The Filming of Red Doors

Lake and Guan Yin at Chuang Yen MonasteryAt 6AM we began getting ready to leave New York City. Despite the early rise, we were excited to start our drive into the contrasting beauty upstate NY offers it’s visitors and residents. The buildings and grid of streets and avenues gently shifted into trees and forests. After driving for about an hour and a half we took a sharp turn which took us off the road. Our vehicles came to rest after passing the Woo Ju Library, and we slowly absorbed the peaceful surroundings of the Chuang Yen Monastery.

We had arrived at our destination and our arrival was anticipated. Waiting for us was not the Abbot of the monastery, or any of the monks, however. It was not a nun that smiled and held out her hand in greeting, but a member of a film crew, who then took us to see Mia Riverton, the accomplished actress and producer who had invited us to participate in her latest project. Mia has worked in film, television, and theater for over a decade, and she was at Chuang Yen Monastery working on a film titled “Red Doors,” described as a cross between “Eat, Drink, Man, Woman,” and “American Beauty.” Mia got us settled in and brought us over to wardrobe where we were fitted into the monastery’s robes. After getting set up with our looks we went to meet the director of the film, Georgia Lee.

Our first scene was in an upstairs section of the library, and Georgia gave us our directions. The crew was in place, and the instructions for “quiet!” crackled through all the walkie-talkies on the set. Then came the call for “ACTION!” but as soon as our scene began a plane flew overhead. Another take was set up but a truck was backing up outside the library, and then the sun was blocked by a huge expanse of clouds. After 2 hours the conditions returned to perfect and this simple scene in the library was finally finished.

The background monks were not needed for a few more hours so we were left to explore the trails that were laced through the monastery grounds, beginning with a path that began at a set of red wooden gates, traced off by red hand rails and chased small brooks, spanned by red bridges. Fingers of water from the lake darted out from the main body of water, and plenty of the lakes citizens were busy about their day’s work. Tons of fish swam along the surface, and turtles poked their heads from the water’s surface while black snakes came out onto the rocks that fringed the lake to sun themselves on the sun heated rocks.

Two large rabbits sat in the tall grass at the foot of a statue. The Bodhisattva statues were hidden in small clearings all across the property, and there was giant statue of Guan Yin looked out over the lake. The Great Buddha Hall was particularly impressive, where the largest Buddha statue on the east coast sat commanding the room, and that is eventually where we wrapped up filming for the day. About the Buddha’s statue sat a raised platform upon which sat several thousands of the buddha’s attendants, the walls of the platform had been painted in bright depictions of the Buddha’s life. Smaller altars at the sides of the room were dwarfed by the magnificence of the main altar, which had large woodblock drums to either side. It was a beautiful and dramatic environment to spend our last hour at the monastery.

Great Buddha at Chuang Yen MonasteryIt was a wonderful experience to be a part of the filming of Red Doors, and the movie’s choice of location made our participation in the feature film that much more compelling, contributing greatly to our enjoyment of the day. For more information about the movie, see