Taiwan: Family Affair: How the Director of Baby Steps Used the Making of the Film to Connect To His Mother op-ed

About six years ago, I was searching for a feature film topic. I’d already directed six short films. Making a feature was the logical next step for my career.

I knew that it would be a long journey, so I wanted to create something that really mattered to me. I had just come back from visiting my mother in Taipei. The trip involved getting together with a lot of relatives and friends. A typical family gathering would play out like this:

A well-intentioned but nosey aunt, uncle or friend would always innocently ask me: “When are you getting married?” “Do you have a girlfriend?”

I’d often just smile and shrug, hoping that the inquisition would end. But of course their questions kept coming. They would turn to my mother:

“I know the perfect girl for Barney! My friend’s daughter Jennifer also lives in Los Angeles. I can arrange for them to meet in the U.S.”

It was like Groundhog Day. This scenario would replay over and over and over again, every time I visited Taiwan. I always tried to avoid family gatherings, but it was impossible because everyone wanted to see me.

People say that when you come out of the closet, your parents go right in. This is especially true for Taiwanese parents. Out of respect for my mother I would always remain silent about my personal life in front of her friends and relatives. We rarely discuss the gay aspect of my personal life. Slowly, we grew apart.

After I came back to L.A., I came across a story about a gay couple from Israel. They wanted to have a baby, but since it was illegal to hire a surrogate in Israel, they flew to the U.S. to work with an American egg donor. They flew to India to transfer the embryos to an Indian surrogate. Nine months later, they traveled across the globe to pick up their baby.

I was intrigued by the couple’s emotional and physical journey, and I could see that as a movie. I started doing research on surrogacy, attended conferences and interviewed couples who went through the process. I learned that having a baby is an extremely complicated journey for anyone, but especially for a gay person. He or she faces seemingly insurmountable obstacles and conflicts—personal, interpersonal, generational, legal, cultural, financial, ethical and global—and these are rich ingredients for a compelling screenplay.

Then I thought, “What if it were my life? What if I had a partner, and we decided to have kids? What would my mother think? She would be thrilled, but how was it going to work? How would she tell her friends?” I would never bring a child into the world and stay in the closet. Hiding in the closet would have sent a wrong message to my child. I looked into my own life, what I was going through…

Read more via Movie Maker