L.P. Leung wanted to tell an unknown part of history for more than 50 years, and his dreams have finally come to fruition in an independent movie
For most people, getting rejected is disheartening and often a reason to give up. For L.P. Leung, it was just a hiccup on the road to achieving his dream. He spent more than 50 years on the road to making his own movie and his perseverance has finally paid off.
In the 1950s, Leung was a history major at Azusa College, before it rebranded as Azusa Pacific University. It was in one of his history classes that he discovered a story which would change his life.
In “American History of the West,” Leung read about an event called the Chinese Massacre of 1871. He had never heard of it before and wanted to find out more, but his textbook offered little information.
“It [was] just like one paragraph, no details in there. I thought it [was] kind of interesting. I wanted to find out more,” Leung said. “I went to the library and found nothing, so I could not do the term paper that I wanted to do on this particular issue.”
The topic sparked Leung’s curiosity, but he set it aside for a few years. He then attended the University of Southern California (USC) for graduate school, earning a master’s degree in accounting.
Leung didn’t know what jobs he could get with a history degree but decided he could easily find a job in accounting. The degree change worked well for him, as he spent the next 30 years working as an accountant. However, his curiosity about the Chinese massacre was not sated.
“In my free time, I went to the LA City Library to do some more research, to see if I could get some information back [from the massacre] in 1871. I found some microfiche [old newspaper clips] mentioning about the massacre,” Leung said.
Unfortunately, the only information the microfiche provided him with was the death toll of the massacre. Leung was not deterred. He kept researching. He decided to look more into Chinese immigrant life in Los Angeles in the 1870s. He read and read, finding as much information out as he could.
Leung worked for Paramount Pictures after he graduated from USC. He became enamored with the idea of making a movie about the massacre. He discussed the possibility of the movie with a producer he worked with who told him Americans were not ready for it at the time. So Leung set it aside again, until he retired more than three decades later.
In 2012, Leung was retired and bored. He needed something to do and he thought back to the story from all those years earlier. He decided to follow through with making the movie.
Leung, who is originally from Hong Kong, called an old friend who still lived there and was in the movie business. Leung’s friend told him to come to Hong Kong so they could further discuss Leung’s idea. So Leung prepared an excerpt of the story.
“I went to Hong Kong with the treatment and then he spent five minutes with me because he was so busy,” Leung said. “He said, ‘Well LP, your treatment is not good enough. You may as well write a book because that way [it’s] easier to sell to producers.’ So I came back home and I started the writing.”
The writing process proved to be challenging for Leung as Cantonese is his first language. He wrote while his wife edited his work. In 2013, the book was published, entitled “The Jade Pendant.”
After the book was published, Leung flew back to Hong Kong to see his friend again. Although his friend was unable to help him, Leung met a woman on the flight who was interested in his movie idea and wanted to help. Her husband had just acted in a movie and he said he might know a screenwriter who could help.
Leung found the screenwriter and showed him his book. The screenwriter loved it and agreed to write the screenplay for him. This process took about a year, while they took the screenplay around to several producers, but no one was interested in it.
“Not a whole lot of love,” Leung said. “No love, in fact, to try and get people to produce it.”
Leung was dejected, but did not relent. He went back to Hong Kong to meet with another writer.
“I gave him the book and told him the story. I said if you can do it, I’d like to have this movie done in one year because I’m not a young chick anymore. At that time I was 77 years old,” Leung said.
The writer thought on it for a few weeks and then emailed Leung that he would do it. Together, they found a producer and a director and began making the movie.
“We started shooting in the end of September and we finished shooting in the beginning of November,” Leung said. “It took another year and a half for the movie for all the dumping [editing] and the subtitling before it was ready in 2017.”
The movie was finished in 2017, but only now, in February 2019, will it play on the big screen. Leung worked with Michael Gregory, the chair of APU’s Department of Cinematic Arts, and other administrators at APU to get the movie booked at Foothill Cinema Stadium 10, right across the street from APU. “The Jade Pendant” will be shown from Feb. 15-21 with three showtimes a day. Tickets can be purchased here.
“I’m so happy because I got the support of APU,” Leung said.
Leung hopes many APU students will attend. He is working with the theater to bring the ticket prices down to $5 for APU students, to give them the opportunity to learn about this unknown part of local history.
“I consider that a part of history that our schools do not want to tell because it is not a good story to tell,” Leung said. “I just want to make it an entertaining movie, at the same time being informative.”
Leung also hopes students will learn from his personal story and understand that being rejected a few times is not the end.
“One thing I hope they learn is that if you persevere, work hard, you can reach your goals in a lot of things that you can think of,” Leung said. “Perseverance helped me to go through this to write the book and the movie. If you have a goal, go ahead and do it. Pursue it. Don’t give up.”