Synopsis: Take Out is a day-in-the-life of Ming Ding, an illegal Chinese immigrant working as a deliveryman for a Chinese take-out shop in New York City. Ming is behind with his payments on his huge debt to the smugglers who brought him to the US. The collectors have given him until the end of the day to deliver the money that is due. After borrowing most from friends and relatives, Ming realizes that the remainder must come from the day's delivery tips. In order to do so, he must make more than double his average daily income.
In a social-realist style, the camera follows Ming on his deliveries throughout the upper Manhattan neighborhood where social and economic extremes exist side by side. Intercutting between Ming's deliveries and the daily routine of the restaurant, Take Out presents a harsh and realistic look at the daily lives of illegal Chinese immigrants in present day New York City
There's nothing like a drink after work, especially if it's to catch up with an old friend. I hadn't seen Charles in a while, but had heard his movie "Take Out" was going to distribution and the first stop for this movie was New York City. This piqued my interest and after a few calls, we decided to meet at a bar in Union Square for a couple of drinks, and to discuss "Take Out".
I had seen this movie before, years back, but didn't know too much about it. So I decided to wait until Charles was nice and toasty from a couple of extra dirty martinis, then began prying into the life of the indie film actor.
Interview: Charles Jang (Take Out Movie)
interviewed on May 31,2008
How'd you get involved into this project in the first place?
I saw an audition listing for Chinese actors but there are not an abundance of roles for Asian actors in general so I figured since I speak Mandarin Chinese I'd give it a shot. It wasn't until I was officially cast as Ming Ding did I disclose that I was Korean.
What were the directors's reaction?
Sean couldn't really tell the difference anyway but Shih-Ching, the taiwanese director, said she had a feeling I was Korean.
Why did they decide to keep you on even though you were korean?
I guess I delivered what they were looking for. Take Out is not so much character driven as it is plot driven -- the movie aims to shed light on the neglected demographic that Ming Ding belongs to and the harsh life they live.
How long were you in China for?
Taiwan. I was in Taipei for about 10 months.
What were you doing there?
Although I started off as an econ major, I wanted to study something creative, maybe the performing arts. My dad was like, I have a shotgun and a shovel, I will kill you boy! Just kidding, he didn't say that but he pretty much was like, how are you going to find a wife? You're going to study acting? No one's going to want to marry you. No one wants to marry an actor. I was like, what about design? Advertising and design? That's creative. I can do that. There's some sort of business sense to it, but it also requires creativity. So that was the compromise. I needed to get a portfolio together so I left the US to make one or else I would never have been able to dedicate the time without being distracted from friends.
When I first saw the movie at the private screening - it looked very raw, like raw footage and little music. Actually, there was no music. What's happened to the movie since then?
What you saw was the director's cut at Cantor Theatre -- since then, the film has been edited down, color and audio mastered with an additional scene so you could say it is a much more evolved version of the original.
How did you prepare for the role?
For character study, I had the opportunity of spending some time with actual illegal immigrants from day in to day out.
How many hours would you say they work?
I'd say on average 12 hours a day, 6 days a week.
What kind of money would you say they make?
I guess it varies. Recently, take out delivery men have been protesting restaurants in manhattan, I wont say which, but some of them get paid really bad. I would say their salary could get as low as 2 to 3 dollars an hour. It really depends on the owner.
The restaurant that we were shooting out of, the owner was a good man, and even then they weren't making much. They were probably making average, or a little bit above average. But surprisingly, they didn't seem miserable. In fact, they seemed happy to just be eating food every day. And making the American dollar.
The actual movie took place mostly in an actual restaurant?
Yeah, in the upper west side in the 100s. Near ColumbiaUniversitywhere there's like a thin line between social classes. If you go one avenue over, you're in the hood, and if you go another avenue over, you see people eating brunch. That's the neighborhood it was in and the deliveries that were made in the film shows that contrast.
In the movie, the deliveries seemed very real. Were they?
All of the deliveries were staged, some by professional actors, some by non professionals
After making the movie, how did your attitude towards take out people change?
I'm embarrassed to admit but before I was guilty of not really paying attention to take out delivery people. Working on Take Out reminded me that there are more to take out delivery men then just being the guys who deliver lunch specials. Getting caught up in a sheltered and privileged life conditions people to write-off these sort of workers as a sort automaton in human form.
Alright, now tell me the truth, how did the way you tip change after making this movie?
I definitely have a higher level of awareness and consideration when it comes to tipping the delivery guy. Other viewers would also agree that they can't help but tip a little more after watching the film. I also can't help but look at the take out delivery man and wonder if he's going through the same struggle that Ming Ding is.
Are you doing anything with acting right now? What about Sean or Shih-Ching?
It's funny because after Take Out, I got cast in 2 separate short films as an illegal immigrant delivery man and knockoff goods peddler respectively. I haven't signed on to any new projects just yet but hopefully I'll have the chance to expand the diversity of my work.
Sean has a new feature that is hitting the festival circuit called Prince of Broadway. He and Shih-Ching are also planning another feature film which is still in discussion.
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