The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


SMU student film highlights the Chinese-American experience

The crew of Egg Drop Soup poses with director Yang (bottom, center).

Yvonne Yang settles on the worn gray futon that claims half her office space. The room is decorated with a medley of props from student films of years past, with multicolored string lights providing the room’s only lighting. A mini fridge is tucked in the corner, making the office door rest slightly ajar, and the faint buzzing of the tiny fridge fills the room.

One by one, her crew files into the room and takes seats wherever they can fit. They get up occasionally to grab snacks from the cart by the door, its shelves overflowing with Chinese chips and candies.

“The story of this film is very specific, but still relevant to so many,” Yang said. “I hope we can tell it well.”

Yang pulls a throw blanket across her lap, indicating to the group that it is time to get started on their project.

Here, hidden in the basement of SMU’s Umphrey Lee Center, is the home base for the SMU Film Department’s biannual summer feature film. This year’s film, “Egg Drop Soup,” follows a Chinese-American family navigating differences between traditional Chinese values and contemporary American culture.

The production process will take almost two years, with principal production beginning in June and post-production editing, sound, and coloring occurring over the following year. The final product will premiere at SMU in May 2025, but the crew hopes this story will be premiered at other film festivals. This process will introduce undergraduate film students to what goes into making a professional feature film.

Yang, a senior at SMU and a native Chinese citizen has spent the last three years in the U.S. and is the film’s director. Yang is one of 57 current undergraduate SMU students from China, according to the most recent report from the Office of the Provost in 2023. Yang’s knowledge of Chinese culture enriches the film’s appeal to American audiences while staying true to the values of the film’s Chinese characters.

Ayan Khan, Asian Council’s director of external affairs, emphasized the importance of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) representation in film and media.

“Struggles like those reflected in the film are commonplace for thousands of Asian Americans,” Khan said. “Beyond simply spreading awareness of our struggles, these films allow us to feel seen and know that our experiences aren’t isolated ones.”

Yang was in class with the film’s screenwriter, Kevin Leong, when the story was first developed, and encouraged him to submit the work to be considered for the summer feature film.

“This is such a good script,” Yang said. “I told him that even if you don’t get selected, you’ll get feedback from all of the faculty, which is so valuable. And then it got selected!”

As the only Chinese person working on the film other than the original screenwriter, Yang felt a responsibility to accurately represent her culture but sometimes found it difficult to explain subtle cultural nuances.

“You don’t know how to express it correctly [because] that’s something that’s inherently with you,” Yang said. “And I have to express it to a lot of the crew that are not familiar with the culture.”

Food is a powerful motif throughout “Egg Drop Soup”- it unifies three family generations. Yang often uses food as both an introduction to Chinese culture and a bonding energy to create connections among the film’s crew. This includes inviting the crew to make dumplings at her apartment, touring them around a local Chinese market, and the constant supply of Chinese snacks she keeps stocked in the production office.

Yang had a difficult transition to American culture during her first year at SMU and found it hard to meet new people. She eventually discovered that food, specifically Hershey’s Kisses, was a universal conversation starter.

“I would carry Kisses around in my pocket. That’s my trigger to start a conversation, like, ‘Do you want candy? Do you want to talk?’”

Sarah Kachelhofer, the film’s production designer, laughed recalling how Yang had given her a chocolate bar earlier that day.

“I didn’t even have to ask, [Yang] just noticed that I only like milk chocolate,” Kachelhofer said. “And now I have a constant supply,” she added, laughing.

As the end of the pre-production period nears, Yang is focused mainly on script revision and casting. In the coming months, she is most looking forward to selecting the cast and rehearsing the script with them.

Yang participates in a Zoom meeting with her director of photography. (Lexi Hodson)

“It’s just amazing when you see the actors deliver the lines and you guys can discuss the best way to do it,” Yang said. “They’re also experienced actors so I’ll tell them my vision and they can tell me theirs.”

Yang rises from her office futon, realizing it is time for a meeting with her director of photography. They are formulating the pre-production shot list, which includes over 400 outlined shots with established camera angles, lenses, and other specifications. Her schedule is full of meetings like these, but she doesn’t mind. It is important to her to tell this story well.

“We don’t want the film to die in the department,” Yang said. “The main reason we make films is to share them and tell more people the story.”

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