Tisch Senior Talks Making Thesis Film ‘Paper Daughters’


Alexander Lu

Alexander Lu’s character Mi-Jiang, for his film “Paper Daughters.” The fictional immigrant child is based on Lu’s 12 year old sister.

Ethan Sapienza, Film Editor

Last week, WSN sat down with Tisch Film and TV senior Alex Lu to discuss the process of making a student film at NYU. While the steps may be familiar to those within the major, those outside often don’t understand what’s required to make a 10-minute film, which traditionally acts as the thesis of the major. Financing, location scouting, permits and assembling a cast and crew — among a myriad of other tasks — are left up to students to handle.

It’s an endeavor, to say the least. The Film and TV program mainly provides support by supplying precious equipment and a class — Advanced Narrative — to help get each student’s film made. In the class, peers and professors give constant feedback on projects so each film produced in the class is the very best it can be. Just about everything else is up to the student.

For Lu’s film, titled “Paper Daughters,” he chose to shed some light on a largely unknown piece of American history: Angel Island. Located off the coast of San Francisco, the island was the entry point into the U.S. for thousands of Chinese immigrants from 1910 to 1940. Due to the strict regulations of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, many immigrants had to covertly obtain false identities that alleged they had relatives currently living in the United States.

Once on the island, the immigrants — dubbed “paper sons” thanks to their falsified documentation — were subjected to an intense interrogation that probed the identities they used. The interrogation proved to be a tremendously invasive test where immigrants needed to memorize every last detail of their identities in order to gain entry.

Lu’s film focuses on the trials of two fictional sisters or “paper daughters” — who are based on his own sisters — Mi Jiang, 12, and Ping, 16. When their mother dies shortly before entry, Ping decides to claim to be her sister’s mother as the entry of young, unattended sisters was unlikely. The film focuses on the process leading up to their interrogation and the grueling, unfair process of immigration.

Below is our full conversation with Lu, where we discussed all the specifics involved with making a student film, the upcoming shoot and his plans to shop the film to be made into a feature at festivals upon completion.

For more information, check out the “Paper Daughters” Indie Gogo page here.

Email Ethan Sapienza at [email protected]