Film Shooting Has Started in California

The timeline of “Zoe’s Choice” covers 2 decades. It’s been a great challenge for us to find many actors ranging from infants to grandparents, as well as a variety of many locations. We finally came up with the plan to divide the scenes in different shooting phases so that we won’t be too overwhelmed.

In March, 2021, we traveled back to Taiwan to kick start shooting the scenes in Taipei after 21 days of strict quarantine. When we later came back to California on 5/14/21, never could we have imagined that the pandemic situation in Taiwan would become so serious that they escalated the alert level and issued a stay-at-home order starting on 5/15, the day after we left. We are so grateful that we were able to finish our shooting for the scenes in Taiwan. We resumed the next 2 phases of shooting on 7/23 and 9/10 in northern California.

Pouring Oil into Empty Jars

The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the LORD. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.”
2 Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?”
“Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.”
3 Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. 4 Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”
5 She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring.6 When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.”
But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing.
7 She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”

2 Kings 4:17

When we started to propose Zoe’s Choice with ERS’ limited resources, we foresaw the difficulty of this production, including funding, location, cast and crew. We could not rely on past experiences from our other productions, did not have ample funding to depend on, the only we can depend on is the Holy Spirit (ZEC 4:6). We believe that miracles often happen in difficulty. But how did we get started? Ginny thought of the story of the empty jars and we initiated a prophetic gesture like the poor woman in 2 Kings 4:1-7. She brought out a few empty jars, putting our needs for cast and crew, locations and funding in each jar, and we prayed over these empty jars, asking for God’s wonderful provision to multiply our limited resources and fill these empty jars abundantly for ERS’ needs.

Gradually we saw how God filled these jars:

Cast

The cast in Taiwan locations: we found a vendor at one of Taiwan’s traditional markets, Zoe’s grandma, grandpa, and baby Zoe.

California Location: we needed 2 couples for Zoe’s parents, aunty and uncle.

Mandy and Richard Jiang–Zoe’s parents

First, we needed to find Mandy, Zoe’s mother, the strong woman of faith. Her faith will accompany the daughter, Zoe, to walk through the journey of giving birth to a baby born out of wedlock. We needed a Christian woman around 45-years-old, with experience in acting. After several tries, finally we found our actress, Annie Xu. Annie is the perfect match for Mandy in our hearts. It was then that we knew the timing had come for God to start filling the empty jar for the American cast.
After Mandy’s role was secured, an actor for the role of Zoe’s father Richard was recommended by one of our actresses. Ken Hwang is an amateur stage actor, yet he studied the personality of Richard, immersing himself in the character, and prepared well before the performance. Although acting is not his main profession, his efforts were no less than that of a professional.

Zoe’s parents
Nina and Ray Wu–Zoe’s aunt and uncle

After the roles for Zoe’s parents were set, the roles of Zoe’s aunt and uncle were next on the list to be filled. As they are a happily married couple in our script, we hoped that they would be a couple in real life. We auditioned many actors and actresses without success. We believed in God’s provision, and thus went ahead and started to shooting the scenes without Nina and Ray. Finally, Charles asked a formal singer-turned-pastor, Rose Wen, and she introduced us to a couple, Debbie and Jason Kung. Debbie was a dance teacher who graduated from an Art School in Taiwan, with much stage experience. Jason has experience from prior performances in the church play. Both of them fit the roles so well for Zoe’s aunt and uncle.

Zoe’s auntie and uncle

The actresses for Mandy and Nina were found at different times, but their appearance and accents are very similar, our crew all said they really look like sisters.

The actresses for Mandy and Nina look alike
Many Child Actors

Mandy has 3 children, Nina has 1 child, and through the growth of Zoe, we need different child actors in different stages, including babies. From not being shy in auditions to not being nervous when acting, it is a really high-level challenge for the children since they cannot be forced to perform.

One of our little actresses, Joanne (Zoe’s older sister) was played by Calandra Wang. She is only 4 years old, yet very capable to cooperate with our cast and crew. Through her mother’s gentle guidance, she was able to both sing and act, successfully fulfilling the assignment we gave her. In the next phase of shooting, she had a 2-day shooting, but got the flu just before the shooting day. We had no choice but to cut her shoot to 1 day. The day she came she was still sick but managed to act, playing in the playground. Her mother gave her tissue paper when she needed it and her older sister encouraged her on the side. For a little girl at such a young age, her dedication won over our hearts.
We also needed a baby in our set but during the pandemic, parents often hesitated to let their baby be in the shoot. We were so grateful that during our shooting time, our daughter’s good friends happened to take their baby to work in Sonoma County on 3 weekends. After she understood the vision of Zoe’s Choice, she prepared all the protection and supported our shooting. During the shooting, all the worries of the baby crying or fussing were not realized.

