One man's search for the answer to the ultimate question.
Interview with co-writer and producer Jiayi Ying
Congratulations! Why are you making your film?
"What Are You Looking For?" explores what it means to build meaningful connections in today's technology-driven world. At its core, it's about people and how to listen and engage with people. We follow Shiv, a 45-year-old, gay, British-Indian man as he goes back out into the world of dating after 10 years of being single. In addition to his narrative, we interweave the stories and experiences of four couples—ranging in age from 23 - 82—and seek advice and insights from experts in love and relationships. It's a topic that everyone cares about and has to deal with at some point in their lives and, by sharing these stories, we want to make the love + relationships experience less isolating, encouraging people to engage with and embrace their emotions and experiences.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
There's a great sense of, oftentimes, shame and isolation that comes with relationships. With this movie—and through the perspectives of a diverse range of people—we hope to make the audience more embracing of their own experiences. Everyone goes through them. By sharing and celebrating the hard stories in life, we hope to make them a little less hard and we hope the audience walks away, after having seen the movie, more willing to listen and engage honestly with the loved ones in their lives.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
We interweave the personal and universal through the various different narratives presented in the film—Shiv's, the couples', the experts. Each of these strands carry a mix of personal and universal themes—our experiences, however varied in scenarios, are all part of a larger picture. Through Shiv's personal story of readying himself to go back out into the world of dating, we examine what it means and feels like to be single in today's age. Through the couples, we explore what it takes to build a strong relationship between two people—but also expose how hard it is to build that relationship. Something everyone can relate to. Through the experts, we learn the science and theory behind love—universal, general statements—but tie it back to the personal narratives of the subjects in the film.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
Shiv's story evolved most throughout development and production. Going in, we knew we wanted his story to be a central thread, but we didn't know—couldn't know—where it would take us. He hesitated to date at first. He reluctantly dated for a bit. And now he has successfully put himself into the world of dating, but faces the difficulties and emotional turmoils that vulnerability presents. We couldn't plan for these aspects of his life, to be included in the film, we could just go along and see it evolve and unfold. They have changed how we see the film and what the film's message is: To bring a honest, respectful look at and conversation for the hard topic of love and relationships.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
All feedback we've received so far have been tremendously positive. We screened the trailer at Out at the Movies fest in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in October to great reviews. Everyone we have talked to have been positive about the idea for the movie and seem excited to watch it. It helps that the topic is, to an earlier question, both personal and universal. Everyone deals with it. Everyone has something to share. We've had countless people—strangers—open up to us about their personal lives just by mentioning the film. We hope that ongoing feedback will continue to be as supportive.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
To a degree, yes. There were moments, in the midst of production, when we wondered whether the film will have any significance, whether people will catch on to it. I remember a conversation we had en route to a shoot and the uncertainties and doubts overtaking. This was when we had nothing but words and descriptions to show the world. So having positive feedback come through via the trailer has been incredibly supporting and nourishing to us as a small, 2-person outfit. It made the work we did in supporting each other and reminding ourselves that the work we're creating is worthwhile less delusional. There is some validation—at least at this point.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
We hope to be connected to more industry people who can help us bring the film further. At this point, we will have all filming locked down by December. But we need an editor to make the footage into a film. And then we need help with sales and distribution. We hope to reach as many audiences as possible with the film and, as a two-person team with relatively little on-the-ground experience in the film world, we'd like to have any help we can get. Always be learning, right?
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
Editors (both video and sound), lawyers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists—everyone to help push the film through its last leg and out into the world. Post-production is the area where we truly need a village to make a difference in the impact the film may have. We've bootstrapped for pre-production and production, working as an unpaid small team and reaching out for pro bono help where possible. But this upcoming part we need all the help we can get. We don't have much experience or connections in this area and would appreciate all support we can get.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
I think, especially in the political environment we find ourselves now, we want the film to leave people with a feeling of being understood and of listening to and valuing others' experiences—and see and understand how those experiences mirror theirs. Despite our seeming differences, we are not all that different. Through something as personal and as universal as love + relationships, we hope to make audiences more open to being vulnerable and respectful of each other.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
What are you looking for? The discussions and debates and introspection this question triggers is a big reason why we named the film "What Are You Looking For?" Throughout filming, we've seen Shiv being asked multiple times, as he shared his personal story with others, about what it was that he was looking for in a partner. He didn't have the answer to it. But that question turned out to be vital—and central—to his narrative.
Would you like to add anything else?
Not at this moment. I think this was a very comprehensive questionnaire. I appreciated how it pushed me to think about different aspects of the film. I'm happy to discuss it further if you have more questions.
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
Our core team is me, Jiayi Ying, and Shiv Paul. I co-wrote and produced the film. Shiv also co-wrote and produced the film in addition to directing. We hired a cameraman, Sergei Krasikov, to help us on the technical aspects of the shoot. Our bios are below.
Shiv Paul made his first film, Queens at Court, in 2014. This 20-minute short on diversity showcased the lives of LGBT amateur tennis players from the international Gay and Lesbian Tennis Alliance tour. Jean, an ex-military serviceman with PTSD, Giselle a male to female transgender woman, and Chip an obese man discuss in interviews how tennis and its community helped them to overcome their adversities and to gain a sense of self.
In 2014 the United States Tennis Association sponsored a US tour of Queens at Court at several pro tournaments including Citi Open in Washington, DC, Rogers Cup in Toronto, and the Winston Salem Open in North Carolina. Queens at Court played at several film festivals such as Sonoma International Film Festival, Frameline - San Francisco, Out at the Movies Fest, Winston Salem, ShOUT, Birmingham UK, Queer Film Festival, Italy, and still plays on the film festival circuit today.
Jiayi Ying is a writer and producer based in New York. She's written everything from profiles on up-and-coming fashion designers to podcast episodes on organizational culture to TV comedy scripts in the works. Ever since learning English from watching Lizzie McGuire in middle school, she's wanted to work in film and television. She's currently producing her first feature, What Are You Looking For?, a documentary on love and relationships which she co-wrote. It is slated for release in Spring 2017.
Sergei Krasikov is a New York-based documentary filmmaker and Director of Photography. His most recent projects include a feature documentary about musician Connie Converse and a short doc for Steinbeck National Center.
Interview: November 2016
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
What Are You Looking For?
One man's search for the answer to the ultimate question.
Length: 75 minutes
Director: Shiv Paul
Producer: Jiayi Ying & Shiv Paul
Writer: Shiv Paul & Jiayi Ying
About the writer, director and producer: See above!
Key cast: Mandy Len Catron, Moira Weigel, Avis Pohl, Satinder Singh, Deborah Sass, Sam Gladding, Damon L. Jacobs
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): Editors, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists
Funders: Self-funded & crowd-funding via Kickstarter (link here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1884036956/what-are-you-looking-for)
Made in association with: Brindian Films
Release date: April 2017