“Starting from Scratch” – a new AMWF rom-com movie about love, taxes and breakups

Starting from Scratch

It’s not everyday you hear about a romantic comedy that deals with love, divorce and getting audited by the IRS. Or, for that matter, a movie produced by an Asian man (James Huang) and a White woman (Elizabeth Sandy) who are married and who also star in the film as the romantic leads.

Starting from Scratch is one unique rom-com. This movie dares to be honest about relationships and, in the process, offers a funny and poignant example of what happens when two people are facing a divorce and financial hardships at the same time. And for once, it tells the story — which is one that almost anyone can relate to — through an interracial couple.

Since 2013, Starting from Scratch has screened at film festivals across North America, winning awards including Best Film (DisOrient Film Festival) and Best Comedy (Asians On Film Festival). And now you can enjoy the film in the comfort of your own home, wherever you live. Starting from Scratch is available to watch online starting now for audiences in North America (USA, Canada, Mexico) and everywhere else around the world.

You can check out a trailer for the movie online or visit the official Starting from Scratch website to learn more about the film.

I’m so thrilled to introduce you to Starting from Scratch through this interview with actor and filmmaker James Huang, who wrote, directed, produced and edited the film, and also played the lead role of Jake Lew.

James Huang and Elizabeth Sandy

Starting from Scratch was inspired by a time in your life when you were broke and getting audited by the IRS while struggling with a relationship that ultimately ended. Yet this movie is a romantic comedy, which is really a twist! Why did you decide to turn this story into a romantic comedy, instead of just a drama?

The movie is a work of fiction, but all story is rooted in truth. When the IRS audited me a decade ago, you have to sort through a years worth of paperwork to account for work. You have to remember what each of these receipts and bills are and most them were memories of trying to salvage a broken relationship. I was forced to reflect on a terrible year in my life and it felt like I was being punished financially for all my mistakes and failures. It’s sobering to face your past choices by tracing how you spent money. It was the toughest and best therapy I ever had.

Six years later, I met Elizabeth, the love of my life, and I kept thinking to myself: ‘Do not mess this up! Do not make the same mistakes twice!’ I guess I started channeling my fears and wrote a story about my new marriage as if I hadn’t learned a darn thing. So the movie begins on a therapist couch before we go through the opposite and ridiculous ways that men and women deal with a broken heart. But the audit forces them to deal with each other throughout the separation.

I had a lot of funny things happen when I was miserable and trying to rebound because you get so off kilter, your behavior is always heightened, and you feel like a crazy person pretending to be normal. You try way too hard and feel too much and you’re constantly overly affected. To get through it takes swallowing your pride and over time if you are humbled, you can eventually laugh at yourself. My friends were always laughing at my embarrassing stories about a terrible rebound attempt and I guess it helped me find the humor through the pain. It was always comedy whether I felt it or not.

What was it like reliving this challenging experience in your life during the filming process with your wife, Elizabeth Sandy, whom you’re happily married to?

While the plot point of me getting audited after a messy break up is true, the film is just a funny and heart-felt tale of two dreamers who are trying really hard but are just facing in the wrong direction. It’s when the rom-com of your life ends and real life begins. I think audiences feel connected to the story and assume the movie is some sort of reenactment. But really, I think we’re reenacting everyone’s story in a way.

I miss the old romantic comedies, so I made my own with something new to share. Acting with Elizabeth in scenes about divorce was eye opening because it gave us a chance to fully imagine what it’s like to face each other under these circumstances. Then someone says ‘that’s a wrap’ and you go back to being in love all over again. As newlyweds, it was an exercise in love, hate, and ultimately – compassion. We work together every day and are very happily married.

Sadie Alexandru and James Huang

Could you share with us one of your favorite scenes from the movie and why you love that scene so much?

Without giving anything away, there is a scene where I’m telling the therapist a story about my wife’s stinky feet. Rom-coms don’t usually have a pivotal scene like this play out with subtle nuance. For me, that scene landed on each phase of script, filming, editing, and audience. It’s a rare moment of alignment where I was happy as a filmmaker and as a viewer. Oh and by the way, in real life, I’m the one with the stinky feet. That’s what I mean about fiction rooted in truth.

While Starting from Scratch is funny, it’s also incredibly honest at the same time, particularly about how people deal with relationship struggles. What do you want people to come away with after viewing the film?

Maybe just that ‘showing love’ should replace ‘spending money’ and that ‘I’m sorry’ should replace ‘I hate you.’

Starting from Scratch has been playing at a number of film festivals and other venues since 2013, and you and Elizabeth have been present at some of these screenings. Could you share how you’ve seen audiences respond to the film?

