Experiencing Interruptions?


POP! follows the travails of an unemployed, thirtysomething Chinese American woman living at home with her mother, as she obsesses over ways to remedy or mask her adult acne in time for a family friend’s Chinese New Year banquet, where she hopes to reunite with an old high school crush.

  • Alexandra Hsu
    Sophie, Our Way Home, Rencontres Paysannes
  • Michael Cumes
    The Romance Class
  • Alexandra Hsu
    Sophie, Our Way Home
  • Roxy Shih
    Seahorses, The Tribe
  • Michelle Ang
    Key Cast
    Fear the Walking Dead, Triple 9
  • Cindera Che
    Key Cast
    Moonwalker, Crazy Ex Girlfriend
  • Amir Malaklou
    Key Cast
    Secret in Their Eyes, Major Crimes
  • Project Type:
    Short, Student
  • Genres:
    Drama, Comedy
  • Runtime:
    22 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    December 31, 2022
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
    Chinese, English
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital, Alexa Classic
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
    Yes - NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Asia
Director Biography - Alexandra Hsu

Alexandra Hsu is a Chinese American director/producer from Orange County, CA. The primary motivation behind her work is to give voice to untold stories that stimulate conversation and help build bridges across cultures. She started making documentaries in college, where she realized her passion for authentic storytelling. Alexandra has directed three short films: Sophie (Hong Kong), Our Way Home (Long Island, New York), and Rencontres Paysannes/Farmers Dating (France). Each of these films have premiered at Oscar-qualifying film festivals, including Austin FF, Foyle FF, HollyShorts, and BendFilm, in addition to being screened around the world. She is currently submitting POP! to festivals, her NYU thesis film starring Emmy-nominated actor Michelle Ang, as well as a new short she was hired to direct called Unwavering.

As part of the inaugural CBS Leadership Pipeline Challenge in 2021, Alexandra directed the short film Unread for the non-profit SafeBae. During 2019-2020, she was a resident in the SFFILM FilmHouse Residency, where she received support on her feature, Queens, which was also a finalist for the SFFILM Fall 2019 Westridge Grant. Queens was also a finalist for the Big Vision Empty Wallet Lab and the Giant Leap Accelerator. NBC News also highlighted Alexandra as the Kearny Street Workshop Featured Artist in Film at the 20th APAture Arts Festival. Over the last five years, Alexandra has participated in the Women in Film Mentoring Program as a director, the Asia Society Asian Women Empowered Program, Unlock Her Potential, and is currently a Creator in the Gold House Futures Network. She was also selected for KSW’s Interdisciplinary Writers Lab and Cine Qua Non Lab (CQNL) Storylines Lab. At CQNL, she developed a feature about her great-grandmother Zhang Youyi. Alexandra is currently developing her first feature a coming-of-age psychological suspense Beach House. Alexandra received an MFA from NYU Tisch School and a BA from Scripps College with a double major in Media Studies and Asian Studies.

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Director Statement

Part drama, part comedy, POP! evokes the sometimes absurd ups and downs of Millennial life. The story was inspired by my own experiences, chiefly the fact that I have struggled with acne for the last 20 years. It began in junior high and continued through high school, college, and graduate school. Despite all the experts I’ve consulted and the many different remedies I’ve tried, I’ve never been able to get rid of my acne completely.

The idea of writing a story based around these experiences percolated in my head for several years. But I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to broadcast my adult acne so publicly. Acne can be a sensitive and embarrassing issue. I couldn’t think of even one film that dealt with the issue seriously. In fact, the only examples I’d seen depicted acne through stereotypical characters like teenagers or nerds who were usually the butt of the joke.

My aim was to create a story that was both personal and honest. This made me think about how acne and our physical appearance are very much tied to confidence, especially for women. I also wanted to make a film that was based in Orange County,California, my hometown. In certain parts of the OC, people are obsessed with their looks. The culture is heavily influenced by Hollywood and the film and entertainment industry. Because the OC is more of a coastal county (think beach body goals) and because of its wealth and attitudes, there is an extreme and conscious effort to look healthy. But what “healthy” actually means is looking flawless all the time. Even when you’re in your workout clothes.

With all this in mind, a character began to form in my mind: A young woman contending with body image and self-confidence, striving for independence as an adult woman, and reflecting on what she wants for her life—all while breaking free from her mother’s expectations and desires for her. When I shared this potential story with a few close friends and collaborators, the response was overwhelmingly positive. They said they hadn’t seen acne discussed like this before and they were touched that it was inspired by my own personal experiences. I realized this was a story I had to tell.

While I was thinking about casting for the role of Jennifer, I had lunch with Michelle Ang, an acquaintance from the film world. She told me that as a Chinese New Zealander actress, she was tired of playing stereotypical Asian characters who were either martial artists, doctors/lawyers/smart characters with glasses, or overly sexualized Asian women. She wanted to play a woman who felt real, who didn’t wear makeup, who was dealing with ordinary, relatable issues. I hadn’t previously considered Michelle for the part, but her comments hit a nerve. Michelle ended up being the perfect person to play Jennifer.

Ultimately, POP! is both a mother-daughter story and a tale about what it means to be an adult (even one who still suffers from acne). It’s about realizing that sometimes we are our own harshest critics, and the way we see ourselves is often out of sync with the way others see us. I will never forget screening a rough cut of this film for the faculty at NYU Tisch, after which my dean told me he had never even noticed my acne. I was touched.