A little over a decade ago, actress Chuti Tiu asked Oscar Torre to read a personal script she had written after the two met in an acting class. Years later, they are not only married, but the couple has joined forces to turn the script into the award-winning film Pretty Rosebud.
While Tiu also stars in the film as Cecilia "Cissy" Santos, Torre took the role as the director for the first time in his lengthy career. Although he was initially unsure how it would be directing his wife, Torre boasted about the experience and explained how effortlessly they collaborated together.
"I like to joke that it's the only time she ever listened to me," Torre, The Hangover 3 actor, told Enstars. "I'm looking forward to doing it again, not because she's my wife, but because it was exactly what you want from somebody who you are collaborating with and I thought it worked out great."
The film focuses on Cissy, whose marriage with her good-looking architect husband, Phil Santos (Kipp Shiotani), isn't working out. Simultaneously, Cissy also has to battle with her very traditional Asian parents, which pays a toll on her.
"Cissy is a woman with the best intentions at heart. She loves her family, her husband, her friends and she's a hard worker. She tries to do her best, but she fails," Tiu said. "Her problem is that she doesn't love herself enough and she doesn't listen to herself enough. That's what she needs to learn to do."
Working with her husband, Tiu was also able to bring a number of relatable themes to the big screen, including the cultural divide often found between first-generation Americans and their parents.
"Like you see the immigrant parents being very old world traditional and you see the American-born kids being like, 'Well, that's not exactly what we like to do,'" Tiu, a daughter of Asian immigrants, said.
Using her character, she also aimed to battle the many stereotypes about Asian Americans found in the media, such as the idea that they are always submissive and obedient in relationships. Tiu also pointed out that many roles written for Asians in TV and film are monotonous and lack substance.
"It's gotten so much better recently and of course there's room for improvement," she said, referencing newer roles with Asian actresses like Ming-Na Wen in Agents of Shield and Lucy Lui in Elementary. Tiu will also play a "character with a twist' on a new ABC series, Chasing Life, this summer. "But especially growing up, what I saw, was not very representational and so that was kinda a fire beneath my butt."
Another major theme Tiu wanted viewers to grasp is that one person can never be fully blamed for a failed relationship. "In any breakup or divorce it is never just one person's fault," she said. "It always takes two sides of a story."
Pretty Rosebud is quickly gaining the recognition Torre and Tiu could only hope for. It's received five awards at the Idyllwild International Film Festival this year -- Best Feature Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actress for Tiu and Best Cinematography for Tarina Reed.
Aside from their awards, Torre and Tiu said they are also elated with the feedback they've received from the general public. They mentioned emails they've opened from people who said they related to elements in the film and others who simply enjoyed the story itself.
With the help of Tugg.com, a website that hosts movie screenings in local theaters, Tiu and Torre have been able to show Pretty Rosebud in Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and Milwaukee. Each screening was sold-out.
"It's been really, really amazing," Tiu said. "It just feels like such a blessing to be acknowledged on so many fronts."
As the couple is continuing the film festival circuit, fans can also request to see the film in their area via Tugg.com.