When a Chinese mother and daughter go on an American road trip

Project type: Narrative Feature
Project status: Post Production
Writer/Director: Ziyao Liu
Producer: Laura Scarano
Producer: Sophie Changhui Shi
Cinematographer: Akina Van de Velde
Editor: Emily Ge Zhai
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Attempting to fulfill the dying wish of her father, a Chinese marine biologist reunites with her mother in the U.S. and embarks on a road trip up the Pacific coast, mending their seemingly irreconcilable gap.


Unable to attend her father’s funeral in China due to her pending visa status, LEI (late 20s, Chinese) reunites with her mother PAN (50s, Chinese) in the U.S. to fulfill his dying wish to see whales in person. Upon Pan’s arrival, Lei tries to convince her to fly to Seattle with a secret agenda—to attend an interview that may allow her to keep her visa. However, Pan refuses to fly, so their drive begins.

On the road, past arguments and secrets surface while another secret is brewing – Lei might be pregnant. To add to the contention, Pan experiences a near-death allergy the night before the interview. Put off by Lei’s curt translations with the doctor, Pan has a dramatic outburst until she accidentally finds a pregnancy test in Lei’s pocket.

Just as things couldn’t be worse, they get a flat tire. Facing the same dilemma of traveling to her father’s funeral, future vs family, Lei needs to reconsider her priorities and what it means to be together and apart before making another decision she might regret.

Meet the Filmmakers

Ziyao Liu – Writer/Director
Ziyao Liu is a Chinese writer/director/editor based on earth. Being a transplant from the “West Virginia” of China and now living in LA, she creates compelling narratives of a personal nature that finds humor in the absurdity of existence to generate empathy for the collective human experience beyond language and cultural barriers. She is a current Directing MFA candidate at UCLA, where she was awarded the Delia Salvi Memorial Award and the Motion Picture Association of America Award. She was selected to participate in the 2023 CBS Leadership Pipeline Challenge, 2021 Armed with a Camera Fellowship x Visual Communications, 2020 Voices with Impact x Art with Impact, and 2020 CAMERAderie Initiative x Women in Media. Her work has been screened at multiple Academy-qualifying film festivals and worldwide.

Laura Scarano – Producer
Laura Scarano is a producer based in Los Angeles. After studying at Pratt Institute, she worked in nonprofits in New York City, enabling students to become the next generations of fine artists, filmmakers, and writers. Throughout her career, her mission has been to elevate creatives, giving them a platform to showcase their work and implement change in the world. Scarano has produced a repertoire of feature-length and short films, with an emphasis on queer stories, and her work has screened in a film festivals including but not limited to Hollyshorts, Urbanworld, Montclair, Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia, InsideOut Toronto, and more.

Sophie Changhui Shi – Producer
Sophie Changhui Shi graduated from UCLA MFA Producers Program in 2021. She is the fifth Chinese student accepted to the prestigious UCLA MFA Producers Program since its establishment in 1984 and the first Chinese woman admitted in the 2010s. Shi was one of the UCLA Promise Social Impact Producing Scholarship recipients. Her debut feature script was awarded The Sean Slattery Memorial LGBTQ+ Voices Award 2021. She also tracked down the rights to a premium Chinese mini-series and set it up during her internship at Janet Yang’s production company, where she works as a coordinator now.

Akina Van de Velde – Cinematographer
Akina Van de Velde is a freelance cinematographer based in Los Angeles and New York City. For the last 10 years, she has worked in film and video production creating content for nonprofits and commercial clients including: Adidas, Fitbit, Buzzfeed, NYLON, VICE, Hulu and Condé Nast. She received her MFA from UCLA’s Theater, Film & Television program and now focuses on narrative and emotionally resonating storytelling. Her work was screened at Sundance, Outfest and various other film festivals. Akina is a recipient of the MPAA award, the Federico De Laurentiis Memorial Award, the Peregrine Collective Grant, Fred Thorpe Fellowship, Lynn Weston Fellowship and is a 2022 Film Independent Project Involve Fellow. When not on set, she is at the mercy of her Labrador Retriever.

Emily Ge Zhai – Editor
Emily Ge Zhai is a Chinese film editor based in Los Angeles. In the past 9 years, she has worked on various scripted and documentary projects, including the narrative feature Summer Knight, which won the Asian Future Best Film Award at the 2019 Tokyo International Film Festival. The film she co-edited, Taipei Suicide Story, took both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award for narrative features at 2021 Slamdance Film Festival. In 2021, she was selected to participate in the Project Involve Program and edited the short film Dear Mama…, which won 2022 NAACP Image Award Outstanding Short-Form (Live Action). Ge is passionate about bringing directors’ visions to life and making stories powerful through editing.

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