One of our baby actors- Clement Yeh

During both shooting in Taiwan and California, we are so grateful that God provided us with 4 different babies, one is in Taiwan, three are in America. We believe God will also provide child actors of different ages according to His time.

Break-in in our Rohnert Park office

During the transition of moving, on November 17th, 2021 when we returned to the old office at noon from moving some stuff to the new office, we were shocked to find our office had been broken into. After carefully checking, we lost 4 cameras and 1 label printer, 2 nice cameras and lens were donated by a professional photographer, one of them is a 6K camera that we had just purchased for our movie. After it was stolen, it was hard for us to resume our shooting in a short time. It added more difficulties to the difficulty we already had. We at once sent out our prayer request.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10

This accident really saddened us and made our hearts so heavy. Will God let us begin to work and then withdraw His presence? We found out that brothers and sisters prayed for us more earnestly, some even donated money for the equipment since the insurance company refused to reimburse us. God never rests, we believe that God allowed the equipment to be stolen even though we don’t fully understand at this moment. We kept praying that all the equipment would be returned one day. Charles asked God if He wants us to continue finishing this movie? God didn’t answer him directly, yet raised up more intercessors and supporters. Recalling all the wonderful provisions in the beginning of production, it marked His blessing over this movie. We decided to pause a little bit and will resume our journey as we take rest before the Lord to seek His guidance.


Every morning when we have devotion time together, the Lord revives us through His words. We really feel His wisdom that sustains and strengthens us for our next step.

Our Office Moved to Santa Rosa

Due to the past years of PG&E shutting off electricity in Santa Rosa in wildfire prevention, in 2019 we had moved to a housing area in Rohnert Park, where it provided us with the solar power without worrying about a power outage. It also became a haven for us during the wildfire and the lock down in the pandemic. Through this private space, we were able to continue to work on our project.

Now the place has other uses, so we found a very nice office space just across from Santa Rosa High School, with other executive offices as our neighbors, also with a tight security system, which we later found out is very important. We officially moved to the new office in December 2021.

Side notes From Filming in Taiwan

Due to the pandemic in America, it was very hard for us to start the production of the film “Zoe’s Choice.” The length of our Taiwan scenes only accounted for 10% of the overall film, so we planned to travel to Taiwan to start this part first. The Taiwanese government required 14 days of quarantine and 7 days of self-isolation, with no public meetings and transportation, before we could actually start working. It added a lot of uncertainty to our trip. After praying through all kinds of scenarios, we decided to book our airline tickets for 3/5/2 1and set our shooting schedule for 4/9/21.

Amazing Shooting Location
One of the Taiwan film locations was at a traditional market. We loved Taipei Bin Jiang Fruit and Vegetable Market. Its busy scenery was a great reflection of people’s life in this competitive city. We needed a vegetable vendor for the action. But we were worried that it would be hard to find a vendor who would be willing to sacrifice their business for a day and let us borrow their stand for filming. I thought of Yuming Chang who was the main character in our prior short film “Homesick.”
Yuming works for the Reformed House of Prison Fellowship, and is in charge of buying food for the ministry and the youth who live there. His supplier for daily vegetables is Ms. Yang, who happened to be in the same market, Bin Jiang. Mrs. Yang is a wholesaler in the market, and her busiest hours happened to be from 5am-7am, so she was able to lend us her place without losing her business for the day! We were amazed that God answers our prayers through our connection with Prison Fellowship, for whom we produced a short film 3 years ago!

Another shooting location was at a family-style restaurant. We chose the restaurant “Adullam Kitchen” in Xizhi, New Taipei City. The restaurant was started by members of the association of Adullam Home. “Adullam Home” was named after a biblical story in 1 Samuel 22, “David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him.” And later they all became David’s mighty warriors. Adullam Home is a ministry to those struggling with alcohol or substance abuse, whose families had essentially given up on them. Yet, by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, they were set free from their bondage.
Adullam Kitchen was started with the mindset of helping these reformed brothers reintegrate into society. With the supervision of the counselors from Adullam Home and their church, the Kitchen now is able to supply a thousand orders to local schools and Sunday banquets for nearby churches. We wanted to encourage their service, and thus chose their place for shooting. We even asked some of them to pose as extras in our film, and they are now waiting with anticipation for the release of this movie.