Happily, it feels like everyone, everywhere, loves the film. Most people have experienced some form of a break-up (whether it be a divorce or a teenage heartbreak) and because they’re relating to it, they’re laughing through the pain together. It’s definitely inspired people to come up to Elizabeth and me and relay their experiences in love. It feels good to have touched people and perhaps helped them gain some perspective. I think that’s why we all love watching movies; a good story makes you feel connected to one another and not feel so alone.

Where can people buy, rent or view this movie online?

I’m glad you asked! We are very excited to finally share this film with audiences around the world. We made this film for you to enjoy.

Starting from Scratch just launched worldwide through on-line streaming (rent or buy) and on DVD.

North America (USA, Canada, Mexico)http://www.filmfestivalflix.com/film/starting-from-scratch

Everywhere outside North Americahttp://www.vimeo.com/ondemand/sfsmovie


Thanks so much to James Huang for doing this interview! And if you enjoyed it, please support Starting from Scratch by watching it online (in North America or the rest of the world) and sharing it with all your friends!

26 Replies to ““Starting from Scratch” – a new AMWF rom-com movie about love, taxes and breakups”

  1. need to see this 🙂 people say AMWF couple are rare but actually what is rare is to see AMWF couples in the TV, honestly first ever AMWF TV-couple I saw were… G&M from The Walking dead (not the most romantic story 😉 )

  2. Unfortunately the movie shows the stereotype that interracial marriages dont last…and flies in the face of the reality that AMWW couples have the highest income in this country.

    1. David, I’ve never heard of that stereotype because it’s not true. The truth is that MOST MARRIAGES don’t last regardless of race.

    2. I’m finally just seeing this ridiculous comment. I’m the writer/ director/ actor in this film. What your blanket comment fails to acknowledge is the FACT that race is not mentioned ONCE in this film because race has absolutely nothing to do with the storytelling, plot, or themes of the film. While the representation of mixed couples or an Asian Male lead or an AMWF couple is abundantly clear, I was aware of how necessary it is to influence and balance simple truths in films. I am in the AMWF category.
      The idea you’re introducing that the marriage didn’t work because of race is 100% your own projection and is not in any way shape or form alluded to, suggested, hinted at or mentioned in this movie and that’s all that I have to say as the creator of this film. Anything suggesting or resembling such an idea hat have is absolutely ridiculous.
      – James Huang

  3. @ David.

    Almost all of your comments so far have been so negative. Stop the negativity and exude a more positive tone and you shall be much happier.

  4. @Manny…speaking the reality. Let us face it…white people down south talk from both sides of their mouth when it suits their convenience. First they say they are all for interracial adoptions and show up to protest a comment made by a state legislator..some of them have adopted outside the race, but they are too few in numbers…and many write calling the black legislator a racist…but then the same guys while discussing school resegregation also claim that most whites in Bama dont want to live next to blacks…now pray tell me how most whites will adopt a black kid, if they dont even want them as neighbors. Similarly white folks want vouchers for schools…but when a suggestion is put forward to give vouchers to inner city Birmingham kids to attend the nearly all white Mountain Brook High School in the suburbs, they call it busing and I get death threats and suddenly they stop writing anything supporting school vouchers…the call it NIMBY…not in my back yard. Armed forces got integrated easily because at that time there were no white or any other women in combat…dating has mostly been a one way street…if what I say is not true, people like Jocelyn would never have left this country to move to China…life for AMWW lot better in East Asia than here in the US. As far as most other countries, it is a visa problem.

    1. David. I cannot believe that you are making such a blanket and broad generalization and even stereoptype about us White southerners. I am certain that some of us harbor the old prejudice but I can say with confidence that many if not most Southern youth nowadays do not have the old Jim Crow prejudices of the bygone era. I, for one, can say with certainty that I hold no such prejudices. I do not know if you recall or not, but I visited China several years ago and I tried my hardest to chase me and catch me a China doll but did not succeed and no one beat me down in old Hong Kong there for my blatant and brazen attempts (although I was a little scared). In fact, several locals even applauded me and encouraged me. When I returned to the States, my sister fixed me up with a hot China ABC girl and we have been together ever since. If I was as prejudice as you say about us Southerners, then how is it possible in God’s name that I love my ABC girl and we have been together for several years now and we are still going strong? So, stop trashing us Southern white folks about us being prejudiced and you start getting yourself a fine, fine southern gal to make yourself happy. I am certain that once you get yourself a southern gal, you will find that she exemplifies the southern flower of gentility. I have dated several white southern bells before and found that their manners are that of a southern flower of gentility. But unfortunately my heart and mind were into those hot, slim Asian girls from China/Japan/Korea and thus I opted to forget White girls and chase me down a China doll. Now that I have succeeded I am living the dream with her. We are even talking marriage soon. So, my parting advice to you is to immediately stop espousing prejudice against us White folks and go get yourself a White gal and bang her silly; make her scream in ecstacy; and you and she will be living happily every after.


