Cinema Asian America: Gene Rhee on ‘The Trouble With Romance’

“The Trouble With Romance.”

This month Cinema Asian America on Xfinity On Demand presents Gene Rhee’s provocative and sexy relationship comedy “The Trouble With Romance.” Set entirely within the confines of an anonymous Los Angeles hotel, “Trouble” is centered around the experiences of four unrelated couples, each of which is negotiating the tricky terrain of love, sex and intimacy. As their stories begin to intertwine, each reveals moments thrilling, heartbreaking and hilarious. Featuring performances from David Eigenberg (“Sex in the City”), Roger Fan (“Fast and Furious”) and Sheetel Sheth (“I Can’t Think Straight”).

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“The Trouble With Romance” is almost all set within the walls of a Los Angeles hotel; why did you choose to set this creative parameter for yourself?

GR: Prior to making this film, I had set up a project with a well-known production company, and was gearing up to direct that film. However, less than a year later, this company lost its financing and went bankrupt, and the project died with it. I was so frustrated by that experience (as well as the glacial pace of the Hollywood development process), that my friends and I decided to make a super low budget movie, something that could be done so cheaply we could altogether bypass contacting companies for financing. We were determined to go out and make it ourselves right away, pooling all our resources. And the only way to work within our small budget was to set the entire film in a single location. So we wrote the four stories and started production 3 months later. It came together very quickly. I think filmmakers need to keep making stuff regardless of whether they have all their ducks in a row, and regardless of the budget. It’s the only way to grow and learn.

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Each of the film’s four vignettes are separate musings on love, sex and intimacy, but their stories and ideas become intertwined as the film develops. How did you develop each of the stories in relation to each other?

GR: Each of the four stories was originally written by one of the three credited writers of the film, and once the initial drafts were done, we tinkered with them some more and found a way to tie them all together. From the beginning, we wanted each story to be different, in order to reflect the wide variety of experiences people have in relationships. Whether fun, serious, or just plain bizarre, we wanted the film to portray a myriad of experiences. So the stories range from crass and raunchy to reflective and poignant, and that was always our intent. Despite its small scope and miniscule budget, we wanted to make a film that has something for everyone, while also being lighthearted and commercial.

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Your film has almost every romantic-relational scenario represented; the couple falling apart, the couple that might be three…it also has a stellar cast that we’ve seen in everything from “Sex in the City” to “Fast & Furious.” How did you match up your cast with the scenarios you created?

GR: The cast came together through a variety of ways. A couple of the actors were friends of ours, and we wrote some of the stories with them in mind. However, many of the other major roles were cast by audition. We probably auditioned close to a hundred actors for the dozen or so roles in the film. For each, we tried to find actors who could naturally slip into their characters based on their strengths – be it comedy or drama. One exception was David Eigenberg, who’s best known for playing “Steve” on Sex & the City. We knew we wanted him for the male role in the second story, so we contacted his agent and sent him the script. Even though we had no real money to offer him, David’s such a great guy that he agreed to do the film because he thought the character was interesting.

What are you working on now?

GR: I have several projects in various stages. Some are in the script stage, while one is actually in production– but I can’t talk too much about it right now (though I hope to disclose more to you at some point in the future!). The only thing I can say is that none of these projects are romantic comedies.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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