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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Why I’ll be Busy Time Traveling This Week

I apologize in advance if my posts for this week turn out to be lighter than usual. I wrote at the end of last year that one of my resolutions for 2014 was to get back to doing more theater again and it’s time to put my money where my mouth is.

In rehearsal, day 1.

In rehearsal, day 1.

Started rehearsals today for the reading of a new play I wrote entitled Come Down in Time which is being presented as part of the Pasadena Playhouse’s Hothouse Development series so that’ll keep me busier than usual for the rest of this week.

It’s great to jump back into the world of live theater and a reading is the perfect way to do so—the purpose of a reading is to develop a new work so there’s no pressure to be “perfect”. It’s more about the exploration—the journey rather than the result. And what’s even better is I get to work with talented friends like my director Jeff Liu (who directed our YouTube adaptation of Offender DHH’s play Yellow Face which you can watch here) and my fellow Offender Sung Kang aka Han from Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift as well as other friends/colleagues, new and old, that make up the cast—Michelle Krusiec, Aly Mawji, Kim Miyori and Jully Lee.

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.”

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.

Temporary Layout or “Why Does the Site Look Weird?”

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Hey YOMYOMF readers, you may notice that our site looks different. This is actually a temporary layout that we’ll be using for the next two weeks or so, as we work on some maintenance under the hood.

And although we are not ready to announce yet, but we’re going to launch “phase two” of our site, which means basically, a revamped site with some new fangled thing-a-ma-bobs, bells and whistles, and some hootin’ and hollerin.’ We’re still in the final stages of planning but 2014 is definitely going to be a year of recharge, a redirection… a Regeneration for YOMYOMF.

First off for new changes, will be a new layout in a couple of weeks! Stay tuned and mahalo (thank you) for sticking with us!

Making Movies in Vietnam or What I Did Over My Winter Vacation

Not the DMZ....

Not the DMZ….

For the holidays last month, I decided to head back to the motherland, Vietnam, to rejuvenate my creative juices (writing, eating amazing food, visiting friends and family) and also, work on my friend’s horror film. Like many Asian Americans working today, many are returning to their homeland to seek opportunity. In fact, there’s a great CNBC article about this trend of Asian Americans shunning the American dream for opportunities back in Asia. I even wrote a blog about this trend when I interviewed Bay Area born Arvin Chen, who currently works in Taipei, making movies. With the burgeoning entertainment industry in Vietnam, millions of investment in major cities and a rapidly growing middle class, many Overseas Vietnamese (or Viet Kieu) are working in the entertainment and creative industries, making movies, shooting TV shows, in other fields like fashion, graphic design, advertising and even high tech.

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.

Wedding Plan

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When I first arrived in Beijing, I was walking in Sanlitun with my good friend K who said she was going to get married.

“Married? You mean marrying Mabel?” I asked.

“No, I mean I need to marry a guy,” K said. “My parents knew about Mabel and I for years but they are still forcing me to marry a man. So I need to find a gay male friend to get married with. And then we’ll get divorced in a few years. My parents just won’t get off my back otherwise.”

I was immediately struck by K’s plight. K is a 25-year-old lesbian friend who lives in Beijing and, like many people LGBT or not, she still faces so much parental pressure to get married.

K’s story was stuck in my mind when, a few days later, I was brainstorming with my friend Xiaogang who runs an LGBT non-profit organization called Queer Comrades distributing LGBT short films on-line. Xiaogang also told me that he had an acting background and sort of left the stage to be in the non-profit industry.

“Would you be interested in acting in a short film? I have an idea to do a short viral film in China,” I asked Xiaogang.