Actress, producer and director Livi Zheng initially didn't set out to direct Brush with Danger, her new film about a brother and sister who illegally immigrate to Seattle and then find themselves in a bit of trouble after they trust the wrong people. The film opens on Friday at Tower City Cinemas.
"When I came to the U.S., I always wanted to produce," says Zheng, 25, who'll attend the 7 p.m. screening on Saturday with her co-star, brother Ken Zheng, and local filmmaker Johnny K. Wu. "We wanted to find a director that we would all like. The director we really wanted was doing another project. My producer thought I should direct it. They supported me and I wanted them to co-direct but they didn't want to. I called my dad and he said, 'Are you crazy? Take the job.' I fell into it and I liked it."
She's even finished her next film, a martial arts flick starring Tony Todd, Keith David and John Savage.
"Being a director is kind of nice," she says. "When you're a producer, you have to deal with the pain-in-the-ass director. This way, I get to be the pain in the ass. I like it but I still have a lot to learn. But I think I'm improving little by little."
Zheng wrote the script for Brush with Danger, a film she shot over a mere 27 days. She channeled her own personal experiences as an immigrant into the movie; she was born in East Java and then lived in Jakarta and China before attending the University of Washington.
"When we were in elementary school, it was just me and him in China and we didn't speak the language at all," she says. "It's not exactly like my life but it kinda sorta reflects my life. My character is a little like my relationship with my brother in real life."
The film has a bit of martial arts in it but isn't a martial arts film per se. That might change, though, as Zheng embraces the role of directing martial arts movies from a female perspective.
"For these films, I used a stunt coordinator who's Asian and he told me to brand myself as a female action director because there's no one who does that, even in Asia," she says. "I never thought of it that way, but it's a cool thing."