I worked with Theresa Loong after she’d attended one of my workshops. After a short time in developing her story and demo, she took off to incredible heights, winning an ITVS grant and screening her films at numerous festivals.

Film Title: Every Day Is a Holiday
Director: Theresa Loong
Executive Producer: Bill Einreinhofer
Producers: Theresa Loong, Ned Gubbins, Michelle Ngo
Length: 56 min.
URL: http://www.everydayisaholiday.org

Film Vitals

Logline: Growing up in suburban New Jersey, filmmaker Theresa Loong knew little about her father’s past. One day, she discovered his secret diary, written during WWII. Every Day Is a Holiday is the inspirational story of how Paul Loong survived a prisoner-of-war camp in Japan and realized his dreams.

Select Festivals, Screenings, Broadcast & Awards

  • Black Maria Film Festival, 2014 (Jury Stellar Award, Documentary)
  • The Newark Museum, 2014
  • Montclair International Film Festival, 2013
  • OCA Asian American Film Festival, Houston, 2013
  • Broadcast on more than 200 public television stations

The Filmmaker

Film School:

“Not really”, Loong says. She took a class in Adobe Premiere at The New School and classes in documentary research and production with Thom Powers and John Walter. “That education was invaluable to me because they are wonderful teachers and creators; they truly love the documentary form.”

Other Studies:

Loong studied social anthropology at Harvard and incorporated photography and videography while researching her thesis.

For a Living:

Loong is an interactive producer and content strategist on transmedia, documentary and narrative projects. She’s worked for AMC Networks on titles such as “The Walking Dead” and “Breaking Bad.” She’s also worked with Intellitoys, which created an interactive toy that tells stories and plays games in Chinese, Spanish, French and English.

Survival Strategy:

Loong says it has been challenging to balance directing independent films and creating interactive media. But fortunately, those worlds are moving more closely together.

Previous Films:

  • The Coast is Clear, director (2012, short documentary)
  • Chicken Fat,director (2010, short music video)
  • So Very Far From Home,associate producer (2007, one-hour doc)
  • Zamboni, director (2008, short documentary)
  • Sing for Hope,producer and editor (2007, short documentary)
  • Young at Arts, producer/director (2006, short documentary)
  • China Now: To Get Rich Is Glorious, researcher (1997, one-hour doc)

The Production

Production Timeline:

  • 105 days of shooting over 15 years
  • 4 months of editing

Shooting Locations:

  • Clark, NJ
  • Various locations in New York
  • Japan
  • England
  • Malaysia

Money Talk:

  • Total budget $217,000 (not including marketing)
  • Money was raised from a variety of grants and independent sources (Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, producer’s cash, friends and family)
  • ITVS production agreement
  • Kickstarter campaign 2011, $11,445
  • The film will also expected to generate revenue with DVD, educational distribution and international sales

Smart Move

In spite of knowing how to edit, Loong acknowledges that she needed an outside perspective and worked with editor Kristen Nutile. Loong says, “I had to take a hard look within myself and realize that, sure, I was giving up a certain degree of control, but that it would make the film so much better.” She also had to take a deep breath and prioritize her finances to pay for the editor, “I have spoken with a number of budding filmmakers who want to make their first one hour/feature and they can’t bring themselves to hire an editor.”

Never Again

“It took me a long time to complete this film”, says Theresa. Now she has the confidence to commit to films and make them in less time. “Check in with me in a few years and let’s see what happens…”

Memorable Moments

Theresa was understandably worried about what her dad would think of the film. When he dad finally saw a 10-minute clip, he said, “That’s the truth.” She also got a rewarding viewer response and received emails from strangers who, inspired by the film, wrote to her. Finally, her biggest satisfaction was to get her father on the Internet to participate in a live chat at pbs.org with another ex-POW. Her brother, a social media expert, also got her dad to do what would become a top-ranking “I Am A” on reddit.com.

Will She Relapse and Make Another Film?

“Alas, yes,” she admits quite readily. Loong is working with a collaborator, Laura Nova, on a transmedia documentary project called “Feed Me a Story.” They offer refreshments in exchange for the story behind a beloved recipe. She is also at the prototype stage for an interactive version of Every Day Is a Holiday. At present she’s a consulting producer on a feature documentary film about campaign finance and working with documentary filmmaker Carol Dysinger on conceptualizing interactive components to “Camp Victory Afghanistan.”

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Published by

Fernanda Rossi
Fernanda Rossi collaborates with filmmakers in all areas of storytelling, from development to fine cut. As an author, international speaker and story analyst she has doctored over 300 documentaries, fiction scripts and fundraising samples, including two nominated for an Academy Award®. Author of Trailer Mechanics: How to Make Your Documentary Fundraising Demo. More info at www.documentarydoctor.com. Follow Fernanda at facebook.com/storydoctoring.