Shortly after my first 15 minutes of fame that followed from Clarissa Wei's piece on the crazy lawyer who had eaten at 6,000 Chinese restaurants, I was contacted by Lily Spottiswoode, associate producer at New York based Wicked Delicate Films (and unbeknownst to me at the time, the granddaughter of actor Jack Palance), regarding a documentary film they were shooting on Chinese restaurants. The film was titled The Search For General Tso and was based on a segment of Jennifer 8 Lee's book, the Fortune Cookie Chronicles, which searched for the origins of General Tso's Chicken, an Americanized Chinese dish commonly found in the eastern United States. The filmmakers' plans were eventually to travel out to the west coast to shoot some interviews and they asked if I was available to speak about regional differences in Chinese restaurants across the United States.
It took six months for the interview to take place, where I met with Lily, along with film director Ian Cheney and producer Amanda Murray. At first they wanted to shoot the interview at a local Chinese restaurant that served General Tso's chicken. However since General Tso's chicken is as rare in Los Angeles as it is common in New York, we ended up at Mission 261 in San Gabriel. Our interview lasted over two hours, well in excess of what the film's running time would be, so it was clear to me that most of what I said would never make it into any film. Since my interview was one of the last they conducted, they indicated that they would soon start the editing process. I don't know anything about filmmaking, but I figured it would take maybe 6 to 9 months to pull the film together. I did get a short informational request four months after the interview. However, as the months rolled on I started to suspect that the film would not get finished, my guess being funding problems being the culprit. Not only did I not hear from anybody, but the General Tso account on Twitter fell silent.
So it was a bit of a surprise that last month, a little over a year after the interview, the General Tso Twitter account revived to announce that the movie would be screening at this month's TriBeCa film festival. The movie really has two parts--the successful search for the origins of General Tso's chicken, and an account on the Chinese restaurant landscape in the United States. The movie premiered two days ago before a sellout crowd of 500 viewers at the Bow Tie Cinema in Chelsea. This Thursday's showing is also sold out, and I'm looking forward to seeing the film with great anticipation.