Luke and Emma and a Gas Station on Franklin Ave

New York City, New York | Film Short

Comedy, Drama

Levi Wilson

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This campaign raised $10,925 for production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

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This story focuses on a young boy being raised in 1980s small Midwest town America by his Thai immigrant mother. He faces the prejudices of the community as he meets with a girl he has a crush on while his mother shops in the mini-mart.

About The Project

  • The Story
  • Wishlist
  • Updates
  • The Team
  • Community

Mission Statement

I grew up in a small Midwest town, the son of a Thai immigrant mother and an American father. This project is a proof of concept that explores how one's community tries to squeeze you into the mold of how they perceive you to be and how we either struggle against it or accept it.

The Story

This is a story about a biracial Asian American boy and a white girl growing up in a small Midwest town in 1986. They like each other. But they kind of know that they aren’t supposed to.

This is a story about an immigrant mother from Thailand who has settled in the Midwest to raise a child who is growing up American. She wants what’s best for him but also worries about him embracing a culture that doesn’t accept them.

This is a story about a white man who has status and resources. But he’s still a product of a world built around him which means he’s as much a victim of this world even as he benefits from it.

This is a story about growing up biracial in a world where attitudes about race mixing had scarcely changed. It’s about how someone finds belonging when they belong to more than one culture and, sometimes, it seems, none at all.

It’s about how the community you grow up in shapes who you are and how you perceive yourself.

Hey, I’m Levi. I’m the director. I’m also the writer. And the titular character of Luke is loosely based on me.

When I wrote this I had specific goals for this film. I wanted to create a proof of concept short film that I could use to create interest for a feature film. I wanted to highlight a story and context that I don’t often see reflected in popular media or, even, in alternative media (whatever that means). What’s it like to grow up biracial? Who are you when your parents are from vastly different worlds? I don’t see this story at all. I spent the last few decades figuring it out. More importantly, I saved up a lot of cash by avoiding therapy all my life. So, I figured it was time to tell this story.

At the risk of sounding pretentious (which I can totally do if that’s what you want!) it’s a very strange thing to write about yourself. The memories you have of yourself are less memories of what happened but pockets of images and emotions that you string together with a story that you build about yourself. As you move through your life that story gets little subconscious adjustments.

In the end, I decided I couldn’t write a story about myself. So, I wrote a story about a kid kind of like me with a family kind of like mine in a town kind of like where I grew up. And in doing so I discovered a deeper understanding of where I grew up and the people I grew up with.

With that in mind, I didn’t want to make the story about racism or sexism or anything like that. I wanted the story to be simple, as all good stories are, and place real people who have normal wants and needs and place them in the context of an abnormal society.

In going through the process of creating this short film I discovered even more viscerally that this story is still happening. There is much of our culture that has resisted change over the last nearly four decades. And though the story takes place at a time when I was young it is just as relevant today.

It’s me again. The director. The one thing that I hate most about shows with kids in it is that those characters are either written solely as props for adults or they are written in a way that reveals the writers have no meaningful interactions with the children in their lives.

Children are much more intelligent than our culture gives them credit for. They just don’t know stuff. But we like to conflate ignorance with disability. We do children a complete disservice by assuming that they are incapable of understanding the world around them. I suspect it has more to say about how adults feel about the world we create and participate in than it says about kids.

Kids are smart and independent and always fumbling their way to adulthood. And the one thing I’ve learned directing these talented kids is that you often just need to point them in the right direction and then get out of the way. And they are watching you.

Hi. It me.

My mother was an immigrant from Thailand. I grew up with the food and the language and elements of the culture. The one thing I remember most about being Thai is that no one knew anything about Thailand. Most people asked us if we were from China or Japan. Not much has changed aside from people are more familiar with the cuisine. Sort of.

One of the themes I want to focus on is that Asian Americans come from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds and we are unified through our experience as immigrants in America.

Considering the rise in violence towards anyone who looks remotely Asian since the rise of Covid-19, I wanted to emphasize the uniqueness and diversity within Asian American communities. With that in mind, I was determined to find a Thai actress for this film. Authenticity is very important to me in this portrayal. Anything else would have been a caricature of a Thai person.



