Short Film Celebrates AAPI Heritage Through Dance

The director has devoted his career to creating Asian and queer content

Debuting on today, and timed to AAPI Heritage Month, the short film/PSA "Kit DeZolt Story" presents a lyrical portrait of the Los Angeles-based actor and dancer. It probes how being Asian, queer and an adoptee have shaped his life and art.

Quentin Lee is the director/producer behind the project; he also developed the AsianAmericanMovies platform. Lee has been making AAPI and queer content for three decades, first gaining notice with the 1997 film Shopping for Fangs, a cult classic he directed with Justin Lin. More recent credits include the feature Last Summer of Nathan Lee, the TV series Comedy InvAsian 2.0 and the LGBTQ+ comedians documentary Laugh Proud, which is being released theatrically in Los Angeles for a one-week run on May 17.

Lee made his debut in the advertising world in 2022, working as a producer on "The Myth," a PSA by Wieden+Kennedy that debunked the myth of Asian-Americans as the model minority.

Below, Lee leans into the making of "Kit DeZolt Story."

MUSE: How did you discover Kit, and why did you think there was a film to be made from his story?

I met him through the industry. I am in L.A., and I'm a filmmaker. We're Facebook friends, and he's an actor. He's adopted from Hong Kong. I grew up in Hong Kong, and I wasn't aware there were actually adoptees coming out of Hong Kong. I just thought, "That's a really interesting story." So, then, this year, I was thinking maybe we should do something for AAPI Heritage month. I wanted to do something like "The Myth" but based on a true story. He was like, "Yeah, sure, but we have to do it now because I'm leaving in a week on a dance tour." I found my DP, and we shot the piece.

How did working on this compare to working on 'The Myth?'

When I was making the spot for Wieden+Kennedy, it was a really big budget. This was a literally zero budget situation. But I feel like we were still able to tell a very unique story that celebrates the diversity of being both queer and AAPI.

You devote a lot of time in the film to Kit dancing. Why give us so much performance?

I connected with Kit because he's a dancer, and I am an amateur dancer. I'm not a real dancer, even though I've been taking hip-hop classes forever! Kit is a more classical dancer—ballet and jazz. I have always admired that about him. I wanted him to be the one to lead the story. So, basically, I told Kit, "Whatever form of dance you want [to perform] is fine, but I want you to pick a piece of music that we can get the rights to, and I want you to choreograph the whole thing." So, I actually built the whole story around his choreography, which is something I wanted to feature because there's so much you can tell through dance and movement. There's a story that's told within that dance piece.

What kind of creative relationship did you build with Kit while making this film?

With lack of any money to pay him, I just said, "Co-own this movie." So, I basically gave him 50 percent of anything that I make. I think it's a more equitable [way to do things] going into these highly personal projects. That's what I've seen doing with a lot of the collaborators I work with on their stories. I would feel bad if I just said, "I'm going to pay you some money and take 100 percent of the rights." So, I always share the copyright, or share the revenue at least 50 percent. I think that's fair.

What do you hope people get out of watching 'Kit DeZolt Story?'

I just want to increase the diversity of storytelling in the AAPI and the queer communities. It's such a unique story. It's just having another story out there, another viewpoint. It's really all I want this film to accomplish.

Christine Champagne
Muse contributor Christine Champagne is a writer based in NYC.

Advertise With Us

Featured Clio Award Winner



The best in creativity delivered to your inbox every morning.