Why “Nightcrawler” Is A Better Movie Than It Should Be

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One of the best perks of being a member of the Writer’s Guild (a union for writers; feel free to snicker here: sitting in a cozy coffee shop typing is sorta like digging for coal or installing sheet metal – we laborers must unite!) are the screeners we receive every December.  The Writer’s Guild holds its own awards, and members are given DVD copies – “screeners” – of Academy Award-type movies (war; holocaust; slavery; Historically Important Stuff) to watch, as the label says, “for your consideration.”

So when Jake Gyllenhaal’s thriller “Nightcrawler” arrived the other day, I had to scratch my head.

Adventures in Filmmaking: The Golden Horse Film Project Promotion

PHILANTHROPY

The Motley Crew: Producer Aaron Shershow, I and Producer Robert Wei

The Motley Crew: Producer Aaron Shershow, I and Producer Robert Wei

I’ve been hearing about the Golden Horse Film Awards since I was growing up in Hong Kong, and this year was its 51st edition. I met Christy from the Golden Horse Film Project Promotion at the NAFF project market at Puchon and pitched her my Chinese romantic comedy project Morning, Paris! Two months later, I got an invite to participate in the Film Project Promotion which, for years, my filmmaking colleagues have been telling me great things about.

Walking the Golden Horse Film Awards Red Carpet!

Making the First Asian American Psycho Thriller

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Writer/Producer NaRhee Ahn and I have been fans of the horror thriller genre since childhood and we have been talking about working on a genre project for years. As Asian Americans, we wonder why there hasn’t been a project like this earlier. Justin and I made Shopping for Fangs, which was initially branded as a thriller but it’s essentially a genre-hybrid dramedy. I also remember Offender Philip had an Asian American horror in the works several years ago.

But this genre has been virtually unexplored in Asian American cinema.

Annie Undocumented: How To Tell A Big Story With Almost No Money

guest_offendersBRIAN and DANIEL

Brian Yang is a professional airline passenger who occasionally attends film festivals, guest stars on HAWAII FIVE-0, and produces sports documentaries like LINSANITY. Daniel Hsia only leaves the house to write for TV and direct movies like SHANGHAI CALLING. They collaborated on ANNIE UNDOCUMENTED, winner of the Best Web Series prize at the 2014 New York Television Festival. You can watch the show at annieundocumented.com or embedded below. The two talk about why they decided to do a project revolving around a young Asian American who discovers she is an “illegal immigrant”.

Brian (l) and Daniel.

Brian (l) and Daniel.

BRIAN YANG: I was at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival when Daniel pitched me a web series about a teenage girl who suddenly discovers that she’s an undocumented immigrant. The story was inspired by real-life experiences of writer Elaine Low, who was undocumented growing up. Coincidentally, I had just heard Jose Antonio Vargas (Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and undocumented American) give a speech in Washington, D.C. about his own experiences and the need for immigration reform. I felt like this was an important topic to make a film about, but the story sounded big in scope and I wasn’t sure how Daniel was planning to tell it on a shoestring budget.

DANIEL HSIA: Elaine is a friend I’ve known for several years, last year I learned that she was undocumented growing up. This blew my mind because she is very smart and ambitious and professional, nothing like the image of the “illegal immigrant” portrayed in the media. It made me think about undocumented immigrants in a new light, and I wanted to tell a story that could give others that same revelation, that the undocumented are just like the rest of us, normal people who want better lives for their children.

Book to Screen: “Operation Marriage”

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After I returned from China this past January, I made a short PSA called Wedding Plan and it got circulated on Youtube. A friend, Howard Fong, ended up passing my short to author Cynthia Chin-Lee who turned me onto her children’s picture book Operation Marriage illustrated by Lea Lyon. After I read it, I immediately wanted to make it into a film.

A Summer with Children and a Chimp

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This past summer was one of my most memorable summers as I got to work with both animals and children. First, I got to direct a commercial for ACME Bail Bonds. Thanks to my producer and friend Anzhelika who got me the gig. And guess what? They wanted a chimp as the main star.

Paul McCartney. @Candlestick. #TheEnd.

guest_offendersDOMINIC

Dominic Mah is a writer, director, rock musical aficionado, and ex-professional gambler. He can be found on the internets as dommah, paranormalstatus.com, and @ThorHulkCritic. He was also a part of our YOMYOMF Summer Blockbuster Showdown. His personal heroes are Stan Lee, Bruce Lee, Annabel Lee and Barbara Lee.

