While the subject of a film can be about any idea imaginable, the making of a film rests on one primary foundation; passion. You can be the most skilled artist of a generation but without passion, the message of a film doesn’t connect with an audience or peers. Its presence cannot be visible seen but is most certainly evident when present. Filmmakers recognize this essential quality in each other. Director/writer Yancey Wang is the latest in a long line of those whom have enlisted producer Samantha Gao for both her incredible skill and her deep passion. For this initial film offering from Ms. Wang, she required a producer who could help her achieve her vision while advising her along the way how that vision might be more accurately conjured. A win at the 2020 Los Angeles film awards and recognitions from the London Lift-Off Film Festival, Montreal Independent Film Festival, Bahamas International Film Festival, in addition to numerous other attests to the results of this successful collaboration. A subject matter that far too many of us have dealt with in our youth is depicted in Amicus.
Much of how we navigate society is learned in our school days. The events of Amicus take place in a private school were social lines are clearly delineated and hazing leads to decisions based on one’s character. Perhaps most satisfying is that the film itself does not choose to draw all those lines in black or white but instead presents an ample amount of grey to prompt the audience to question the characters as well as themselves. Samantha Gao’s contributions as producer for this film were prompted by her belief in the message and tactic of the film. She remarks, “This film is a powerful exploration of self-confidence and a fierce stand against the pervasive issue of school bullying. School bullying is a universal issue that transcends geographical boundaries, affecting students of all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life. Personally, I intimately understand this struggle, having faced it myself in fifth grade simply for being different from the ‘popular’ kids. I know firsthand the profound impact it can have on a young person. When I first delved into Yancey's script, the raw authenticity and the pain of confronting school bullying leapt off the page. The characters exude a depth of sympathy that unearths the underlying reasons behind both bullies and their victims – the universal fear of not fitting in and the struggle to feel comfortable in one's own skin. I recognized that this was a story that needed to be told, a narrative that could draw society's attention to this pressing issue and inspire the next generation to embrace their true selves without fear.”
A good producer facilitates the storytelling; a great one enhances it. The climactic point in Amicus is when a tragic car accident occurs, stunning the characters and audience. Understanding the need of establishing the tone this scene in the manner that her director wanted, and eliciting such a powerful emotion from the group of young actors, Samantha took the initiative to design (along with the team) stunt choreography that allowed the entire car stunt sequence to happen all practically. Swiping out a human sized dummy for the child actor being hit, the raw emotion exhibited by the other young actors is a high point of this film and is deeply moving. Samantha also suggested to Yancey that she let the camera continue to roll and allow the actors to improv the discussion that follows this accident, rather than cutting. This scene that ensues establishes the most pivotal point for Thomas (actor Perry Chen Norman). Samantha’s idea not only brought the scene to its full potential but also led to actor Graham Vines (as Marcus) receiving his first best actor win at the 2020 Focus International Film festival due to this exceptional performance in Amicus. With over fifty minor actors and extras appearing throughout this film, Samantha's exceptional eye for talent, coupled with her distinctive grasp of story and character development, played a pivotal role in the success of the casting process. Her astute choices not only ensured the discovery of ideal performers for all roles, but also demonstrated her adeptness in nurturing their acting talent and ultimately translating that talent onto the screen.