Macaroni Soup (通心粉湯)

Alayna Y

A young woman falls in love with a waitress in a greasy-yet-nostalgic Hong Kong-style cafe, but a language gap divides the two – or is there something more?

Full film will be out after the public screening. Watch this space!


The Recipe Process of Making Macaroni Soup

I still remember the idea popping up in my head now – third year, ECUAD animation lab, sunny day in Spring, and Lorelei had just given us group discussion time to talk about our ideas for our grad project.

My head was swirling with a bunch of ideas, but for some reason a certain idea jumped out at me. A young lady falling in love, delicious food, and language – a combo that took time to work together, but seemed really exciting. A language gap bridged by food? Falling in love at first sight, or bite? Cute romcoms? It was a complicated feat, but my classmates seemed to jump at the idea. And so, the summer and the rest of the semester would be used towards developing that idea…

I’m going to shamelessly post my food and restaurant inspiration for the film now.

Getting the look and feel I wanted was honestly a challenge. The two places that inspired the restaurant the most were Lido Restaurant in Richmond, and Cafe Gloucester in Vancouver. The balance of warmth, busyness, and a parade of posters displaying offers and tasty foods was essential to the film. Yet, the two main characters are also a key part, aren’t they? Making them stand out, or to blend them into the feel of the restaurant. I wonder if I achieved it. Of course, the detail on the food paintings in the film was my way to aspire to be my own little Makoto Shinkai, or Hayao Miyazaki. Hey, I love food. I can give a multipara graph review on all the HK Cafes I’ve been to and which ones are worth going to (they all are taste is subjective).

Also, the two women don’t have names. It really has just been Lady and Waitress since the beginning. My professor for this grad film course, suggested I name them to feel closer to them. Lorelei, I love you, but I have friends I’d trust with my life despite not knowing their real names.

Ingredients – er, Concept Art

It feels really hackneyed to say something like “As a Chinese-Canadian person, I wanted to explore with my Chinese roots through this film!” But, it’s sort of the truth, isn’t it? My Cantonese level really, ahem, shone as I talked with my voice actors about the script. But I am rethinking my identity after a certain eye-opening class about Asian diaspora. Where did my parents come from, and why? And the limits of our systems to accept newcomers, and who it benefits, and…. Don’t worry, Sue, I learned something from your class, honest.

I think I’m well connected with my Chinese roots already. Rather than say reconnect, it’s just me reaffirming this much. I love language, but knowing and speaking are two different things. It’s just one whole inside joke to those who learned the most from restaurant menus.

I’ll reveal this much though – Macaroni Soup, 通心粉湯, is a very awkward translation of the English name. Stilted, but perfect to reflect the language gap. A more common term is 餐肉通粉, and I tried to show the discrepancies in the script.
And if you’ll forgive the creative allowances, 通心 sounds like 同性… A bit.

There’s also the themes of women falling in love with other women. I went into this film thinking that it’d be some coming out metaphor not just in the film, but for myself. But coming out to family is such a “white LGBTQ media,” thing isn’t it? I cried at the end of Love, Simon, not because it felt so real, but precisely because it felt so alien.

I’ve always felt pressured to make coming out a loud and proud thing, but that’s just not me. I borrowed the power of subtlety you might see in East Asian storytelling – open ending, an abrupt twist, and a bit of “interpret it yourself!”

My classes in Indigenous storytelling also helped me realize there’s power in opacity. I almost wanted to put this film out without subtitles, but I think it’s enough that certain parts of the story are left behind closed doors.

Plus, if you know me personally, you’ll already know I talk enough about how much I love plenty of fictional videogame women about every waking day of my life…

The long, long stewing process

Macaroni Soup was originally gonna be 4 minutes, I swear. Below is an abridged timeline of events that led to the creation of Macaroni Soup. It’s super wordy – but this is just that so I personally remember this whirlwind of a year.
If any judges are reading this, feel free to skip the rambling of this animation student if time need be.

Class blog established. Weekly updates written on the blog and weekly meetings with groups and with Lorelei. Pre-production concepts, story development, and schedule planning. Made a pitch.

