A couple of weeks back, I heard from the grapevine that some Asian American people in power in Washington were upset about our film Chink’s title. About a week later, on May 22nd 2013, the Asian Pacific Media Coalition sent us this letter:
Dear Messrs. Yung, Sakai, and Lee:
We write on behalf of the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition (APAMC), an umbrella organization that advocates for the visibility and inclusion of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the entertainment and media industries. We acknowledge the important issue of the psychological impact of overt racism and subtle discrimination against Asian Americans that your film “Chink” explores. Many members of the APAMC, however, find the choice of a slur as the title of the film objectionable and believe it will have negative repercussions for the Asian American/Pacific Islander community. (Please note that APAMC member Visual Communications recuses itself from this letter.)
How do you feel about getting old? Maybe not in the physical but in an artistic way… Last Saturday evening UCLA Film & TV Archive did a mini-retrospective of two early features Flow and Drift that I made. I got a Facebook message from a friend who said “Thank you for friending him” as he showed Offender Justin’s and my early shorts in his cable program. In fact, Offender Justin shot “Fall 1990,” a majority of Flow when he was still an undergraduate at UCLA. In fact, it might have been his first and last DP gig. Correct me if I am wrong… my memory is fading!
Honestly I haven’t thought about getting old. I just kept making films the summer I graduated from Berkeley. I’m sure it will be challenging watching my early works and I’ll cringe at all the innocence and the rough edges of my craft. Nevertheless I still have the same enthusiasm and excitement about making films… and I still feel very much a beginner.
Maybe I’m a kid who refuses to grow up. How about you?
I’d be especially curious in hearing how Offender DHH (David Henry Hwang) feels as I was studying David’s works in college—before I became a filmmaker—and now I’ve worked with David and we are on the same blog! Read more...
Barney Cheng in “Hysterio Passio,” the first 16mm film I made at UCLA in 6 hours
Every UCLA graduate film student—to this day—still has to do their pre-410 exercise, a 2-minute short film that you have to make on 16mm in 6 hours. Fresh off a Deconstruction and experimental video background, I made this experimental short “Hysterio Passio” that required my Christian DP Scott Walker to photograph my penis in close-up. “Hysterio Passio” became part of Flow, an experimental feature compilation of my UCLA short films that will screen at the Hammer museum this Saturday evening at UCLA along with my second feature Drift.
In the mood of a retrospective, I am also thinking about ten films that have influenced me as a filmmaker in no particular order. Read more...
On the opening day of White Frog, just when I thought I could relax and have a meal with Jason Tobin and Chink’s production team to celebrate Jason’s winning “Best Actor” or “Breakout Performance for an Actor” award at the 2013 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, I got a call from my producer Ellie Wen who said that the TCL Chinese Theater needed a new DCP because the movie was not in sync when they played back the DCP.
Flabbergasted, I drove to Pasadena to pick up the Laemmle’s DCP while on the phone in the car in a conference call with Garrett at Simple DCP, Ellie and the projectionist at TCL. We all agreed the solution was to test out the DCP Laemmle had and also deliver a Bluray.
“We can also cancel today’s screenings,” said the theater manager casually.
“No, we can’t. People have bought tickets and the cast is coming for the 7:40pm show,” said Ellie.
“I will be there by 4pm, and we’ll have it up and running even though we missed the 2pm show and may miss the 5pm show,” I said. Read more...
This past Wednesday, two days before White Frog’s theatrical opening in Los Angeles, when I was helping my DP Yasu Tanida shop for a blazer in the Beverly Center, I got a call from producer Ellie Wen who told me that they were having problems with the DCP of White Frog at the Laemmle’s Pasadena Playhouse.
That sent me into a panic so I called the manager of the Playhouse who indeed said that they couldn’t read the drive the DCP was on.
What is a DCP? It’s short for “Digital Cinema Package” and it has replaced the use of 35mm film prints in the exhibition world. Apparently over 80% of the world’s cinema screens now project on DCP. Read more...
