In order to truly comprehend what Fata Morgana means, one needs to go back to the beginning planning stage. Amelie Wen reveals, “Both David and I wanted to tell a story about Chinese people in LA. We did some researching together starting in 2014. We talked to many Chinese people in LA and visited some local communities to find the right materials. We finally decide to have a story from a Chinese parent's point view in order to discuss China's One Child Policy and the tight bond in traditional Chinese families.” The story that would end up being the plot for Fata Morgana was slightly based on the true story of a Chinese USC student who was murdered near the university campus. Filmmakers interviewed current USC students and the people who are currently assisting in the lawsuit about this murder. Su comments, “We heard a lot of touching stories and felt the warmth of people in this community. We ended up not using the murder story but it helped us to figure out the idea we wanted to express and convey to audience.” In Fata Morgana, a middle-aged couple from China comes to the United States for the first time to organize the funeral rites of their only child. Before the cremation, the mother wants to cremate her daughter’s body along with some of her belongs (in accordance with a Chinese custom/belief that the dead can bring the things cremated with the dead body to the after-life world). The funeral house forbids the mother to cremate a ring with the daughter’s body due to funeral policy and, in the midst of dealing with the logistics of the funeral and their overwhelming grief, the couple begins to unravel as the escalating fractures in their relationship and the uncertain futures that lie ahead of them.
In a film like this, with intense emotional performances between the two primary actors, casting is crucial. The leads must be captivating as well as be immediately recognizable to the audience as both a believable couple and one that is on the precipice of multiple cataclysmic life changes. Overseeing so many important parts of preproduction, including casting, David comments, “Casting is the most difficult part in the movies. Also, because this is a very realistic style film, the actors’ performance is very important. It’s really difficult to cast Chinese actors in LA because we wanted to have actors without American accents to make certain that the audience understands that the couple is from China and feels very strange being in LA. Our casting director found our leading actress Mardy Ma. Later, Mardy helped us to contact the famous Chinese actor Peiqu Liu. Although he is very busy, he is very supportive and loved our story. He flew from China to LA to be in our movie. The audience really loved the two leading actors’ performance in the movie, in particular the touching ending. I am glad we found the right actors for the film.”
David’s statement about film helping different cultures to understand each other is not only the mission of Fata Morgana but one that captures the American sensibility as well. It makes sense as Su feels a connection with the US. This filmmaker from Taiwan hopes to make Hollywood his professional home stating, “Everyone in the film community here is doing a specific job that they are good at. I think it’s the respect that all professionals here give to each filmmaker which I find so attractive. It’s doesn't matter which department you are in or which position you hold; people respect your profession as long as you contribute to the film.”