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Festival News
Soo Lyu's wrapped and ready
TIFF rookie Soo Lyu talks about the unique blend of anxiety and excitement she's experiencing at the festival as she waits for the world premiere of her first feature film Rub & Tug

September 6, 2002

Film director Soo Lyu
Director Soo Lyu describes the worry and excitement of her first feature's TIFF debut
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Soo Lyu is feeling pretty good these days. She has her first feature film under her belt, a comedy about massage parlours called Rub & Tug. She's also found a distributor for the film's Canadian rights -- no small feat for a first film. And she has tongues wagging about the film as she prepares for its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.

But she's still not sure whether it's time to start celebrating.

Also see:
Sept: 11: Soo Lyu's big moment
Sept. 14: Soo Lyu: Who needs critics?

"Filmmaking can be so anti-climatic," she says. "There's always work to do once the filming is over, to get the film marketed and find a distributor. So it's really hard to say there's one defining moment that says 'You've achieved it, you can relax now'."

Most directors, though, would argue that getting into the Toronto International Film Festival is one heck of sign that you've arrived. The programmers for the festival reviewed about 160 films for the Perspective Canada series before deciding on the 20 that were chosen. Lyu thinks the TIFF is the ideal place for her film to premiere.

"The TIFF is truly the best venue to show off a new film," she says. "It's the biggest venue for Canadian films. The festival really helps Canadian films get out there."

"And because Rub & Tug was a Toronto film, this film fest was really the best venue to show it to the public."

The movie's premise alone has been enough to generate buzz. For the uninitiated, "rub and tugs" are massage parlours where men go to get a little more relief that just a rubbed back.

Lyu and the film's producer, Edward Stanulis, wrote the screenplay together, offering a glimpse into a world they knew many have never seen. The movie, though, is less an exposé of "full body" massage than a story of the power struggles between the street-wise massage girls and their managers. It's also pretty funny.

"Human sexuality can be quite absurd. And humour, sex and film seem to go together so well," Lyu says.

With the film in the can, Lyu and Stanulis wanted to show the movie to a wider audience. So they held what's called a distributor screening, in which potential distribution companies were given an opportunity to try to outbid each other, to gain rights to put the film into theatres. Of course, the screening night was a crucial moment.

"The distributor screening was quite tense obviously, because you know, sometimes in life everything comes down to one moment. And this was one of the moments for me."

In the end, Seville Pictures' bid won. The company decided to submit the film for the TIFF. The day Lyu and Stanulis found out their film had been chosen, was definitely a highlight.

"We were just so excited, it was such great news for the film," Lyu says. "But the day they told us, they said, 'Don't tell anyone until after the official announcement.' We were so excited and disappointed: we couldn't tell anyone."

Now that the festival screening is right around the corner, Lyu is simply feeling grateful to be here.

"I feel very privileged and lucky to be where I am now. I got to make a feature film and show it to a general audience. That gives me a great sense of satisfaction."

"That said, I don't know if I can ever feel, 'This is it. I'm on top.' That kind of sense of accomplishment only comes when you finish editing and you know that the film works. And I felt that when we were done: The film works and the story has been told."

So now that tickets for the festival screenings are selling like mad, and a distributor is already on board, does Lyu feel like some of the pressure is off this week?

"It's a different pressure going into the film fest," she says. "The festival is, for me, the one time when I can really allow myself to get excited. The film is finally going to be shown to a large audience and that's the goal filmmakers work toward -- having their film seen by lots of people."

"There is a pressure but it's more excitement."

How will the screening go? Check back on this site Sept. 10 for Soo Lyu's take on the premiere.

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