  5. @David

    Whining will not change any thing except deepening your depression. You need to develop defense mechnism.

    Whining also makes you look like loser. At end, blaming others for misfortune is classic sign of losers. Winners think obstacle as exciting challenge to conquer. Easy victory is not something worth to brag about.

  6. “I do not know if you recall or not, but I visited China several years ago and I tried my hardest to chase me and catch me a China doll but did not succeed and no one beat me down in old Hong Kong there for my blatant and brazen attempts (although I was a little scared). In fact, several locals even applauded me and encouraged me. ”

    I never disputed this…actually I emphasized this. I only said guess what will happen if even a Chinese American went after white southern women in Tuscaloosa, Alabama..will the locals react the same way as the Chinese did? I think not…first the women will run from him like scalded cats..and if he persists his life could be in danger. So, there is a one way prejudice…you are not and you have that luxury…white southern males can data and marry anyone they want…they may not due to history but you can…whereas if a Chinese guy tries to reciprocate in Tuscaloosa Alabama with a local white woman, he will be run out of town…that is the fact. So yes, there is prejudice, but there is a one way street like the Brits think about immigration…the Brits you see, the white Brits, love to work abroad, but the same folks hate foreigners working in their country. Now white southerners have no problem with the men getting Asian wives, but have a major problem with white southern women finding Asian husbands…going to another post in this blog, they say it is very rare to find a AMWW couple in Hong Kong but plenty of AWWM couples…they should come to the southern US to see the desparity….there are perhaps a handful in most states, and the ones I know, tow of them, have been divorced including a middle aged lady from Alabama now living in Tennessee who used to post here often.

  7. @David I dont know why only white people should be blamed for racism. I dont deny white privilege. However, Racism is universal. Some of the most racist people I know are asians. These people were so ignorant they were racist by default instead of being deliberative about it. They worship those of lighter skin and look down upon those of darker skintone and most of them were “educated, studying in top universities chinese students between the age of 22-30”!

    It taught me an important lesson. There is no white and black in good and bad. Some people are ignorant and vile, others are not. Period.

  8. @SBC…show me one place outside of South Asia and outside of riots (white and all women are raped and treated badly at least in parts of South Asia) where non-Asians have been dragged behind the truck like non-whites have been (Jasper, Texas) or run over by a truck as a black man was three years ago (Jackson, MS), or where two Japanese women disappear in a sundown town in California sixty years ago and supposedly were thrown alive into the sea, I will agree with you. Yes, Asians worship light skin, Japanese too…but pretty mild form of racism dont you think compared to the events involving whites in the US? I can go on about the Boers of South Africa, but it will be a broken record. One can argue that whites kill others because others worship them…perhaps….but it is pretty mild what Asians do.

    1. @David Racism has many forms. Are odd instances of extreme hostility worse than widespread, daily instances of oppression? There is no easy answer to that question. Your comparision group is also not ideal as asians do not face the same amount of diversity in their countries as western nations do. Yet the experiences of daily underhanded discrimination and oppression that say blacks living in asia face; shows that racism is there in asia. Using a few cases of extreme violence doesnt undo the fact that MANY asians (south and east btw; I will ignore your blanket ignorant comment about south asia) are fundamentally racist and colorist. Sure they dont lynch people but underhanded oppression and discrimination on a daily basis is a different kind of hell.

  9. “Your comparision group is also not ideal as asians do not face the same amount of diversity in their countries as western nations do.”

    Try Singapore and Hong Kong..two small but significant countries in the region. Also try many of the Sheikhdoms in the Gulf although not strictly Asian.

    “Yet the experiences of daily underhanded discrimination and oppression that say blacks living in asia face; shows that racism is there in asia.”

    Asians are probably more racist against other Asians and blacks are treated badly everywhere even in their countries based on tribes.

    There is nothing ignorant about my comment on parts of South Asia…as true as dragging blacks behind back of trucks in Jasper, Texas

  10. “Sure they dont lynch people but underhanded oppression and discrimination on a daily basis is a different kind of hell.”

    Lynching is still the worst.

  11. Take this ridiculous conversation elsewhere. This is a movie review blog and neither this review or the story in the film has anything to do with whatever crazy talk you’re on.

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