Weiko Lin remembers eating sesame rice wrapped in banana leaves while lying on his mother’s lap. Although he was only around 3 years old, his mother’s comfort and safety stayed in his memory.
Following his mother’s death, screenwriting alumnus Lin produced a play and Chinese film called “100 Days” to honor his loved one. Now, he has created “Miki,” an English short-film adaptation of the same story.
The 25-minute film follows a comic after his Buddhist mother has passed away, who discovers a real Taiwanese tradition saying he must get married in 100 days. Viewers enter into a journey of grief, tradition and healing, he said.
“I didn’t get married, but I love that sentiment about the mother always around,” Lin said. “I love the feeling of that.”
Based on the UCLA screenwriting alumnus’s personal experiences with his mother’s death, the short film “Miki” will play at the Laemmle Playhouse 7 in Los Angeles from Friday to May 18.
Lin immigrated to the United States from Taiwan when he was 8 years old. As a child, he always had a love for theater; his first performance was in seventh grade as the mayor of the Munchkin City in “The Wizard of Oz.” He enjoyed immersing himself in American culture and telling a story through acting, he said.
Though Lin was a member of the Shakespeare Company at UCLA, his love for theater eventually turned into a passion for film. After graduating from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in English, he went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts in screenwriting from the UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television.
Lin took advanced screenwriting classes with professor Richard Walter, the area head of the MFA screenwriting program. Walter gave Lin confidence as a screenwriter in both his undergraduate and graduate terms through constant mentorship and support, Lin said.
“This seems to be a time of unique rage, backbiting, fear and darkness across the globe, and Weiko stands against all of that,” Walter said. “He’s the opposite of that.”
However, darkness hit when Lin’s mother passed away from cancer in 2007.
While he was mourning, Lin moved to Chicago in 2009 to teach screenwriting at Northwestern University. In the theater town, Lin wrote “100 Days” based on his own experiences of mourning and remembering his mother. Although the writing process was painful, the words came naturally, Lin said.
“All the writing I had done up until that point was not very personal,” Lin said. “I had never revealed myself – I’m a very private person – but for this play I really gave it all.”
The play “100 Days” took Lin a couple of months to write and had a two-month run in Los Angeles in 2011. In 2012, Lin decided to produce a Chinese movie adaptation in Taiwan that was also called “100 Days.” The project was for his mother, since she knew little English and always wanted him to make a project in her country, he said.
Since Lin had left Taiwan at such a young age, he wrote the original story in English and hired a Chinese writer for the film adaptation. Working with the Chinese writer allowed Lin to globalize his story and reconnect with his culture, he said.
Similar to Lin’s past adaptations, “Miki” centers on a comedian in order to juxtapose a person’s inner sadness and outer composure, Lin said. Similar to how the comic has to make people laugh while he is mourning inside, Lin had to continue teaching when he was grieving.
“I think we all have two personas – our private persona and our exterior persona,” Lin said.
The comic also goes to visit his estranged high school sweetheart in Chicago – the same city Lin traveled to after his mother passed away.
Composer and UCLA alumnus Christopher Wong met Lin almost 20 years ago, assisting him in past musicals such as “Heavenly Peace” and “Parachute Kid.” He helped create music for the Chinese film adaptation of the play and did the same for “Miki.” Composing the music came naturally for him, he said.
“We are trying to make something meaningful to people,” Wong said. “We still believe, on some level, (in) the importance of art to make a difference to somebody.”
Although a play and a film may appear to be similar, a different format is required for “Miki” to portray a meaningful message. While plays are more dialogue-heavy, films are not meant to be, Walter said. A new format brings a new opportunity for Lin’s story to be communicated to viewers.
“100 Days” is a “two-hander” play, containing two internal monologues that each character proclaims to the audience. “Miki” requires a different structure, instead communicating the same dialogue within the actors’ movements, scenes and camera angles.
The hardest part of making “Miki” was reliving Lin’s own grief and sadness through the comedian and his high school sweetheart. However, making the film caused Lin to feel like his mother was with him again, he said.
“I like to think that the death of the mom brings life to these two characters, and that’s what I wanted to put forward,” Lin said.