Years in the making and chronicle to one of the most inspiring and unexpected underdog stories of recent memories, Evan Jackson Leong’s riveting new documentary, “Linsanity” hits theatres and television screens across the country in a day and date theatrical/video-on-demand release.
Produced by Christopher Chen (“Year of the Yao”) and Brian Yang (actor, “Hawaii 5-0” and narrated by Daniel Dae Kim (“Lost”, “Hawaii 5-0”), Linsanity follows the rise – and fall, and rise – of NBA point guard Jeremy Lin, whose ascent to one of basketball’s most recognizable names in 2012 captured the world’s imagination and attention. Building around Lin’s historic season with the New York Knicks, Leong dives deep into his past, exploring the already clear talent he displayed while in high school and at Harvard University, as well as his faith and family, which form the nucleus of his universe.
Leong sat down to discuss the making of “Linsanity,” which will roll out nation-wide as the 2013-2014 NBA season gears up alongside it.
You began following Jeremy long before his run with the New York Knicks made him a household name. What where the origins of this project and what kind of film did you initially have in mind?
EL: I was fascinated by Jeremy’s story his senior year at Harvard. There was potential talk of him making it to the NBA and his story was already one that needed to be told. We thought even a small glimpse into this guy’s life could inspire the next generation.
Initially this was only going to be a webisode series. We were going to take 6-8 elements of Jeremy’s life and create little vignettes about his story.
Can you talk about how you responded as a filmmaker when Jeremy went on his spectacular spree in the spring of 2012? One can’t make up this kind of drama and it certainly must have totally reshaped your plans for what the film was going to be.
EL: Well, when Jeremy went on his spree, I was a fan first. Like many, my life was focused around Knicks games and consuming every piece of media surrounding that moment in time. Linsanity not only changed Jeremy’s life, but it also changed my life as a filmmaker. I had a huge responsibility and I had to focus.
Your previous films include the short portrait of Chinese American historian Him Mark Lai, “Him Mark Lai: The People’s Historian” and “1040: Christianity in New Asia” which explores spirituality in China, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore. There are themes in both of these that resonate with “Linsanity” – can you talk about what drew you to Jeremy as a subject, and what kind of ideas you were hoping to explore in the film?
EL: I think in all my work, I tell stories about subject matter that is familiar territory. As a 6th generation Chinese American, I’ve always been fascinated with Asian American diaspora and my work is fully immersed in this subject matter. Ultimately, the subjects in all of my films have this in common – passion for your dream. I think passionate people are fascinating subject matter, but also inspiring characters that many can relate to.
Many people also know you for your music videos, including your early ones for Far East Movement, as well as Lyrics Born and Jin, and these musical worlds are connected up with other creative communities you are part of, including that of director Justin Lin (Fast & Furious). Would you say that people you work with on your projects comes from a larger sense of community?
EL: Absolutely. Its funny how all these people have become my good friends and we’re all going on this creative journey together. I didn’t ever plan this to happen, its just been organic and that is what makes its so awesome.
What are you working on now?
EL: I am currently working on another documentary with youTube celebrity, Michelle Phan. This is another role model in our community with an amazing story to tell.