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Trailer Watch: Sean Baker and Shih-Ching Tsou’s Take Out

Sean Baker’s debut feature was 2000’s Four Letter Words, but it was his second (following his work on TV’s Greg the Bunny), Take Out, directed with Shih-Ching Tsou, that is the most clear antecedent to the neorealist-inflected work he practices today. When I interviewed Baker in 2012 about his Starlet, we began with his origin story, which included this section on Take Out:

I was a bit discouraged. I was seeing these filmmakers I’d gone to school with — Todd Phillips, Marc Forster — start to make waves. Their careers were taking off. I wanted to get back to my true love, cinema.  So, in ’03 Shih-Ching Tsou and I were living above a Chinese takeout on 20th Street. This was shortly after the Dogma ’95 movement kicked in. Digital cinema had allowed filmmakers to make films for nothing, and they were being accepted. We were barely paying rent at the time, but we decided to make a small New York film in which you see in the apartments of all these different New Yorkers through the eyes of a Chinese delivery guy. And when we actually did our research, exploring different takeouts in the city and sitting down with these gentlemen, it became a whole different thing. It became more about the plight of the undocumented worker. It was just Shih-Ching and I doing everything with our very dedicated actor, Charles Jang, who played the lead, as our third crew member. The three of us made Take Out over the course of June ’03. I think it was the rainiest June in recorded history. Every day we’d walk outside and thank God because we had a constant production design. Take Out was done and delivered to the festivals for $3,000.

That $3,000 film has now been digitally remastered in 4K and receives its streaming premiere tomorrow on the Criterion Channel. It’s also notably Baker’s first collaboration with Tsou, who has gone on to produce Baker features such as Red Rocket, The Florida Project and Tangerine. Check out the trailer above and other interviews with Baker here. 

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