Hisonni Johnson is thankful to help bring Hedy Wong's vision to the big screen in Take Out Girl. The story follows Tera (Wong), a young Asian woman who delivers take-out Chinese food to help her family. As financial struggles become more apparent for her family in Los Angeles, she ends up using her job as a front to run errands for a local drug lord. I spoke to the director about the star's vision to film, how diversity helped shape film, and finally, seeing release. "[Hedy] wrote the first draft," Johnson explained on how he met Wong. "She came up with the premise of the film, and she did so about six or seven years ago. She bounced around trying to figure out how she could make the film with no money. It wasn't until Lorin [Alond Ly], who plays Saren, her brother in the film, brought up to her that he had met a filmmaker who bounces all over to picture from props to wardrobe, all in a single shot and makes movies look like they had much bigger budgets than they do."
When the two finally met, the rest was history. "[Hedy] reached out to me," Johnson continued. "She arranged a meeting, and it was like meeting this hybrid human being who is kind of like half-Don Corleone, half-supermodel. She ended up telling me the premise. I was kind of convinced, but it wasn't until I met her and got a feel for her personality that I realized the rest of the world needed to know who this human being was, and they would find her just as interesting as I did." Johnson explained the value of how having diversity in all different aspects of a production benefits all of those involved. "I'm from Guyana, and Hedy is Chinese-American, but this story we consider is like the quintessential American story," he said. Therefore, you can't really have a film like this without it being diverse, not just in front of the lens, but behind it. All of that, every bit of diversity, white people who contributed to the film, black, brown, Asian, you know what I mean? The perspectives are all in there because that's the only you know. There are no new stories out there. There's just the twist you put on it, and during my process, I found that it was all of these perspectives from all of these different tribes that put a new spin on a familiar story."
The director mentioned producer Melissa Del Rosario is Filipino-American and other producers and cinematographers are Cuban-American. "Our perspectives became blended," Johnson explained. "I'm hoping that's what the film does, because this film, one of the greenlit studios, a black man telling a young Asian young woman story is not something that happens anymore. We've moved from one type of exclusivity to another. You used to be nobody but like could really get a lot of work in Hollywood now with the way nobody got exactly what the film was about can make that story."
While Johnson remains grateful for Take Out Girl's imminent release, they ran into additional road blocks due to the pandemic. "The problems we ran into with that happened during the time where we were trying to get into film festivals and get it out to the world," he said. "COVID really killed a lot of the film festivals we were going to be a part of. We also didn't get into certain film festivals that we really would have because film festivals, the budgets took a hit, and the cost of shifting from a live event to an online event and securing the films on an online platform made it so that film festivals had to drop the number of films they accepted from 40 to 20. There were a lot of places that didn't get to enjoy this film because of those budget cuts. So those are the ways in which we were affected by COVID." The film from 1091 Pictures also stars Ski Carr, Lynna Yee, J. Teddy Garces, Dijon Talton, Mier Liu, Lizette Hunter, and Joe Rudy Guerrero, is out on VOD and digital.