Did video kill the radio star? And digital kill the video star? Well, digital has definitely killed “film” as a production medium, but digital has certainly not killed Film. I mean the big “F.” By the big “F” I mean Filmmaking, from production to distribution, has really flourished in the digital age, blowing up filmmaking and distribution by leveling the playing field.
“Now everyone can make a film,” mutters a filmmaker on the ivory tower, “and get it seen on Youtube.”
Last Friday, I was driving back from the valley on the 101 freeway and I got a SMS from a fellow filmmaker, Nick Corporon, who texted me out of the blue and said, “OMG Boo Boo is in the new X-Men?? Bryan just tweeted a wall of cast photos and there he was right below Peter Dinklage.”
That wasn’t news to me because my producer Chris Lee introduced Booboo to director Bryan Singer at the Hawaii International Film Festival. Bryan and his team came to the Hawaii premiere of White Frog and cast Booboo because of enjoying his performance in White Frog.
As I was going to Dead Metaphor’s premiere in San Francisco, Lydia Tanji introduced me to Wylie Wong, an art dealer friend in the city who felt like a kindred spirit after an evening out. Wylie is also the subject of Lydia’s documentary in production about Chinese art and opera. The next day, Wylie invited me over to his house—filled with his own art collection—for tea.
Originally from Seattle, Wylie moved to San Francisco for art school. After graduating, he moved to Chinatown and saw someone throwing out old photos into a dumpster behind the now closed May Photo Studio. Wylie asked the guy about the photos and he said he could take them. The photos were pictures of old Chinese opera singers who had performed in Chinatown. Later, he also discovered another five hundred that the studio was going to throw away, bought them each for a dollar and began his career in art dealing and collecting.
(A painting of an unknown Cantonese opera singer that Wylie discovered in the 70s.) Read more...
I first met Lydia Tanji, the amazing costume designer of several Wayne Wang movies including Joy Luck Club, at the Hawaii International Film Festival when The People I’ve Slept With world premiered. A few years later, we started to collaborate on a project that I plan to shoot in China. She invited me up to San Francisco to see the world premiere of Dead Metaphor, a play that she’s costume designing for ACT (American Conservatory Theater) and I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see her work and also talk further about our project.
World premiering in San Francisco, Dead Metaphor is a satirical comedy written by Canadian writer George F. Walker about an ex-sniper returning from the war who gets hooked up with a politician and ends up in an unexpected assassination plot. The production plays like Married with Children meets Fargo. Lydia’s costume design reminds me of a timeless David Cronenberg production that’s modern yet classy and specific about an iconic era. Read more...
Do you know Ken Russell? He’s one of my favorite directors from childhood. I heard he was totally mad and he passed away in 2011 at 84. My first introduction to Ken Russell was on Hong Kong television in the 80s when I saw the trailer for Altered States and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. VHS was still a very new technology when I was growing up in Hong Kong and it took years until we immigrated to Canada to track down a copy of Altered States.
The movie blew my mind because it was truly a film that jumped out of every genre that tried to claim it—horror, science fiction, thriller, drama, drug movie…etc. Altered States created a genre of its own. Read more...
My question is a simple one. If (very hypothetically) you have to torture someone whom you love or hate (or a random stranger), what would be it? Would it be violent, sexual, ridiculous or all of the above? I must admit that one of the most memorable and tasteful torture scene in cinematic memory was in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet complete with drag, violence, homoeroticism and nostalgic music:
Answer if you dare!
IRIS: My husband and I had a bet running right before our wedding on who could reach their goal weight faster. He HATES musicals, so his torture/punishment if he lost was to go to the Hollywood Bowl’s Sound of Music Sing-a-long. On top of that, I wanted him to go in costume. Well, I won the bet, but he failed to deliver. I still would like to see him go dressed in either a nun’s outfit or as a lonely goatherd. Read more...