Illustration by HINGYI KHONG/Daily Bruin

By Emilia Hwang

Daily Bruin Senior Staff

Peter Shiao has never taken a single film class. In 1990, the
producer/co-writer of “Restless” (“Xia Ri Qing
Dong”) graduated from UCLA with a double degree in political
science and communication studies.

After working in politics for four years, Shiao said that his
passion for social change switched over to the realm of the
media.

“Having somewhat of a communications background, I became
very interested in telling compelling stories that would affect
social change and perception,” he said in a recent interview.
“That somehow became my passion and I decided to leave
politics and pursue a career in story telling.”

“Restless” focuses on the lives of a young,
international group of friends trying to find love in a rapidly
changing modern-day Beijing.

“The movie is a bitter-sweet romantic comedy that tracks
how two Americans spend their summer in Beijing,” Shiao
said.

Leah Quinn (Catherine Kellner) is an American living in Beijing
who becomes entangled in a love triangle. Richard Kao (David Wu) is
a Chinese-American surfer who takes his grandfather’s ashes
back to the homeland only to discover his Chinese roots.

“I’m really trying to capture something that’s
unique to our generation,” said Shiao explaining the
movie’s title and themes.

  Photos by Arrow Releasing Chen
Shaing-Chyi
and David Wu star in the
independent film "Restless," produced by UCLA graduate Peter Shiao.
“I don’t know if I can speak any longer for the college
generation now, but I feel like something that’s unique to
me, and perhaps people younger than myself, is this feeling of
wonder and this desire to get to know more that’s out there.
Rather than settling for a regular nine to five, it’s the
need to go on the road and explore yourself, in the process of
exploring the world,” he said.

After graduating from UCLA, Shiao worked as a Washington
lobbyist for Mayor Tom Bradley.

“My passion was in social change and politics so I spent
the next few years (after graduation) working in politics,”
he said.

In addition to working on Capitol Hill, Shiao was a senate
fellow in the California state legislature as well as senior aid to
State Senator Torres.

“In the state legislature I was involved with a number of
things,” Shiao said. “Most relevant to the UCLA
community, we fought for lower student fees. We also fought for the
creation of the Chicano Studies Center at UCLA.”

Shiao said that both policy challenges were successful to
various degrees. His passions, however, still swayed from working
in politics to invoking social change through the media.

“One of the first ventures I did leaving politics was I
became the organizer of the Shanghai International Film
Festival,” Shiao said.

  Catherine Kellner and Geng
Le
get intimate in a scene from the independent film
"Restless," produced by Peter Shiao.

He convinced the Chinese government to back him and, in 1995,
the film festival took place along with a program called the
U.S.-China Film Industry Conference.

About 200 movies were screened and close to 2 million people
turned out for the event.

“That conference became a lightening rod for change in
China concerning copy right ““ intellectual property rights
agreements,” Shiao said. “That was the impetus for me
to go back into Hollywood and become a producer.”

In the same spirit, Shiao sought to make “Restless”
a co-production with a Chinese film studio as a diplomacy through
film.

“The Chinese government heavily regulates all aspects of
its media industries because those things are traditionally
considered to be tools of propaganda,” Shiao said.

Big-budget Hollywood films like “Seven Years in
Tibet” have taken critical views of Chinese policies that the
Chinese government dislikes.

“Practically, I wanted to pursue a U.S.-China
co-production because, at the time when I was making
“˜Restless,’ every other filmmaker was making movies
like “˜Kundun’ and “˜Red Corner,’ “ he
said. “I’m not saying that there’s no validity to
those stories being told but I increasingly believe that
there’s a political correctness applied to the notions of
China in the films.”

While “Restless” was never intended to be overtly
political, the film highlights personal and cultural differences
between East and West.

“I didn’t want to make a movie about the cultural
revolution or Tibet or Tiananman Square,” Shiao said.
“Though those are topical and compelling things, I felt the
continuum of U.S.-China dialogue was so heavily politicized that I
chose to make a movie like “˜Restless.’ “

Shiao said that he was turned down by most major Hollywood
studios because it wasn’t politically provocative.
Eventually, Shiao was able to finance the movie with his own
production company and the support of Chinese co-financier.

“The Chinese market is 1.3 billion people strong and the
prospect of making a movie in China and not having the rights to
distribute a movie in that territory seems to be an economic crime
of sorts,” Shiao said. “And in order to do that, I
needed to be involved in this co-production process so that this
film can be released in China.”

To undergo that process Shiao was in negotiations with the
Chinese government for a year, over issues like script approvals,
actor selections and crew. Shiao said that co-production aspect of
making the film was important so that “Restless” could
reach Chinese as well as American audiences.

“”˜Restless’ at it’s core, is really a
story that questions whether or not the East and West can get
along,” Shiao said. “In today’s highly
politicized environment surrounding U.S.-China relations, I wanted
to make a movie and tell a story that people all over the world,
including America and China, can come and enjoy, and hopefully,
it’ll be a resonating experience for them.”

FILM: “Restless” (“Xia Ri Qing Dong”) is
now playing at the Westside Pavilion Cinemas, 10800 Pico Boulevard,
West Los Angeles, CA 90064. For more information call (310)
475-0202.