Angel Tu is our star grandma

The Search for our Cast
We are looking for the characters of Zoe’s grandma, grandpa, baby Zoe, and a vendor for the Taiwanese market.

A Grandma just right for us

Zoe’s grandma is about 60 years old, and a restaurant owner. From conversations with the vendor in the market, one can see her sharpness while doing her shopping. Because the character of Zoe’s grandma required scenes both in Taiwan and the US, this was a difficult character to find. People who live in US don’t like the idea of traveling to Taiwan during a pandemic, and especially having to observe mandated quarantine. People who live in Taiwan were hesitant to go to US as at that time the cases of Covid-19 in the US were very high. We started praying to find an actress who lives in US, and just so happened to be traveling back to Taiwan for vacation at the time we scheduled to travel to Taiwan as well, so she could fulfill the requirement we needed.
Before we traveled back to Taiwan, we were in a training class, Introduction to Art Therapy, and we got to know a lady who was from the Huayi Performing Arts Center in San Francisco. Through her introduction, we knew Mrs. Angel Deng. She is both a professional theatrical actress, a Christian who loves the Lord, and lives in San Francisco. It was so amazing that we traveled to Taiwan on March 5th 2021, and she happened to return to Taiwan to visit her family on March 3rd 2021, the same week as us. The day before she got on the plane, we used the Zoom to do an online audition with her. Her vivid and natural acting skills and the way she interpreted the character of the grandma convinced us right away that she was perfect for the role of Zoe’s grandma. She stayed in Taiwan until mid-May, and returned to the United States afterwards. She will be able to continue her part after we resume our shooting in the US. She fulfilled all the needs of our prayers.

Zoe’s Grandpa Did Not Take the Train

Mr. Jingya Li, who plays Zoe’s grandpa, is a well-known commercial actor in Taiwan. He once was a channeling medium and now is an enthusiastic Christian and evangelist. He was willing to accept the invitation of acting, despite how much we were able to offer him for pay, as he learned that this is a gospel movie.
We spent some time arranging the schedule for rehearsal since the several of the cast members had a schedule conflict with one another. After several time changes, the final rehearsal date was set for 4/3 at Taipei Gongguan Presbyterian Church. April 2nd-4th is traditionally a holiday for people to return to their hometown and pay their respects to their deceased family. Brother Li intended to take his wife back to Hualien and go to her family cemetery on 4/2 early morning, and return at the same day. Due to “Zoe’s Choice” rehearsal being scheduled for the next day, he decided to cancel the family trip. Later, on the morning of 4/2, the train heading toward Hualien derailed and resulted in a serious train wreck. 49 people died and 247 people were injured. Li’s family had intended to board that very same train. Li said, if not for our rehearsal scheduled for the next day, his family might well have been in that train wreck.

Baby Zoe Never Cried

We needed to film a one-month-old baby while we were at the market. Due to the pandemic, we knew that it was highly unlikely that parents would want to let their baby be exposed in a busy market. How we would be able to find a baby actor for the scene? We also brought this difficulty to God in our prayers. Later, our “vendor” Zhang, Luoming told us Pastor Liu, Anze from the Northern Taiwan University Presbyterian Church, his wife just had their 3rd baby who will be one month old when our shooting takes place. The couple was so excited that their baby could become a star actor for God, while only being one month old! On the day of filming, they came to the market very early with their baby and their other child. The baby slept in the arms of the “grandpa” throughout the whole morning, and finished his part without being woken up by the noise of cars and loud shouts of the market. May God bless this little baby that he may glorify God and grow up strong and healthy!

Don’t Call “Cut!”

The Taiwan scenes of this film were coordinated by Song Wei and his team, who had worked with us on the short film “Homesick.” He is a great videographer, very proficient in lighting, and excellent with his high-standard Sony HD camera. We had two photographers working on two cameras, and a professional sound engineer. Instead of cumbersome monitors, the entire film and director used mobile phones and Bluetooth monitors. The actors were so professional that halfway into the story, the videographer declared, “I really don’t want to cut the acting!” His comment became such an encouragement to the entire cast.