We got this thing in the can!

The timing for this short was too critical for us to wait. We have kids who have to go to school (not to mention that when you find talented kids who are 11 years old, waiting six months for financing could mean they might not look the same from the time you found them!) We have amazing professional filmmakers who have other projects they have to go back to. They’ve taken time out of their busy schedule to commit to this project and I am forever grateful for that. So we put this thing together with credit cards and a dream (What? In this economy?!)

But that’s where the hard part begins! We have to turn all of these disjointed angles and scenes and dialogue into a movie.

And that’s where you come in!


Stay up to date on our post-production process. I'll even post about what our production team and actors are doing since the film wrapped. 

Also, Seed&Spark rewards us for building our audience. The more followers we get, the more we unlock products, services, and festival fee waivers courtesy of Seed&Spark!


On the next page is our list of post-production necessities to get this film ready for festivals and show people that it's worth bringing everyone back to do a feature film (and hopefully before the kid who plays Luke's voice drops)!


We have a fiscal sponsor by way of New York Women in Film and Television (NYWIFT) so all contributions and pledges to this project will be tax deductible. But if you are unable to contribute we totally get it. Read on!


The only way we will reach our crowdfunding goal is if we reach beyond our networks. If you would like to support more stories about Asian-American and biracial kids growing up in America please share this campaign through your social media, email, word-of-mouth, or whatever way you can! We can't do this without you!

Feel free to copy and paste these!

Help filmmaker @levithewilson by supporting his coming of age tale about a young biracial Thai-American growing up in a small Midwest town in the 80s. Follow them on @seedandspark:

I'm following the sweetest story about a first crush written and directed by @levithewilson and produced by @thelisahammer. To support this AAPI short film join them on @seedandspark:

I'm so excited to see the short film LUKE & EMMA AND A GAS STATION ON FRANKLIN AVE by director/writer @levithewilson, shot in White Plain, NY over the summer! Support them on @seedandspark:


Use the WishList to Pledge cash and Loan items - or - Make a pledge by selecting an Incentive directly.


Costs $1,000

There's a reason why Best Film Editing is a category at the Academy Awards.

Music Licensing

Costs $1,000

One thing that's inextricable from growing up in 80s America is tiny brains flooded with pop music.

Sound Mix

Costs $500

SOUND can make or break a film. We have some pros in the field on our shortlist!


Costs $500

Levi needs snacks as he finishes the FEATURE screenplay version of Luke and Emma!

Film Festival Entry Fees

Costs $500

Basking in glory is only one reason we all go to festivals. Let's get this film into some fests!

Pay down credit card!

Costs $3,000

Like any DIY short film, we partially funded ours with Good Ole American unsecured credit card debt!

G-Technology G-RAID 2 Dual-drive Storage System

Costs $600

Editing and not losing the footage is definitely a PLUS!

Visual Effects Artist

Costs $600

Dressing a modern gas station to look like 1986 was tough. A few things need to be removed in FX.

Cash Pledge

Costs $0


Costs $800

A colorist will help us get Luke and Emma looking like Licorice Pizza in no time!

Post-production Supervisor

Costs $500

A post-production supervisor brings all the elements of color, sound and special effects together.


Costs $1,000

It takes a big BUZZ to get noticed, everyone pays their publicists for it. It's part of the game!

About This Team

Levi Wilson, Writer and Director

Levi is a producer, award-winning writer, director, and actor. He has created and produced comedy shorts, commercials, and contributed to features such as Punk's Dead: SLC Punk 2 where he worked with director James Merendino, Devon Sawa (Final Destination, Chucky), Ben Schnetzer, (The Book Thief, Y: The Last Man), and Sarah Clarke (Twilight). His award winning orginal series, Maybe Sunshine, is available on The Roku Channel. He is currently reprising his role of one of a team of callous documentarians in the series reboot of the CMJ Film Festival Winner, The Invisible Life of Thomas Lynch, now called Great Kills, starring Steve Stanulis as a small time hitman from Staten Island.

