story into pieces to show as a series? Or are you writing as you go? Which leads to the next question:

I wrote LUMINA as a web series, so the original script is divided into ten webisodes, roughly five pages apiece, and each webisode has a distinctive beginning, middle and end. However, to be efficient with our locations and resources, it was better to shoot it all at once like a film, and not episode by episode like a TV series. And now in post production, I am finding that I am “rewriting” again, so we may have eleven or twelve webisodes instead of ten! There’s a fantastic quote from film editor Barry Malkin (Godfather series, Big) that elegantly sums up the process: “It doesn’t matter what you thought you wrote, and it doesn’t matter what you thought you planned, all you got is what you really got.”

Will there be audience interaction? Will fans be able to guide the story line once they get the hang of it?

Since we shot everything for the first season already, there won’t be any direct audience input into this part of the storyline. I do find the interactive features on YouTube interesting, and I would like to experiment more with them in the future.

Just curious: How the hell are you financing such a high-level project? 🙂

Savings! The deceptive thing about these “indie budgets” is that they often don’t take into account the value of donated time, equipment or locations. So saying something was made for $300 sounds great as a soundbite, but it’s not really representative of the value of everyone’s work.

LUMINA is financed partially up front by me, and partially through the cast and crew deferring their payments. I’m incredibly lucky to have met a wonderfully supportive group of like-minded people who helped me get LUMINA made – it’s terrific having friends who will work 18 hours straight alongside you for two weeks solid, despite cramped conditions and lousy weather, and still be your friend afterwards! But seriously, supporting LUMINA directly supports the community that helped make it, and I’m hoping for the best for everyone who worked on it!

I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to the launch of the series. Check the website for a date — Jennifer Thym says the team is editing the film now, and she’s aiming to post the first installment in August, and they’ll air weekly and a couple of weeks will feature two episodes.