“Fall 1990” was also very much another experimental film in the sense that it was my first experiment to make a traditional and compelling narrative film with a non-traditional protagonist that you still won’t see in a Hollywood film—a gay Asian American college student. I set out to write something that chronicled my politically active senior year at Berkeley. Ambitious enough to make a semi-period piece, I wrote “Fall 1990” in the fall of 1994 as my second year “Advanced Project” at UCLA.
I also just met UCLA film school senior Justin Lin. Bonded over founding APACT (Asian Pacific Coalition for Film, Theater and Television at UCLA), I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to work with Justin who became the Director of Photography on the project. I can still remember driving up to the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival with Justin in March of 1994 right before shooting “Fall 1990” to screen our short films—my “Matricide” and his Spotlight Award winning “Soy Bean Milk.” We watched Kayo Hata’s Picture Bride together on the opening night of the festival. I remember Justin commenting all night about the exposure of the moon in that movie. Was a it 1/4 stop off or something?
Coming back from San Francisco, we shot “Fall 1990” in 6 days with a budget of under $6,000 on 16mm color film. I think we shot on the Aaton 16mm camera which was much better than the CP16 but it still wasn’t the quietest camera. The result was my longest narrative short film, a 40 min. college drama, that won me a Spotlight Award at UCLA.
Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times wrote, “(Barney) Cheng stars as Jimmy, a good-looking, self-possessed UCLA student who unashamedly augments his scholarship with money from a sugar daddy and occasional hustling. He draws Radmar Chao’s Voon Chow was his roommate, and after initial wariness, the two strike up a solid friendship. Through his roommate’s girlfriend (Lela Lee), Jimmy meets Byron (Richard K. Chung), a shy guy, just dumped y his girlfriend, who finds himself unexpectedly drawn to Jimmy. What ensues is edgy, wryly amusing, tender, wise and credible.”
Lydia Marcus of Frontiers also praised, “His closing short, ‘Fall 1990,” about the friendships and love relationships of four Asian-American freshmen has as much emotional resonance as an Oscar touted full-length drama.”