When I was young, I never thought of myself as a creative person.
Correction: I never let myself think I was creative.
That simply wasn’t allowed. Being creative wasn’t the hard-working, immigrant, Chinese American way. And yes, my parents expected me to become a doctor. (I’ll jump ahead and say that I didn’t.)
When they moved to America, my mother waited tables at a Chinese restaurant. My father processed soy sauce in a factory. And even though we shared a one-bedroom apartment in Chinatown with my grandparents, I got to sleep in my own private room: the closet. For my family, this was the American dream.
You see, my parents had it much worse in China. They were farmers in rural Guangzhou living in post-Cultural Revolution poverty. My mom told me that if a single grain of rice fell on the floor, she’d pick it up and eat it because she never knew when her next meal would be. But I’m not supposed to share details of their hardship like this because it’s discouraged in Chinese custom to dwell on one’s struggles. Survival means looking forward and working hard.
Despite all the sacrifices they made to send me to college hoping I would land a financially secure profession, I chose a career in creativity. They implored me to stop writing and performing improv, and delivering TEDx speeches. Chinese daughters are supposed to study hard, smile politely, and obey their husbands. Chinese daughters are not supposed to introduce new ideas or fight stereotypes. That would get a Chinese daughter exiled or killed in the next Cultural Political "Revolution".
“Neither Here Nor There” is a story about a first-generation Chinese American woman working to reconcile the traditions of the past with the ideals of the present. It’s about the struggles of everyday women who are fighting the social expectations that tend to put us in boxes. It’s a story that has weight in its origin, even if there's levity in its delivery.
By poking fun at the prevailing expectations, I hope to elevate the Chinese American perspective and further amplify the female voice.
When I wasn’t sure my story was funny enough or meaningful enough, it gave me great optimism and gratitude that so many raised their hands to join this project, even though there was almost no budget.
It's been a team effort and we all hope you enjoy the result!
"I was immediately drawn to this story and wanted to help bring it to life," says Director Kate Montgomery. "I love the way Janene pokes fun at gender politics, the advertising world, life coaching and her quirky multi-generational Chinese American family—but always does so with heart and with characters who are not stereotypical."
Kate is best known for her award-winning Native American romantic comedy "Christmas in the Clouds," which premiered at The Sundance Film Festival and went on to win top prizes at Austin & Santa Fe. Her producing credits include the digital indie "Ever Since the World Ended," which won the San Francisco Independent Film Festival and London Sci Fi Film Festival.
Kate's current projects include the San Francisco-based dramatic feature "Outerlands" with writer-director Elena Oxman ("Lit"), the US-Chinese action-packed co-pro "III Winds" and her own romantic comedy "Hooking up Hannah". Montgomery works as a story editor for studios & producers in the US, UK & Canada, and teaches screenwriting and comedy writing at The Writing Salon in Berkeley & San Francisco. Her background includes five years of commercial production and ten years in publishing, where she worked for "The New York Times" and "The Wall Street Journal". A member of the Directors Guild of America, and the Writers Guild of America, she lives in the East Bay of San Francisco.