Remembering Lewis

NAMEI first met Lewis Tice in 2005 when he was TLA Releasing’s national publicity liaison. Although we were just communicating online about my third feature Ethan Mao, I could tell Lewis was a tireless advocate for independent films and a mother hen for filmmakers. He made a filmmaker feel comfortable to approach him with any questions or problems about marketing and publicity.

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A few years later, I finally met Lewis in person at the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival when my feature The People I’ve Slept With was making the rounds on the festival circuit. He was at the press office and welcomed me with open arms. For a moment, being as ditzy as I am, I didn’t connect that this Lewis was the Lewis Tice I had been communicating with.

Hip Hop Awards China in Shenzhen

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Before my trip, I started asking my friends on WeChat, the most important social networking and communications app in China, if they knew about the hip hop dance scene in China. Filmmaker Fan Popo hooked me up with a friend who then introduced me to Come Lee who said he was organizing the Hip Hop Awards China in Shenzhen. I had never been to Shenzhen before so I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to check out both the city and the hip hop scene there.

[I got to present an award to the ultra-talented Han Yu]

The Serendipitous Spectator

I was given the infamous hand by casting director Poping Auyeung on the street of Hong Kong

I was given the infamous hand by casting director Poping Auyeung on the street of Hong Kong

A month ago, I made plans to come to the Hong Kong Filmart where I was offered some incentives from the American Consulate. I was then put on a seminar to pitch some investors from Guangzhou. And who knew I would be going to Guangzhou on Monday to scout out the city where theoretically my ancestors were from?

So far, the market has been an amazing opportunity to meet with old filmmaking colleagues and make new contacts. I was talking to many industry folks who seemed to rank the Hong Kong Filmart as the essential market to attend for Asia, over Pusan and Beijing. I will be in Beijing for the BJIFF Filmart and will find out how it is.

Around the Horn: The Mystery of MH370

HYSTERIAThe missing Malaysian Airline MH370 has captured the imagination of the world. I was mesmerized by the idea that some of the passengers’ relatives still think their loved ones are alive after they tried calling their phones… I was brought back to a fascinating but not-so-successful sci-fi movie from the late 80s called Millenium. The movie has aliens or people from the future time travel back to rescue passengers right before a historical plane crash so they will populate the future. What is your theory or fantasy theory behind the missing airplane?

Secrets and Toys

Dalila Ali Rajah and Shelli Boone in “Secrets & Toys”

Dalila Ali Rajah and Shelli Boone in “Secrets & Toys”

It was about a year ago when Dalila Ali Rajah, a young charismatic African American actress, approached me outside the Fusion Lab in East LA. We started chatting, each with a drink in our hands. We had met over the years at Outfest and Fusion and had been talking about doing something together.

“I’m serious. I really want you to make my short. Let’s do it this year,” said Dalila.

“Sure,” I said. “And let’s just make it with whatever budget you have and not wait for that ten thousand dollars.”

Ruta del Vino

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Little did I know, Mexico produces quite tasty wine. I went on a cruise to Ensanada , a little town in Baja with little expectations. At the risk of being a dumb American tourist, I literally followed a friend onto a cruise with no idea where I was actually going. We docked in Ensanada and got off… and my friend suggested visiting a couple of wineries on Ruta del Vino (the “wine route” in Baja).

Twisted Bottles in Ensanada

Twisted Bottles in Ensanada

Can’t help taking a picture of Hotel Foxy.

Can’t help taking a picture of Hotel Foxy.

An Unlikely Friendship

UnlikelyFriendshipI previously wrote about ex-campus-shooter Wayne Lo who dedicated a piece of art to Jason Tobin, lead actor of Chink, the movie that I produced. Little did I know, I already befriended Wayne on Facebook after seeing his art when we were shooting at Hyena Gallery. I became fascinated with Wayne’s story after Wayne dedicated his art piece to Jason Tobin, and we became friends and started chatting weekly on the phone.

It took me a couple of weeks to figure out how the system worked. They make you jump through hoops to connect with an inmate in America. I wanted to do a documentary on Wayne, but I realized that it would be impossible as Wayne told me flat out that his facility has banned all recording equipment after Columbine. The best I could do was to talk to him on the phone and visit him at his facility in Massachusetts.

Conversation with Wayne

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"John Cornyn's Amerikka #17" by Skid Lo

“John Cornyn’s Amerikka #17″ by Skid Lo

After connecting with Wayne Lo (aka Skid Lo), an Asian American artist once responsible for one of the highly publicized school shootings of 1990s, who dedicated a piece of his art to actor Jason Tobin, I was fascinated by his journey to become an artist. Even Weezer dedicated a song called “Lullaby for Wayne” to him.

Wayne and I are about the same age, both Chinese immigrants, I have always wondered what it would be like to be Wayne and be faced with his situation, point-of-view and the events that took place. It took me almost two weeks of figuring out the communication system for our conversation to take place with Wayne at his medium security facility in Norfolk.

Christmas Eve Horror Movie Marathon

CHRISTMAS

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My favorite thing to do on Christmas Eve is to stay in, watch a marathon of Christmas-themed horror flicks, sip wine and eat chocolates. Unfortunately I will be spending Christmas Eve with my dad this year and he has absolutely no interest in horror films even though as a kid I made him rent every horror movie available. He would fall asleep snoring in the middle of them.

Here are some alternative programming recommendations for Christmas movies.

Black Christmas (1974) is a classic and must see for every horror fan. Directed by Bob Clark, Black Christmas is arguably the first modern slasher film made in history. It’s classy, well-made and atmospheric, most definitely on top of my Christmas horror flicks. However, don’t bother with the lame 2006 remake.

I Saw You

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Surfing on Youtube, I serendipitously discovered filmmaker Mina Shum’s latest short, “I Saw You,” which premiered at the past Vancouver International Film Festival. It’s a sweet and beautifully made little short romantic drama that got dropped onto Youtube through a co-presentation between Cineworks Independent Filmmakers and The Tomorrow Collective without any publicity.

Even though the short is about chance encounters, can filmmakers simply rely on chance encounters on Youtube for audiences to connect with their films?

Fighting Fear with Filmmaking

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When I first got to Beijing, I was sweating and stressed everyday for an hour before going to a meeting because I had such a fear of the Chinese language. I grew up in a Chinese environment, learned Chinese till Grade 10 and (being a Cantonese speaker) failed Mandarin consecutively for two years in high school. My agency was kind enough to send a wonderful assistant to accompany me but I still got very stressed and self-conscious.

Around the Horn: Inspired Dedication

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Killer turned Artist Wayne Lo, the first campus shooter in American history, dedicated this piece of art to our actor Jason Tobin in Chink. What would be a dedication you’ve made to another or any dedication made to you that you find inspiring or fascinating?

ALFREDO: Any blog that I’ve written about my family is, in the end, a letter to them – for them – to read a day, a year, ten years from now, to have an answer to the burning question, for example, of “What did dad think when I punched a hole in the wall when the Oakland A’s blew a last minute save?” If my memory is failing, or I’ve passed away, they won’t have to wonder – they can just read about it.