Q&A with Frances Xu
Director of Take Me Home
Q1. How did the idea for the movie come about and what was the inspiration that drove it?
It came about in a dream I had in 2011, from which I had woken up with an overwhelming sense of joy. It felt like a prophecy. I always knew that it would happen one day, and it would happen through me, not by me. All I did for about six years was waiting and being ready for the prophecy to fulfill itself. I wasn’t even sure about my specific role in the project until a couple of months before we started shooting.
I wanted to share the hope and joy in knowing that there was a road, though less traveled, would lead to true freedom. I also wanted to practice following the Spirit’s guidance and doing something that is beyond me, so that I can be the first witness of something greater at work. That is the real drive and motivation behind the project.
Q2. What is the most important lesson that you have learned through this movie project?
I saw, at the end of the project, that nothing had gone wrong or could ever go wrong despite so many seeming “wrong turns.” I was watching the movie on the big screen in a studio in Lisbon. The colorist was pointing out all the mistakes we had made. For example, half of the movie was shot using an “incorrect” setting on the camera. It took him almost an hour to describe all that had gone wrong. However, while listening to him, all I felt was overwhelming joy. Mistakes lost all their meaning to me in that moment. The movie was getting finished, regardless! And we were all brought to a deeper place of love and connection! This defies all cause and effect in the ego’s logic. I am convinced that everything works together for good and we can never mess it up.
Q3. Was there a particular thing that you had to conquer in order to make this film?
I was hoping, at the beginning, that I could focus only on the big picture, and let the crew or experts handle the details in their fields. But this wasn’t the plan. At some point, it became clear that I had to be the one giving birth to the movie, in almost all aspects. I was pushed in this way to find all answers from within, and guide the team based on that.
Throughout the process of making this film, I received countless ideas on different ways of doing things. However, in order to follow the present inspiration, I had to let go of any attachment to an ideal outcome or any outcome at all! Whenever I was tempted to aim for a future goal, I could feel an internal conflict and a sense of compromise. In order to get the “real work” done, I had to be willing to get nothing done. It is definitely a walk of trust.
Q4. Was it difficult to film with industry professionals without having previous experience in the field?
Yes and no. It expanded me in ways that I didn’t expect. I had the honor of working with some people who are at the top of their game in the film industry. We had to talk through our different approaches and visions, but it was a joyful creative process. Some relationships seemed harder when there was resistance to trust or line up with each other’s vision. However, every encounter provided me with opportunities to go deeper inside and communicate what is true and authentic.
Over the course of two years, I have realized that what comes from a peaceful mind inevitably brings quality, and delivers inspiration and joy. Otherwise, the work can only reflect a confused state of mind and a lack of passion. This helped me pull my attention away from the form of things, and focus only on my state of mind throughout the process.
I witnessed that true quality is inevitable when one follows his heart’s calling.
Q5. How did the relationship with your team members evolve?
We hardly knew each other when starting this project. Now we have formed a deep bond and a life-long connection. They have given me their full trust, and have given this project complete priority in their minds. They had to allow their healing to be shown publicly however they were guided to. Not only did this make my job very easy, but it also showed their integrity and maturity to which I forever hold gratitude in my heart.
Q6. Was it difficult to film with a cinematographer who did not speak any English?
At first, it added complications because we had to find a translator in order for us to communicate anything. But it turned out that working with Acácio was the easiest part of this project. Sometimes language can stand in the way of true connection if it is used for opinions, judgments, or defenses.
Acácio is a master cinematographer who has worked with some of the best directors in the world. And yet, he showed up with such humility and sincerity. He connected to my vision effortlessly, with little need for words. Acácio and I had never talked about the characters, who they were, and the experience they were going through during filming. But he could pull out something profound in every shot. When he was behind the camera, he was following and capturing the light that shines through from inside.
We watched the movie together from beginning to end at the post-production studio in Lisbon. Knowing that he couldn’t understand any dialogue or narration, I offered to send him a copy with Portuguese subtitles once it was ready. But he told me that there was no need, as he understood everything. “This movie is a proposal to meet everyone and everything in life with forgiveness and an open mind,” he said.
Q7. If you could go back, would you change anything?
Looking back, it does seem like there are many things that, if done differently, could have saved us a lot of time and detours. But what I have found out through this process is that the Spirit does not necessarily guide us to be efficient in terms of getting things finished. Rather, it guides us in directions where our capacity for love can be expanded. We have all learned how to love and connect in a deeper and more authentic way. If we were making a movie for a different purpose other than awakening, then a lot of decisions could have been made differently. However, I wouldn’t change anything because I wouldn’t change the purpose we had in making this movie.
Q8. Was there anyone who inspired you about filmmaking?
The whole movie-making process was about an inner search for my true expression while letting go of the rest. Over and over again, I had to make a choice between what touched me and what would be more easily understood or accepted by the audience. I read Andrei Tarkovsky’s memoirs, Sculpting in Time, while I was editing the movie. He used movie-making purely for the purpose of self-discovery. I was very inspired and encouraged by his example.
Q9. What makes a film great for you?
A film is great for me if it comes from a place of inspiration. It can be about anything at all, but it will touch a deep place in my heart if there is care, passion, and inspiration behind the project. A film is also great if it transcends the way in which we see this world, each other, and our lives. It will lift the mind to a place that is beyond reality as we know it, and bridge the gap between our lives to something closer to the real truth.
Q10. What kind of person will enjoy this movie?
This movie is for anyone who has a desire for a different way of relating to each other, and to themselves. People who are inspired to live a life of purpose and joy will be drawn to watch this. Those who are called to go deeper into trust and transparency will love it.
Many scenes in the movie touched me for reasons I cannot explain. During the editing process, I was guided to allow the experience to come through first and foremost, and let everything else become secondary. I hope that you, too, will be touched and healed by the stream of poignant moments that took place in the lives of our characters.