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It was 20ish years ago today…

The first pop music I ever heard clearly was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and if your experience is the same, then you scarcely need read this preamble. The vinyl record belonged to my father. I was very young and had only a vague concept of music being in two categories: 1) All my father’s classical records, in which I had begrudging compulsory interest, and 2) something called rock music, which was on the radio. Self-image having formed well before musical vocabulary, I knew that rock was the cool category, and that I could not possibly belong to the cool category. In terms of “having musical taste,” I mainly knew the opening theme to the Battle of the Planets cartoon. Bach and Brahms and Beethoven were things that happened in an adult world: pleasant, settled, defined. But next to these 3 big B’s in my dad’s record collection, there was this one record by the Beatles.

Let’s Make “Operation Marriage” Together!

Mindy Cohn & Tamlyn Tomita for “Operation Marriage”

Mindy Cohn & Tamlyn Tomita for “Operation Marriage”

When I was 16, I was an aspiring children’s book writer and I went to a children’s book conference in Chautauqua. I wanted to write the first gay novel for teens… and everyone was dumbfounded when I told him/her my aspiration. “Gay novels are not for kids,” they all told me flat out. “Why not? Judy Blume is my favorite children’s book author and if she wrote about masturbation and divorce… why can’t I write about homosexuality for kids?” Even then in the late 80s, no one could argue against a 16-year-old aspiring writer who wasn’t even sure of his own sexuality.

Bill Murray’s Marriage Advice

Hey, it’s as good as any I’ve heard.

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The comedic god was in a steakhouse in Charleston, South Carolina last weekend when a young patron attending a bachelor party noticed that the star of SNL, Meatballs, Stripes, Caddyshack, Groundhog Day, Ghostbusters, Lost In Translation, Broken Flowers, Rushmore, The Life Aquatic, etc., etc., etc – good lord, what a resume – reportedly turned down a request to visit the party.

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Giving it a second thought, though, the twice married, twice divorced Murray approached the table of young men and dispensed this advice:

Odd Couple Gives Birth to Comedy Ninja

From Comedy Ninja’s closing film Blissfully Unmarried

From Comedy Ninja’s closing film Blissfully Unmarried

There are many ways filmmakers can collaborate other than working on a movie together. For example, we can create film festivals together! That’s exactly what my longtime director friend Chuck Parello and I did. We are starting the first annual Comedy Ninja Film & Screenplay Festival that runs from May 30th until June 1st this year at the Japanese American National Museum in downtown Los Angeles!

Come to think of it, Chuck and I are really an odd couple. Chuck is a true crime horror filmmaker who grew up in the Windy City. And I’m this queer artsy fartsy filmmaker who grew up in Hong Kong and Montreal. I first met Chuck and his wife at the European Film Market in Berlin in 1999 where we were both hustling our first features. I showed up at his market screening and he showed up at mine… and since then, we’ve been hanging out, partying together, and bitching about filmmaking from New York to Los Angeles for the past 15 years.

Throwback Thursday: The Time Roger Fan Left ‘Sex’ for a Better (Luck) Tomorrow

"Laughter joy..." publicity still courtesy of Shane Sato.

“Laughter joy…” publicity still courtesy of Shane Sato.

Working on my new play last week for the Pasadena Playhouse’s Hothouse Development Series reminded me how much I enjoy the process of theater—being in a room with a good director and good actors and just exploring the script. I’m definitely looking to do more theater this year, but the experience also brought back memories of the production of my very first full-length play Laughter joy & loneliness & sex & sex & sex & sex (the line is from the Rolling Stones’ song “Shattered”) back in the spring of 2000.

The play was produced by the Asian American theater company I co-founded—Lodestone Theatre Ensemble—and it was only our second mainstage production following our very successful debut with Judy Soo Hoo’s texas just a few months prior.

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Cira Felina Bolla: An Appreciation

It is my terrible and humbling privilege to write a few words about Cira Felina Bolla, who succumbed to cancer two days ago, at the age of 41.

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I met Cira two years ago, and in that time, we became collaborators and friends.  We worked together on three projects and multiple martinis – she was my cinematographer – and I got to know something of her personality and character.

I would like to share with you a few moments spent in her company.

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