Interlochen alumna’s film to be considered for Academy Award
Miida Chu’s film EUREKA centers around the life of a young Chinese immigrant in 1880s California.
When Miida Chu started making films in fifth grade, she had no way of knowing her work would eventually be considered for one of the film industry’s most prestigious awards.
Chu began filmmaking as a way to get together with friends over summer break. Ever since then, she has consistently challenged herself and pushed boundaries with her art. Now, her period drama short EUREKA is receiving attention from audiences, critics, and festival jurors. Chu’s time at Interlochen Arts Academy helped shape her into the gifted writer and director she is today.
A filmmaker’s journey
Early on in her filmmaking journey, young Chu was faced with the challenges of casting and cinematography.
“I had only one friend show up for my first film,” she remembers. “I had to rewrite the script on the spot and I had to act in it myself. My mom was a camera operator.”
Chu learned through experimentation, and her later projects were more successful. She began thinking about leaving her native China for an arts school in the United States. Eventually, she chose Interlochen Arts Academy.
At Interlochen, she enjoyed experimenting with different types of cinema and honing her craft. She stayed there for four years and studied Filmmaking and Motion Picture Arts.
“For an artist, it’s such a great playground. I was a free range chicken,” Chu laughs.
Afterwards, Chu decided to pursue another interest of hers: philosophy. She earned her bachelor’s in philosophy from New York University, followed by an M.F.A. in film directing from the American Film Institute. During that time, she discovered that her Interlochen experience had put her a few steps ahead of her peers in the industry.
“In college I ended up seeing a lot of film majors thinking certain things were cool, and I thought, ‘I’ve done that before,’” says Chu.
EUREKA: the making of a period drama
Although she’s young, Chu has already accomplished much in the world of film. Her period drama short EUREKA recently won Best Narrative Short Golden Reel Award at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, an award which automatically qualifies it for consideration for an Academy Award.
Chu describes the story: “It's a historical drama thriller about an indentured Chinese prostitute living in 1880s America and finding herself caught between a toxic relationship with the brothel madam, as well as the anti-Chinese riots outside the brothel door.”
Chu was inspired by a trip she took during grad school to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. There, she began exploring the history of immigrants to the United States, starting with the Finnish immigrants who settled the U.P. and continuing with the history of Chinese immigrants in California.
She was fascinated by the stories of young Chinese women who were sold by their parents into prostitution and sent the money they made back to their families in China.
“They were caught at this crossroad of oppressions, both for being women as well as being Chinese,” says Chu.
Chu wrote and directed the film, and composed its score on an erhu, a two-stringed Chinese instrument. She wasn’t expecting to earn an award for it, though.
“I submitted to that film festival the year before and they rejected my film,” says Chu. “So when my film got into the LA Asian Pacific Film Festival, it was already a surprise. When they told me that I was going to win this award, I was like ‘You must be joking…’ So that was amazing.”
Returning to Interlochen
Chu doesn’t just work in historical dramas like EUREKA; the majority of her work is high concept queer romantic fantasies. Nevertheless, at the heart of all Chu’s projects, there’s a similar theme.
“What makes us who we are, what defines our soul or our core self-concept? I would say that pretty much all my projects are about that,” she says.
Chu is a creative and a dreamer, who doesn’t confine her ideas exclusively to filmmaking. In the next few years, she wants to open her own ice cream shop, exclusively focused on tea-inspired flavors. She’s also hopeful that she’ll start raising a family of her own.
Meanwhile, she’s maintaining her connection with Interlochen. Just last fall, Chu attended the Future of Cinema Film Festival at Interlochen’s campus. Alongside directors and writers like Alan Heinberg and David Siev, Chu shared her perspective on filmmaking with Interlochen Arts Academy students.
Chu’s own experience as a student at Interlochen Arts Academy gave her space to experiment and come into her own as a filmmaker and an artist. Whether or not EUREKA takes home an Academy Award, Chu is poised to continue her cinematic success. She’s just getting started—the sky’s the limit.
Learn more about Film & New Media at Interlochen Arts Academy.