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Faculty Spotlight: Leah Zhang

Leah Zhang is an actress, certified Alexander Technique teacher, and Movement instructor at The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute in Los Angeles. After having discovered the Alexander Technique in college, Leah became certified through the American Society for Alexander Technique. She has been teaching Movement at LSTFI since 2013. “I really enjoy teaching [at LSTFI]… I am always perked up after I teach… It is so rewarding.”

Between teaching at LSTFI and having her own private practice for Alexander Technique, Leah has still found time to be a film and stage actress. Most recently, Leah had a leading role in the short film ‘Red Ladies‘ or ‘Help! My Mom is a Republican!‘. The short film is having major success in the film festival circuit right now, including being featured in an Oscar-qualifying film festival this month.

Family and Political Comedy in ‘Red Ladies’

“Even though we are an Asian-American family, we represent just another aspect of American life. An American family trying to win in politics, trying to deal with family dynamics, but we happen to be Asian-American… I like that the story reveals the commonalities of different races… We are all dealing with our issues in life.”

Leah Zhang on the family in ‘Red Ladies’

‘Red Ladies’ is a political comedy following the tension between Maureen Chen (Zhang), the first Asian-American woman running for Republican Assemblywoman in her district, and her liberal daughter, Olivia. The “goofy” moments come from Olivia’s attempt to sabotage her mother’s political advertisements, which she has been “bribed” into participating in. “It has a lot of comedy, so people can watch it without getting angry,” said Leah. “It is not hitting you over the head and reminding you of our current political environment.”

The short film is partially based on a true story. “One of the things that inspired the filmmaker was something that was happening in her own district, in a very conservative district. She saw an Asian-American woman running for a Republican seat and she really couldn’t understand it.” Out of this supposed dissonance, ‘Red Ladies’ was born.

Trailer for ‘Red Ladies’ or ‘Help! My Mom is a Republican’

Asian-American Representation and ‘Red Ladies’

Leah Zhang with crew members around her and an American Flag on set behind.
Leah Zhang on the set of ‘Red Ladies’

The cast, crew, and creative team of ‘Red Ladies’ had a variety of Asian representation. “Our director has Thai heritage… We had a camera crew that was Chinese… We had a script supervisor who was South Indian… It was a very diverse cast and crew.” Representation, in cast, creative team, and crew, matters significantly.

‘Red Ladies’ “gave me an opportunity to play a significant role,” said Leah. As the film and television industry begins to accept and welcome people of color more often, hopefully we can look towards a future where more diverse storytelling, like ‘Red Ladies’, is encouraged and embraced.

“While this industry has improved for people of diverse cultures, there is still a long way to go… It was a real privilege for me, and for my cast members as well, and to have [‘Red Ladies’] gain so much traction.”

Leah Zhang on diversity in the film and TV industry

The film is “a motivator,” according to Leah, “reminding people to get involved and to vote.” Voting is a great way to express your values and ensure our government has more diverse representation. Find out whether or not you are registered to vote and find out more information about voting in your state at usa.gov.

Where to Stream ‘Red Ladies’

‘Red Ladies’ has already been collecting accolades. The film won Best Political Comedy at the Women’s Comedy Film Festival in September.

Red Ladies‘ is currently playing in the Momentum block of the the LA Asian Pacific Film Festival through October 31st. This festival “was a huge festival for us to get in to,” commented Leah, “because it is an Oscar-qualifying festival.”

If you are located in the Southern California area, you can access ‘Red Ladies’ and 8 other short films at the LA Asian Pacific Film Festival for $12.50.

Southern California Residents ONLY

From October 23rd to October 31st, ‘Red Ladies‘ will be playing at the San Diego Asian Film Festival in the Shorts: Mall Rats program. Anyone in the United States can purchase tickets for this film festival.

For only $8, you gain access to ‘Red Ladies,’ 7 other short films and creative team Q+A’s.

Accessible anywhere in the United States

For updates about ‘Red Ladies,’ follow the short film’s Instagram @helpmymomisarepublican

To follow Leah Zhang or to learn more about Alexander Technique, follow Leah on Instagram @leahteaches or check out her Acting Website or her Alexander Technique Instructor Website.