Georgia Fu was dying to get back behind the camera when she discovered Indeed’s Rising Voices competition.
Fu hadn’t directed in nearly four years, but the idea of exploring the meaning of work resonated with the filmmaker. Her previous short films all had traditional narratives but Fu wanted to push herself as far as possible; she went all in with “Maps,” an ambitious, 15-minute film that spans 30 years in the life of a small Asian family, struggling to stay connected as work and ambition pulls them in different directions.
“The script for ‘Maps’ was a beautiful and moving articulation of the meaning of work,” says LaFawn Davis, Indeed’s senior VP of environmental, social and governance. “The intergenerational narrative that Georgia weaved within the story was the singular vision that Rising Voices looks for in a final selection.”
The title “Maps” is metaphor for the way the film charts the distance work puts between a mother and daughter. It’s an issue Fu faced with her real-life mom, who owned a home décor import and export business.
“My mother was a full-time working mom,” says Fu, whose parents were Taiwanese immigrants. “She was always away when I was a kid. She would travel to Asia a lot and it was just me and my dad growing up. He was sort of a ‘Mr. Mom,’ but I missed my actual mom a lot.”
The daughter in Fu’s film starts as a young child, striving to please her mother and father. Then we see her as a tween, angry that her parents keep her from going out with friends and bitter that her mom travels so much for work. When she starts failing classes and diving headlong into American pop culture, the parents are left speechless and unable to influence her. Eventually, she wins acceptance into a design school in New York, and her father is supportive and proud, while her mother is angry that her daughter wants to go so far away.
Each jump in the daughter’s age is accompanied by a corresponding change in the parents. They start as hard-working, exhausted newcomers to the U.S. and, over time, their health begins to fail and the daughter is drawn back to them.
“I think I came up with the idea because I’m 37 right now, an age where I’m maybe more grown-up,” says Fu, who has lived in Paris, Hong Kong and New York. “I think of all the things that happened in the last 30 years and how my relationship with my mom has gone up and down, depending on how we both felt. Even when we love someone, we can struggle to be close to them.”
The process of bringing that struggle to the screen was a uniquely smooth experience for Fu, thanks to the $100,000 budget provided by Rising Voices, along with mentoring from sisters Constanza and Doménica Castro, founders of 271 Films and two of the film’s producers.
“It’s very rare to find an opportunity like this where you are given the budget, support, mentoring and everything else,” says Fu, who is currently in Paris, developing ideas for her next project. “It’s like going through a studio system where you can develop your story and your ideas.”
Impressed with how Fu was using her very personal and specific portrayal of Taiwanese American life to explore universal human themes, the Castros focused on fine-tuning their cinematic delivery.
“We worked really closely with Georgia in the development phase,” says Constanza Castro. “She knew her story, so we really were providing feedback specifically on what was coming across and what wasn’t.”
According to Fu, having mentors and producers who were further along in their careers was invaluable. “They answered all my stupid questions and gave me great script notes that helped make my film better,” she says.