Sneak Out, a short film supported by the New Zealand Film Commission and the Asia New Zealand Foundation, tells the story of a Chinese New Zealand father grappling with bringing up his daughter, Lisa, in a Western society.
Writer and director Ying Ly She said the idea for the short film script, where Lisa gets more than she bargained for after sneaking out her house one night, came “from a number of different places, but luckily it wasn’t autobiographical!”
“I did use to sneak out at night, but luckily nothing terrible happened to me and my parents never found out. But mishaps would happen to my friends, and we were so young then that anything's possible.
“As a teenager, it's difficult to see where your parents are coming from when you just want your own independence, so this is a nod to them to say that I understand now.”
Ly, who has worked as a director on a number of commercials and for UK television channels, said Sneak Out presented a variety of challenges for the actors and crew during the four-day shoot.
“We had mainly night set-ups, with lots of locations, in the middle of winter on a low budget. I think that’s the last time I’ll write a script like that!”
Producer Lani Feltham said a scene in the film where the father and daughter let off Chinese lanterns was particularly problematic. “I was so worried about letting them off over the water, because when they get up in the sky, they look like maritime distress flares.
“To make matters worse, the location we chose was Mechanics Bay, right next to where helicopters take off and land. We did let the coastguard and heliport know though, and we had a pyrotechnics specialist there to make sure no one got hurt.
“The scene in the spa was also challenging. Our actors were in the pool for eight hours and it was a freezing night. They had to get in and out all the time, and we must have used 100 towels trying to keep them warm and dry. We had people running off with bags of towels to dryers all over Auckland.
“To top it all off, there was a tri-nations rugby match on, and all the neighbours were yahooing!”
Ly said the film’s theme, about a teenager wanting to assert independence, and a parent wanting to hold on, was universal to many families, but said it was one close to her as a Vietnamese refugee growing up in New Zealand.
“Lisa discovers danger can sometimes come with freedom. And her father realises that – no matter how strict he is – his child will ultimate learn life's lessons her own way, and that what's most important is communicating.”
The film is currently being submitted to festivals overseas, but Ly is certain of one place she wants it to show.
“I hope it gets accepted into the New Zealand Film Festival. I really want people in my home country to see it on the big screen.”
The Asia New Zealand Foundation gave a grant toward sound design and editing work on Sneak Out.
1. Sneak out writer and director Ying Ly.
2. On the film set.