God Held the Rain
All of 2021, the whole island of Taiwan was suffering from a drought, and everyone was praying for rain. At long last, one day we heard the weather reporter predict that there would be 80% chance of heavy rain the next day. Everyone was very happy except for us, because this news came the day before we were scheduled to film. A director friend called Charles to suggest cancelling the next day’s shooting so the team would not work in vain. Hearing what he said, we suddenly became very depressed. To postpone things, there would be many things to reschedule, it would be very complicated. We decided to proceed with the original plan, despite the forecast of rain.

Ginny sent out many prayer requests that God would pause the rainfall just from 7am to 10 am, when we were shooting outdoors. Early morning on 4/9, while it was still pitch dark outside, we heard heavy raindrops while we were sleeping. Charles began to worry, thinking even if we could shoot in the rain, how could we let the baby actor get wet in the rain? We got up and knelt down to pray. “God, your children are going to be shooting scenes for our film in the morning, we ask you to pause the rain from 7 to 10 am in the name of Jesus.

When we went to the market, the rain literally paused. It did resumed raining again until around noon when we had moved on to shooting indoor scenes. In the afternoon before we transitioned to a restaurant, we wanted to rest in a coffee shop to get ready. When we were walking towards the coffee shop, it started to rain heavily. We had to use umbrellas to avoid getting soaked. We were so grateful to our God who controlled the rain! With God’s protection and guidance, we successfully finished all the Taiwan scenes we needed to shoot in one day!

Characters Introduction

Jiang Family
Ken Huang as Richard

Richard Jiang: He is an immigrated from Taiwan to California, very smart but with a hot temper. For not knowing how to communicate with his family, it results in violent outbreaks. Longing for the way of working and in America, so he left to work in Asia, leaving his family alone in America.

Mandy Du: Richard’s wife. She is 32 years old and has a daughter named Joan and Pat. The son was born with a heart disease resulting in extra care needed for raising. With the addition of the family relationship problems, this resulted in Mandy having a weak body. During the hard times, she became pregnant with her 2nd daughter, Zoe. She didn’t expect that the growth of Zoe would become the biggest struggle in the family. Zoe’s attitude during the teenage years is very harsh like thrones on a rose. After years of raising Zoe, Mandy’s attitude becomes subtle.

`Mandy and her daughter Joanne played by Anne Xu and Colandra Wang

Joan – The eldest daughter, independent, hardworking, has good grades. After she found out about Zoe’s situation, she realized that she doesn’t care about her sister and brother.

Pat – Mandy’s son. Has a heart disease since he was born. Loved and cared by the father. Loves to prank and annoy Zoe.

Zoe: The youngest child of the three. After being born, due to her brother having lots of sickness, all the care was directed towards him. Exclude from the care of her father, she became rebellious. Her way of dressing, party lifestyle, brought a huge shock to the traditional Asian family. At 20 years old, she accidentally got pregnant from her boyfriend Arthur and faces the choice of abortion.

Wu Family
Ray and Nina played by Jason and Debbie Kung

Ray: Mandy’s Brother in law. Kind and caring, and during family outbreaks, he knows how to calm others down..

Nina Du: Mandy’s younger sister, and Ray’s wife. She has two daughters named Ellen and Jessica, and a pet dog named Sunny. She is a busy house wife. She is usually calm and is usually Mandy’s escape from outbreaks.

Ellen: Zoe’s cousin. They grew up together. Her personality is very pure, the complete opposite of Zoe. However, Ellen and Zoe click will together resulting in them being best friends.

Jesse: Ellen’s younger brother. Likes to annoy others.

Grandparents
Grandparent played by Jingya Li and Angel Tu

Grandma: Mandy and Nina’s mother lives in Taiwan. Education level of Middle School. Strong personality. She often says she doesn’t care about her daughter but her action says her love.

Grandpa: Mandy and Nina’s father runs a traditional family-style restaurant in Taiwan.

Others

Zoe’s Boyfriend
Alex Kim: 19-23, Korean American college student and Zoe’s Boyfriend. Has a violent personality. Good to girls and attracted Zoe. Zoe wanted to break up with him multiple times, however because of Arthur’s compliments, she always goes back.After hearing that Zoe was pregnant, he wanted to quickly find a solution and doesn’t care about Zoe’s feelings at all. After learning that Zoe wants to keep the baby, he became very angry and signed a contract to not support the child.During the graduation ceremony, Arthur holds onto his baby and recognized himself as a father.

