By Andrew Hamlin
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Jules East, writer, director, and co-producer of “River of Ghosts,” is quick to explain that she didn’t intend to grow up to be a filmmaker. But she went, finally, with her instinctive manner of storytelling.
“At 12, I decided to become a writer,” said East. “However, I find that my story ideas come to me in motion pictures. I basically write down what I see in my mind, literally pausing them, just like when one is watching a movie, just to write them down.”
East grew up in Malaysia, although she identifies more as an OC (Overseas Chinese), because her family, immediate and extended, live outside of China, but mingle mostly among other family.
“[My] most pivotal memory of growing up is seeing how hard my parents worked for a very small amount of income, not free to do what they want to do.”
Asked if her Asian heritage influences her work, she replied, “Absolutely! I am trying to make an American/Chinese horror/action film. I’m trying to bring something from Chinese culture to the audience of the world. Have you seen a Chinese seance and exorcism? It is totally different from the West!”
She did find inspiration in her favorite movie stars and directors. “Many actors I love, such as Tony Leung Ka-fai, Chow Yun-fat, Donnie Yen, Jackie Chan, etc. I hope that I get to work with some of my favorite actors one day. I think they work very hard and acting is really not easy.
“I have many directors that I love, too. For example, Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorsese. I like film directors who are able to let you forget that you are watching a film.”
Then came the formal work, getting down to business. “I started by writing screenplays, because I feel that I spend more time thinking about and being entertained by my own stories generated in my mind than watching TV.
“After moving to California from Texas, I met some independent filmmakers, wrote some low-cost movie scripts for them, and thought I could do that [for myself], too! Artak Parsian (cinematographer on “River of Ghosts”) was, and still is, my most important collaborator, because both of us started from zero, and we motivate each other to get better.”
“River of Ghosts” marks East’s first feature film, although she shot a short film before taking the big leap. The film concerns a bright young fellow returning to the small town where he grew up, to practice hypnotherapy. His practice works out well at first, but he runs across a middle-aged woman in a troubled marriage, who wants relief from her chronic pain. Their therapy work might just link up with a recent disappearance, and/or even murder.
Said East, her story “really is about somatic symptoms, manifested within and outside of human beings, that sometimes can appear like authentic haunting experiences. Somatic symptoms can manifest itself as physical pains, distortions and hallucinations, extraordinary human strength, even immune system triggers/reactions. They are all caused by suppressed traumatized experiences in life.”
She took her crew to Mendocino, California, for 14 days of shooting. Due to “the budget and time constraint, we had to basically aim to get every shot in under three takes.
“Most challenging aspect? The unexpected mold allergy of mine, and the main actor Conner Floyd on the set. He got admitted into the hospital for a day due to the allergy.”
Not that East plans to slow down, for allergies or anything else.
“I have in my bag three horror scripts, one thriller script, and one action script. I am actively pitching and writing new scripts. Not discounting a TV pilot/series as well. If you wanna hear stories and produce a film, I’m your gal.”
“River of Ghosts” currently streams across all major streaming platforms, including Prime, Vudu, ITunes, and Apple.