It's great to see that the Search For General Tso movie has garnered a surprisingly wide audience with its release on Netflix and re-release on video on demand. This is far more than I envisioned when being interviewed for the movie over two years ago. Obviously food documentaries aren't going to make it on anybody's list of most watched films. But already five people I know, who didn't know I was in the movie, have seen the movie, and my daughter has received screen shots of me from her friends while they were watching the movie. That so many people within a small circle have seen the movie indicates that the raw viewership numbers are pretty good.
More than anything, however, I'm grateful to have even made it into the final cut of the movie and to see and participate in the process of how movies try to garner attention and stand out from the clutter on the way to commercial distribution. Note that the movie is ostensibly about the search for the origins of General Tso's Chicken, but my part in the film doesn't add anything to that search. Indeed, as a Californian I was largely unfamiliar with the General Tso's Chicken dish which is ubiquitous throughout the United States, but rarely seen in California, except to be aware of the scarcity of the dish. (This is probably thanks to the popularity of Panda Express' blockbuster orange chicken dish, and there's probably room for only one orange colored sweet Chinese chicken dish in any particular geographic market.)
Yes, there are other undercurrents in the movie, and perhaps that is why I fit in. Or perhaps there were more relevant comments from me in the hour and a half of interview time that didn't make it into the movie, but the parts where I was included were deemed better, for which i should thank the masterful film editing. But still, I don't know why I made it into the movie, while the founders of Panda Express, who were interviewed the same day I was, did not. Perhaps filmmaker Ian Cheney spotted the human interest angle, as despite just three minutes of face time, I was actually mentioned in some of the film reviews, including Variety, Eater and OC Weekly. (The Variety piece mentioned me after referring to the "genial assortment of historians, chefs, critics and unclassifiable eccentrics" in the movie, and I'm not sure if I was meant to be in the latter category.) One blogger used the adjective "pan faced" to describe me, for which I have to keep remembering the part of the Junior Woodchuck Manual that says any publicity is good publicity. But I certainly have nothing to complain about, as it's been a fun ride. And of course I now try to eat and mention General Tso's Chicken whenever I can.