Made an animatic. Got lots of feedback. Major focus – clarity and length. Fit in keyframes here and there. Working on neat, clean keyframes was something I learned in third year’s film experience – makes the work so much more concrete afterwards. Sound planning. Worked on the 2020 Pitch Site hosted by faculty. Hosted a Pitch Night through ECUAD Animation Club. Then I had a panel at the midpoint which I bombed at. But Darren was there. I miss him.
Then I asked my friend to compose music for me. Asked friends for vocal talent. My lovely ECUAD Animation Club junior helped consult for the script, stayed up real late talking about language. Hong Kong Cantonese and “Born in Canada went to Chinese School for 6 years and learned two things” Cantonese is very different. Worked more at animation. Realized I’d be fucked if I didn’t have assistants. Hired friends and juniors alike. Got backgrounds and colours. Kissed the feet of my assistants. I love them.
Fuck, the deadline’s coming fast isn’t it? Animate animate animate. Lip-sync. I finally feel like I grasp it after 3 years. All it took was doing it in another language. Colouring pipeline was long but simple work. I thank my assistants so much. Did I say that already? Sound editing. SFX, Foley, Ambience, Voice. Composed music was amazing, thank you for going with my pickiness. Sound mix check. The hardest part was signing in. Sound mix. I made Doug say “you learned something from my class after all.” That’s all the praise I ever wanted.
Edited the whole film on my 4 year old laptop in a cold basement. I watched anime against my own will, because my brother was watching in the same room. But actually, I listened to a lot of Technology Connections to pass the time. Lorelei told me to do cleanup and fix mistakes. Re-exported the whole film. Edited again, made it look real sexy and warm. Put in some afterthought effects with After Effects. Super cute and worth the time. Was in the final steps of adding subtitles until the holy email sent out that deadlines were extended 10 days.
Realized the colours looked washed out as hell after export. Colour balancing. Spent 2 days with back and forth between friends about feedback for the film as a whole. Added depth to backgrounds, refined everything I could’ve ever wanted to refine. Submitted. Checked out friend’s grad film work streaming in the meantime. Stayed up until 5:30 because 4 GB is a big movie file. Birds chirping in the morning sound like they’re mocking me.
Slept well.
Trailer made after Lorelei sent a rather terrifying email. A few days late. Now I’m here, I suppose.
And here’s my poster, too!

A big thank you to all my sous chefs throughout the cooking process!

Sound/Music
Music Composer, James P (@THiNGYBOBinc)
Final Mixing, Doug Paterson
Sounds from Westar Music

Voice Actors
Christy Chan as Lady
Mattea Choi as Waitress
Vince Fung as Father

Language Consultant, Christy Chan
(and her mom!)

Background Artists
Christy Chan
Frog K.
Vy (Fern) Le
Chu Wei (Weiwei) Wu

Colourists
Frog K.
Chu Wei (Weiwei) Wu

And, my special thanks! If you saw it in the credits, it’s super long and probably went against credits guidelines. Well, here it is again! I have three major groups to thank in the arduous process of making a short film.

My professors, classmates, and friends

Endless thank yous to Lorelei for the last two years of mentoring me and others throughout the rough journey that is producing a short film. How do you even do it? I can’t imagine looking over a bunch of ambitious students and praying they’ll pull through on time… Though I mean, I did just that praying my friends would make the deadline. When it all happens again next year, feel free to call me up for any alumni related activities!
Thank you to my animation profs these four years, too. Of special note is Darren, who I promised to talk to more after the panel I bombed, BUT I NEVER HAD THE TIME TO. I’M SORRY DARREN. I LOVE YOU DON’T WORRY
And my profs who taught history, electives, and were honestly the most enriching part of these four years. Art history that laid the foundation – a white one, that’s for sure. that Animation history opened my eyes to many techniques and many stories behind the earliest films. Studying the non-human was hard, but the concepts were unforgettable. Indigenous art and history SHOULD be mandatory, cuz you all need to have Richard – chillest, yet the most informative prof ever. Lindsay as well, if you’re in film or animation or new media!!! And, Asian diasporic readings that I’ll be carrying with me for a long time.
Major appreciation to my classmates and schoolmates, for their watchful eyes helped refine this film into what it is today. Words stung and words gave me motivation. I took your words to heart and hopefully made a film that can stand alongside all of yours. Let’s party one day, in the animation lab, just like the alumni meetup they had last year.
And a shoutout to ECUAD Animation Club, of which I’m proud to be a co-leader of! This isn’t goodbye just cuz I’m graduating, because I’ll be there for a bit longer, haha! We need new leaders. If anyone’s reading this, help.
My friends who helped me out, stayed with me at late nights, and filled the Discord and Facebook chats with lots of laughs are the true heroes. I don’t think I can list them all out, but without them, these four years of school would’ve been terribly lonely. Can’t forget online friends, too! They kept my motivation up and gave me plenty of joy. Some friends have been there all these four years, and for that I cannot ever hope to thank them enough. Thank you. Thank you for everything, and know I’ll support you right back. Wait, you’re all online now, haha!

My family

Thank you for supporting me financially. I could try to pay you back for all the money you’ve invested in my education, but you’d probably just refuse – that’s cool with me, too. Thank you for letting me go to art school, and for being so lax about what I even do in my life. Thank you for teaching me so much Cantonese. Thank you for being there when I cried at Chinese school, both under the pressure of exams and at my graduation ceremony. Thanks Collin for feeding me chips.
I will be the homemaker and make the meals from now on until I find a job.

Video Games

I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t spent the last three years of my life hopelessly obsessed with games I will not name. When your life is stress and animation, escaping to the warmth of obscure mediocre games is a godsend.
It’s embarrassing, looking back on the last few months especially, how often I turned to them for comfort. But as a certain famous game developer once said, it’s critical to have hobbies outside of your work. My summer will be dedicated to them and them only.

Alayna Y

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Alayna is a digital artist and animator who specializes in making soup. That is, she throws (the figurative concept of) people, places, and things that make up the world around her into a simmering pot of creations. As she takes inspiration from the world of not-quite-Vancouver, Alayna would like to acknowledge the traditional Katzie First Nation territory that she works from. Alayna's brother took that photo of her. He's also available for freelance jobs.
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