Golden Retriever
Sunny: Ellen’s pet Golden Retriever. Has a good and kind personality and loves the family.His loyalty won the hearts of the entire family and his passing gave the family lots of grief. Sunny fully lives his final moments and cherishes every moment with his family, until he passes away.

Zoe witnesses Sunny’s unfortunate death and inspired her to keep the baby in her womb.

About Producer

Producer: Charles Lin
Producer: Ginny Lin

“Emmanuel Resource Service” previously produced three testimonies: “Rise From the Pit”, “Fly Away from Superstition”, “Quick Fix”, and two short movies: “One More Game” and “Homesick”. Distribution areas include Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, the Unite States, Canada, Europe, and the English show ‘The Lighthouse” in San Francisco, California.

Rise From the Pit is a real-life film about a successful business owner who runs a restaurant. However, as time went on, the marriage between the owner and his wife breaks down and the business fails due to drug addiction. The film was distributed in cooperation with the Gospel Food and Beverage Industry Gospel Mission, which toured around the world to promote restaurant work.

“Fly Away from Superstition” is a real-life film about a female restaurant owner who is tied to worshiping in temples, superstitions, fear of offending Gods, and insomnia. This film is a cooperation between Chinese Evangelistic Believers to distribute DVDs of this film around the world. The film was very welcomed and copies of the DVDs were sold in the tens of thousands.

“One More Game” is a short movie (about 30 minutes) about a father who is making a plan to rescue his son from gaming addiction. This film is based on a true story and won the American Los Angeles Short Film Competition in 2017.

“Homesick” is a short movie (about 15 minutes) about a recently probated prisoner who wants to go back home. However, his parents wouldn’t allow him back home because of all the evil deeds he has done. This film was made in collaboration with the Taiwanese Christian Prison Fellowship. The film premiered in California, USA and then toured in the West Coast on March 2019. The film then premiered in Taiwan on September, 2018. The tour lasted from September to December. This film did a great job promoting family relationship and the prison ministry, and gave a deeper understanding of prisoners

The English TV Show “The Lighthouse” is broadcasted in 101 cities in the bay area and provides a half an hour discussion once a week. The broadcasting lasted from 2010-2015 and was broadcasted on KTLN.

The films and TV Programs above are directed and produced by Charles Lin and Ginny Lin.

About Zoe’s Choice

“Zoe’s Choice” is a film about how Zoe, a beautiful girl who survived a parental abortion, decided to keep her baby after witnessing her cousin’s dying dog cherish his last moments with his owner.

Synopsis

Zoe, a previously survivor of an abortion, faces a similar situation before college graduation to make the decision of to or not to abort her unborn child.

Zoe’s parents reside in California, USA, and are the immigrants from Taiwan. When Zoe’s mother was pregnant with her, they were already caring for a four-years old daughter and a sickly one-year old son. Her sudden pregnancy of Zoe made the family not only unprepared, but also worsened the tense family relationship and finances.

The ambitious father Richard Jiang felt that the monotonous American family life was a hindrance to his career. He decides to leave the family and returned to work in Asia when Zoe was just four years old. In the absence of her father, she became a rebellious girl. Her ways of dressing and dating styles often brought violent conflicts to this ordinary Chinese family.

When Zoe was choosing her own partner, she also fell into and experienced a violent, unhealthy relationship. One day, she found out she was pregnant! Her boyfriend wishes her to abort the child. Zoe also considers it until she witnessed her child’s heartbeats during her ultrasonic scan. The heartbeats of the child lets her realized that her baby was a living human being!

Zoe returns to her mother for help. The daughter and mother struggled with the decision. No one will ever know if she has an abortion and Zoe can have a new start. If she keeps the baby, how is a girl able to study, work, and care for the child when she hasn’t graduated from college?

During the time Zoe’s cousin Ellen’s dog fell sick. Sunny’s sickness worsened, and within one week, it became life-threatening. Zoe witnessed that at the end of Sunny’s life, it is still struggling to survive to spent its last moments with its family. After witnessing how Sunny cherishes its life, Zoe couldn’t bear to end the life of an upcoming baby in her womb.