Back to IndieWire

Guest Post: Writing the Change You Wish to See in Hollywood

Guest Post: Writing the Change You Wish to See in Hollywood

My screenwriting debut, Pretty Rosebud, depicts the journey of Cissy, a professional,
career-driven woman trapped in a childless marriage to a long-unemployed
architect. Although she seems to have an ideal life from the outside, striving
to be everything to everybody has driven Cissy to her breaking point. We follow
Cissy as she bucks tradition, breaks social taboos, and searches for her own, self-defined life path, unveiling shocking truths along the way. 

We all want to see stories from Hollywood that are more
representative of ourselves. Especially as women. Especially as people of
color.

When I tell people I grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, people
are surprised to hear that there is a community of Chinese- and
Filipino-Americans there. I chalk this up to the consistently
myopic representation of Middle America in the media. Hollywood has the power to either perpetuate
antiquated perceptions or relate new worlds to people unfamiliar with them. It has, unfortunately, consistently done the former. 

I count myself as part of the latter group. I wrote Pretty
Rosebud
for a number of reasons. One, I knew there were plenty of women who
were the sole or primary breadwinners in their household (I have been one
myself), but it was difficult to find their stories in
entertainment media.

Two, I wanted to challenge the ludicrous perception that men are “players,” but women are “sluts” – and the small-minded cliché that men
cheat for sex and women cheat for love. Lastly, I wanted to depict the story of someone battling the pressure to be perfect at work, at church, and around family — who just happens to not be male or white. A universal story told through the eyes
of an Asian-American woman.

As a young girl, I remember the advice given to me from my
Chinese father and Filipino-Spanish mother: to succeed in America,
non-whites have to work twice as hard as whites. And being female, I’d have to
work twice as hard as that. Basically, four times as hard. Wow — that’s a lot
of work. And they weren’t even adding the entertainment industry to the
equation.

The question is: Will that ratio ever change? My hope is
that it will, and to some extent, it already has. But we must remain vigilant
and work toward achieving greater diversity on and off screen. To paraphrase
Martin Luther King, Jr., my hope is that one day people will be judged not by
the color of their skin, or the arrangement of their chromosomes, but by the
content of their character.

At a screening for Pretty Rosebud, a man (referencing
Cissy’s affairs) asked the woman next to him, “Wow, are women really like that?” She
retorted, “No, but men often are.” “Oh.” The man stopped, and a look of recognition
crossed his face. He realized that he wouldn’t have thought twice if it were a
male character being the breadwinner and having an affair, but since it was a woman, it
gave him pause.

At another screening, a Muslim woman shared with me that she
had felt the exact same pressures and expectations coming from her parents,
even though the protagonist is an Asian-American Catholic. 

Stories are universal. The challenge is for Hollywood to
reflect that reality and foster diversity, above and below the line. For our production, we
cast Asian-American, African-American, Latino, and Caucasian actors. And our producer, cinematographer, editor, production designer, and costume
designer were all women.

Hollywood may be (predominantly) white and a man’s world, but it’s changing. And I’m trying to do what I can to help bring that change by writing the change I want to see in the movies. 


Chuti Tiu is an award-winning actress and screenwriter. Her
feature film,
Pretty Rosebud, had a limited theatrical run and is now
available on iTunes. It will be released on cable VOD February 3.

This Article is related to: Features and tagged ,