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    Sonoma International Film Festival to Premiere Meta Movie Extremely Unique Dynamic

    By Gary M. Kramer–

    Extremely Unique Dynamic, cowritten and codirected (with Katherine Dudas) by stars Harrison Xu and Ivan Leung, is a shaggy, amusing meta-movie about Ryan (Xu, who grew up around Oakland/Fremont) and Daniel (out gay Ivan Leung), best friends in Los Angeles who will soon be separated as Ryan is moving to Edmonton, Canada.

    The film—which will be having its world premiere at the Sonoma International Film Festival on March 21 at 7 pm at Andrews Hall at Sonoma Community Center, with an encore presentation March 23 at 1 pm at Andrews Hall—chronicles the buddies’ last weekend together. Rather than hang out, get high, and have fun, the straight Ryan coaxes the closeted Daniel into making a movie together, and a meta one at that. Ryan and Daniel will play Gregg and Tim who will play Jake and Jasper in the film within the film within the film.

    The actors/writers/filmmakers spoke with me for the San Francisco Bay Times about their new film, Extremely Unique Dynamic.

    Gary M. Kramer: What do you think accounts for your extremely unique dynamic?

    Ivan Leung: I met Harrison ten years ago in an acting class. The first thing I told him was that I recognized him and loved his work. Ever since then it’s been history.

    Harrison Xu: I have a different recollection. He came up to me and said, “I saw you on Shameless, which I thought was a bold introduction. We are very different people in many ways, but we are also very similar. He’s funnier than I am, and he’s cool. I balance him in a different way.

    Ivan Leung: That’s not true. I think that Harrison is very, very, cool, and I’m the lame one.

    Gary M. Kramer: What prompted you to make this film, which appears to be a thinly veiled version of your friendship? 

    Harrison Xu: Stubbornness. Ivan and I worked together on the marketing campaign for this film, Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey. It was our first time working together in that capacity. We created a persona for Winnie-the-Pooh as a sassy bear, and I thought: Are we funny together? We were eating Thai food and I wondered, what if we made a film together, and it was about making something about making something? We kept egging each other on and it started as something we would shoot over the weekend, and it snowballed into something a lot bigger than we intended.

    Ivan Leung: I had wished in the past that I could be a lead in my own movie and express my queerness and not have the [actors] be the stereotypical “hot Asian guy,” and we actually got it to happen. It was so gratifying that it came to fruition.

    Gary M. Kramer: Why did you create a meta movie? Extremely Unique Dynamic is very layered.

    Harrison Xu: Ivan, you want to explain meta?

    Ivan Leung: The meta was Harrison’s idea. I don’t understand meta, just like my character in the movie, and I didn’t understand it during the shoot of the film. If you want to talk meta, Harrison is your man.

    Harrison Xu: It was fun tapping into it, and guys who have been friends for a while have trouble expressing how they feel. Through our characters in the film, they can talk about what they did feel. If we had time and budget, we could take it a step further with what their characters’ characters say. We improvised the dialogue about being Asian, being queer, about our parents. The meta-ness of it enabled us to talk about things that didn’t feel on the nose because our characters, or our characters’ characters, are talking about it.

    Gary M. Kramer: You poke fun at Asian hypersexual representations in cinema, as well as cinema tropes, like the makeover, or a celebrity cameo. Can you talk about biting the hand that feeds you?

    Ivan Leung: It is more palatable because it is in the vein of a stoner comedy. We wanted to talk about all these issues in a way where people can digest it more easily. Another point I’m proud of is the codependency between a straight and a gay best friend, because we don’t talk about that, and guys don’t talk about their feelings in general.

    Gary M. Kramer: What can you say about this being a “gay” film?

    Ivan Leung: There is a way that writers write queer characters in the media and it’s getting better, but there is such a wide spectrum of queerness, and not everyone is extremely flamboyant or a stereotype. In society, there are people that are out, and they are not comfortable talking about their queerness or their sexuality; it’s just a part of them. I thought it was interesting to have that kind of an “out” character, who doesn’t talk about his sexuality. For the character [of Daniel], there is a sense of shame that resides in him, and it’s interesting to see how he pivots and deals with that shame.

    Gary M. Kramer What do you think about the celebrity culture you satirize in Extremely Unique Dynamic? Both Ryan and Daniel want to be famous, and you feature Hudson Yang and Nathan Doan in your film.

    Harrison Xu: My character is kind of a meta, over-the-top version of myself. I do work in film marketing, and it was fun taking that character and heightening it. The journey Ryan goes through is learning to accept what is important when making a movie. But finishing the movie, that’s our accomplishment.

    Gary M. Kramer: Was making this film an opportunity to showcase your writing and directing talents as well as your acting styles? Is this a calling card for future work?

    Ivan Leung: I want to direct more features and be a showrunner of a series with Harrison. I love being able to express myself and do what I want without having to think about the powers that be. We were able to take big swings with Extremely Unique Dynamic. It was nice to have control and be able express ourselves in the way that we wanted to.

    Harrison Xu: We’ve been professional actors for 10-plus years. As an actor, you’re always trying to fulfill the vision of the writer or director. Having ownership of your own project is really fulfilling. This is our concept and our vision, and we know what we’re doing. We trusted each other. We put in thousands of hours into this film.

    For more information about Extremely Unique Dynamic at the Sonoma International Film Festival, visit:

    © 2024 Gary M. Kramer

    Gary M. Kramer is the author of “Independent Queer Cinema: Reviews and Interviews,” and the co-editor of “Directory of World Cinema: Argentina.” He teaches Short Attention Span Cinema at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute and is the moderator for Cinema Salon, a weekly film discussion group. Follow him on Twitter @garymkramer

    Published on March 21, 2024