Lisa Hammer, Executive Producer

Lisa is a NY based independent film director/producer best known as the voice of Triana Orpheus on Adult Swim's The Venture Bros. Her film, Empire of Ache, has been featured at the Getty Museum's film anthology project, Joeanie4Jackie, run by Miranda July. She has collaborated with Ben Edlund (Firefly, The Tick), Doc Hammer (The Venture Bros) and James Merendino (SLC Punk!). Lisa has directed outstanding talent such as Clayne Crawford, James Duval, Aarti Mann, H. Jon Benjamin, Eve Plumb, Courtney Love, and Jonathan Katz. Past projects include the series Maybe Sunshine (directed by Levi Wilson) and the musical comedy, The Sister Plotz, which screened at NYWIFT and the Egyptian Theater. Lisa is executive producer of the upcoming feature, Montauk, starring Molly Ringwald and Charlie Tahan (Ozark).

Stacie Jones Genztler, Producer

Stacie is a producer with over 15 years of experience in film. Most notably, she served as Unit Production Manager on the academy award nominated Margin Call. She has worked alongside a-list talent including Jeremy Irons, Brie Larson, Jonathan Groff, Sonuqua Martin-Green, and Demi Moore. She helmed award-winning programs for the U.S. Army, as well as being on the production teams for three films that premiered at Sundance. Stacie has experience in all facets of production, on a variety of project sizes and budgets. Additionally, she teaches film courses at Stevenson University in Baltimore.

Jen Emma Herzel, Unit Production Manager

J.E. Hertel grew up in small town Wiscosin and is the daughter of an attorney and community organizer/homemaker. Her specific love of experimental theater led her to be a member of the legendary Living Theatre in NYC. She received her Master of the Arts from NYU and three of her plays (Reform, Being, and Text/Love Love/Text) have had runs in off-off Broadway theaters. She's produced/directed features, shorts, TV pilots, acted in a variety of film/TV/theater projects, and directed/written for both film and theater. She loves being a storyteller in whatever capacity fits with the project.

William Bisgrove, Development Producer

William started as a classically trained artist before switching to film studies. He holds a master's degree in film and performance from Buffalo University and is an alumnus of Binghamton University's (avant-garde) Cinema Department focusing on critical theory and analysis. He is a writer, filmmaker, and fine artist, mentored by famed NYC filmmaker, Amos Poe, and the Buffalo International Film Festival's own Edward Summer. He has helped creative minds bring an eclectic mix of film, theater, and new media projects to life for more than a decade in both for and non-profit arenas.

Connie Huang, Director of Photography

Connie is a NYC based cinematographer who grew up in Sterling Heights, Michigan and now lives in Brooklyn, NY. She has worked with some of the best filmmakers in New York City and around the world, including Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and Roger Deakins. Her cinematography spans commercial, narrative, and music videos. She is also a part of the ASC’s Vision Mentorship Program 2021-2022. When she’s not shooting you can find her writing snail mail, surfing, at Crossfit, or watching formula one.

Rebecca LaGore, Casting Director, Liz Lewis Casting

Rebecca is originally from Michigan, and got her first bite of the Big Apple years ago when she took a family trip to NYC during high school. She always knew she’d be back, and here she is with over a year of residency under her belt. Rebecca has begun her career exploring many different aspects of the media industry. From spending the summer in the cornfields of Iowa filming baseball games for a minor league team, to the world of documentaries, reality television post-production, and also some time on the talent agency side, she has found her place in the world of casting. In her free time, Rebecca flexes her literary chops writing screenplays.

New York Women in Film and Television, Fiscal Sponsor

The preeminent professional association for women in the New York entertainment industry, NYWIFT energizes women by illuminating their achievements, presenting training and professional development programs, awarding scholarships and grants, and providing access to a supportive community of peers. NYWIFT is part of a network of more than 60 women in film organizations worldwide, representing more than 15,000 members. NYWIFT produces over 50 innovative programs and special events annually, including the Muse Awards for Vision and Achievement, which honors women in front of and behind the camera, and Designing Women, which recognizes costume designers, makeup artists and hair stylists in the industry.

Current Team