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Producer Cindy Wu: a Powerful Force Behind God’s Gracie

God’s Gracie is the type of film that immediately envelopes the viewer. The interaction of such strong willed and well-meaning individuals depicted in the story is intriguing even if you don’t share any of their different views. What you won’t find yourself thinking about while watching the story unfold is how challenging it was to manifest a tale like this, which is exactly what the filmmakers behind this production intended. Producer Cindy Wu was much more concerned with strategizing budgetary and work schedule constraints than the religious or social convictions that the characters in this film deal with. An Official Selection of 2019 Outfest Los Angeles and a recipient of awards from Film Festivals like the Independent Short Awards and the Los Angeles Brazilian Film Festival, God’s Gracie confirmed that there is most certainly an enthusiastic audience for the subject matter of religion in a comedy/drama. The burgeoning genre owes its increasing popularity to productions like this and the creative forces behind it.

Producer Cindy Wu
Producer Cindy Wu

Director Chateau Bezerra has worked with Producer Cindy Wu on commercials for UGG and Bed Bath and Beyond. Bezerra approached Wu to serve as a producer on God’s Gracie with the understanding that this film had a number of factors that required heightened oversight and scrutiny. Fully convinced that Wu was the ideal choice to establish all facets of the process, allowing him to focus on the directing, Chateau was able to manifest the atypical tone of this story. The Producer relates, “We both agreed that our approach would be comedy-drama, so audiences of different ages and backgrounds could accept and enjoy it. Our goal for this movie was to portray how having a strong belief in the gospel doesn’t have to conflict with the acceptance of others. Our hope was to show that we all could find a little empathy and compassion in everyday dealings with our fellow human beings. Chateau is a practicing Christian and he knows how seldom religion is portrayed in a positive light, or in my perspective, a lighter and more delightful approach. He shared the experience of his sister that grew up in the same denomination as him, who later in life came out of the closet to the rest of the family. He has seen her personal struggle in holding on to her faith while coming to terms with her identity. That made me realize we were making a film that could again be a voice for minorities and difficult subjects. It was an important mission as a filmmaker to bring such matters to the audience and increase recognition.” 

Prducer Cindy Wu on the set of God's Gracie
Producer Cindy Wu on the set of God's Gracie

The film’s title character Gracie (Angelina Capozzoli of Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, nominated for six Primetime Emmy Awards) is a quirky, confident, and smart teenage girl who has one major flaw: she believes that people who don't follow every verse in Bible will literally burn in hell for all of eternity. She comes to odds with her family when, instead of funding a mission trip for Gracie, they purchase a Jacuzzi for the family’s backyard. Indignantly, Gracie sets out on a more local-based mission trip. When she meets and is rescued by an agnostic lesbian named Heidi who shows Gracie how to be a bit more accepting of her family, the proselytizing teen finds her own worldview broadened by the kind and well-intentioned Heidi who doesn’t fit into her preconceived ideas. 

Cindy Wu discussing a shot for God's Gracie
Cindy Wu discussing a shot for God's Gracie

Filmed at locations like the CBS “New York Street” set, the Angelica Lutheran Church in Los Angeles, and a suburban neighbourhood in South Pasadena, a restrictive aspect of the film’s production was the abundance of minors in the cast. Producer Wu concedes that this had her jumping through hoops to keep the production schedule and budget on track but it’s not a unique occurrence in the film industry. She communicates, “In addition to the lead actress being a minor, our shoot at the school was filled with minor background actors. It was management mayhem. We had about thirty minor extras on set with their parents. It was a lot of communication which included casting the actors, working with the parents on legal working permits, personal requests and set operations such as parking, meal restrictions, etc. Because each studio teacher could only legally attend to a certain amount of children, we had three studio teachers on set. They were separated into different rooms and we assigned production assistants in each room as messengers, notifying them when to do make-up, rehearse, and film. We brought extra snacks and fun activities to keep them entertained. We hired extra crew to help assist and manage. Thankfully, they were all amazing actors and very coordinated. They were able to act on cue and gave the best reactions. Thanks to our well-done and extremely thorough pre-production preparation, everything went smoothly.”

From reimagining approaches for rain scenes to keeping the different productions teams on track with the goal of achieving director Chateau Bezerra vision for the film, Cindy Wu’s work on God’s Gracie is inseparable from the deeply emotive quality of this film. God's Gracie is a coming of age character-driven-comedy-drama like 'Lady Bird' and 'Rushmore' before it. There is more heart in it than most films, both in front of and behind the camera. 

Written by Patrick Wilson

Producer Cindy Wu: a Powerful Force Behind God’s Gracie Reviewed by JaamZIN on 8:34:00 AM Rating: 5
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