Experiencing Interruptions?

To Sleep

One day after a traumatic event, an Asian-American family must cope with the immediate aftermath and the reality that their relationships will never be the same again.

  • Natalie A. Chao
  • Natalie A. Chao
  • Charlotte Guerry
  • Saki Miata
    Key Cast
  • Joyce Chi
    Key Cast
  • Tim Lounibos
    Key Cast
  • Warner Jeng
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
    Short, Student
  • Genres:
    Drama, family, personal, short
  • Runtime:
    7 minutes 32 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    January 27, 2017
  • Production Budget:
    1,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    Hong Kong
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Natalie A. Chao

Natalie is a filmmaker and aspiring cinematographer currently studying a Bachelors of Arts degree in Film Production at the USC School Of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles. She was raised in Hong Kong by a Cantonese mother and a Filipino/French father. From a very young age, she found growing up in ‘Asia’s World City’ to be a confounding experience, and yet it provided for Natalie an environment of perpetual change, of a borderless reality. In order to make sense of her own identity in a city that lacked one by itself, she searched for a means to articulate her thoughts and attitudes. It wasn’t until the age of 15, when she finally found film to be her consummate mode of expression. Behind the camera, she felt comfortable in encapsulating her world with all its incongruities. Over the years, themes pertaining to time and space have persisted in in all of her work, as she continues to explore how memory, nostalgia and transience are inevitably present in our humble experiences of the world around us.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

TO SLEEP was a project that took many years to materialize. Not in terms of production necessarily but more in terms of my preparedness from an emotional standpoint. If one were to revisit the very first version of this script, they would still be reading a story of familial trauma. And yet, it was clear that I had taken steps to distance myself from the material in fearing that it would become too autobiographical or painful in subject matter. Yet in the next few iterations, it felt necessary to ground the film’s themes in raw emotions – ones which I had never dared to focus on myself during the years following my own mother’s death, which was a complicated experience for me as a 14-year-old.

Even in writing this statement, I feel much more liberated in being able to honestly express the motivations behind the project. While the film’s subject matter is indeed about depression and its immediate effects within a domestic sphere, the true focus of TO SLEEP centers on the uncomfortable relationship between mother and daughter. There is a clear disconnect that I’ve tried my best to portray throughout which expresses the lack of empathy perpetuating their struggle. It is a feeling of discomfort which I found the most difficult in dealing with in my personal experience of and one which I personally felt has not been presented as much in cinema. The absence of feeling towards a loved one, especially at the peak of their suffering, is complex and in some ways will remain unresolved. While TO SLEEP does not portray loss in explicit terms, the mother’s failed attempt yields perhaps even more troubling emotions of guilt and ennui that will can only be overcome by a willingness to empathize on the part of the daughter, which never quite materializes.

Born and raised in Hong Kong, I’ve always struggled to assert my own mixed identity and artistic influences. Suicide is an often hushed subject and a taboo in Asian culture, and this provided an opportunity for me to not only engage with the Asian-American arts community here in Los Angeles (which was the most rewarding experience) but to really find a means to translate my cultural background abroad that felt authentic yet somehow universal. In collaborating with my talented cast members (Saki Miata, Joyce Chi and Tim Lounibos), who were beyond exquisite in their honest and raw approach to crafting the characters’ psyches and emotional arcs, I was able to glean subtle yet powerful performances which could have very easily been skewed towards melodrama.

Ultimately, my goal for this quiet film was to express the dire situation of the mother’s physical presence and mental absence. Her actions have created an inevitable rift in her family’s relationships, which cannot be resolved until her daughter is emotionally mature enough to practice acceptance and empathy. Their final non-confrontation is a harsh reminder of how this missed opportunity to connect is sometimes a cruel reality, and while TO SLEEP is not meant as a critique towards my own behaviour as a teenager, it most certainly aims to depict the inherent loss suffered due to a lost moment in time.