Film Students Offer an Inside Look at Summer Film Production Project

The director and producers of the 2023-2025 cycle of the Summer Film Production project share what is going on behind-the-scenes of their movie.

The producers and director for the upcoming Summer Film Production project pose for a photo in the Owen Arts Center.
The producers and director of the upcoming Summer Film Production "Egg Drop Soup" take a break from their busy schedules to pose for a photo. (L to R: Juan Davalos, Suniti Bhikshesvaran, Yvonne Yang, Tyler Chapman)

Biennially, SMU film students have to opportunity to produce their own feature film in the Division of Film’s Summer Film Production project. The production takes two years from inception to completion of the film and is entirely planned and crewed by SMU film students.


By the end of the 2023 fall semester, the script for this cycle’s film had been chosen and the core crew had been established. And with those two items checked off the list, the gears are really starting to turn on the production schedule.


The selected script for the current Summer Film Production project was written by Kevin Leong, a recent alum of Meadows’ Creative Computation program, and is titled Egg Drop Soup. The story follows Jamie Chen, a Chinese mother of two, as she navigates the cultural differences among the generations of her small family. She finds that no matter how much her children rebel against her rigid expectations or her elderly father tries to enforce generational Chinese values, the family can never be separated - much like the key ingredients in a hot, steaming bowl of egg drop soup.


Senior Yvonne Yang is at the helm of Egg Drop Soup as the film’s director and is currently focused on the pre-production stage this semester before filming will begin in the summer.


“As a director, I mainly take charge of the creativity side of the filmmaking,” explains Yang, who often meets with her crew around eight to nine hours a week to discuss details of the film. “It’s mainly collaborating with each creative department, from cinematographer and production designer to producers, and expressing my vision of the film to them so they can help me achieve it by contributing their suggestions and knowledge.”


Yang’s three producers are fellow film students Suniti Bhikshesvaran, Tyler Chapman and Juan Davalos. The pre-production process will move quickly this semester, with the producers tasked with assembling and finalizing a cast and crew, finding shooting locations, establishing the logistics for cast and crew summer housing, coordinating collaboration between the creative departments, and most importantly, financing the film.


“From a producing standpoint, it's all about problem-solving and figuring out how to make the director's vision a reality,” shares Bhikshesvaran, a junior in Meadows’ film program. “We are now at the stage where we've found the best people for our key creative roles and have full trust in them to carry out the creative aspects of filmmaking. It's up to us as producers to make those visions come alive.”


An example of a location treatment for the upcoming Summer Film Production project.

Part of the pre-production process is creating a design look book, which includes things like location breakdowns (above) that will help guide the visual direction of the film.


Every week presents new challenges and opportunities for the team, with casting now in its final stages. Finalists for the roles are on their third round of auditions, which now includes chemistry reads to ensure that the actors mesh well and will have a believable rapport onscreen.


“Auditions have been such an interesting process, seeing what each actor brings to the role,” shares Chapman a producer and senior in the Division of Film. “These artists have been giving us ideas as well on how to make the characters feel more real.”


Egg Drop Soup will be the first foreign feature length film in the film department. The story itself is about family, which is a topic that can be special and general at the same time, but it also involves a lot of cooking and movements, so finding the right actors for the film is imperative.


“Everyone has family, so even they do not have an Asian background, they will be able to understand all the family aspects of the film,” says Yang, who is looking forward to looking forward to start rehearsing with her cast. “On the other hand, this is about a Chinese family, which is a different experience and culture, so being able to hear our actors saying the lines and bring this into life is a really fantastic experience to me.”


An example of a character mood board for the upcoming Summer Film Production project.

Character mood boards, like the one in process above, are created as part of the production design look book to help cast and crew bring the characters of the film to life.



Next up for the crew? Fundraising. Raising money for the film is a big, and important, undertaking and requires input from both the producers and the director to succeed. The producers handle the general logistics of financing, while the director provides a directorial treatment to potential donors so they can see the vision of the film and decide if they want to donate.


With fundraising about to kick off and the final cast nearly secured, the production of Egg Drop Soup is about to really hit the ground running. By the time summer rolls around, all pre-production details will be finalized and filming will commence on the project.


“The collaborative aspects of the film have all been exciting to experience,” says Davalos, one of the film’s producers. “It will be surreal to reach the end of post-production when we all get to see the culmination of everyone's passion for this project.”


Egg Drop Soup is anticipated to be completed in mid-2025, when it will be submitted to film festivals across the nation. Previous projects from this program, like The Book of Job, have even gone on to be picked up for distribution and launched on multiple streaming services.


Read more about the Summer Film Production project series here and explore fundraising opportunities for Egg Drop Soup here.