Did you feel confident in being a first-time director?
Did I feel confident…what’s that expression, something about a hooker in church? I was scared to death. I mean, I didn’t die really, but I was scared anyway. I paid a lot of attention during other shoots. Not just to the actors, but to every aspect – lighting, what they use for sound, certain rules and what shots needed to be mixed together…I asked a lot of questions, too. I never went to film school, but being so interested in the whole process led me to believe that directing was the next step. I knew it was going to be a lot of work, but I didn’t realize that it would become my entire life. Not that I mind a bit, I’ve never been so dedicated to anything in my life and I feel it was really worth every minute. I was worried that the actors would think I was an idiot, but once I realized that was inevitable, I got over it and kept on. The actors were allowed a lot of freedom with their characters, and I did that on purpose. I wrote the script in a skeletal form, with certain lines that were absolutely necessary for the whole movie to come together and make sense in the end, but I think a lot of funny things happen in the spur of the moment, and so improvisation was not only encouraged, it was a requirement. Everyone who acted in the movie is listed as a writer in the credits, because although I’d love to take credit for the funny things they came up with, I could never do it in good conscience. I was really amazed at the amount of talent in these people. A few of them had never acted before. Two were photographers I’d shot with (Sung Chiu and Cy Jariz Cyr). They were such hilarious people that I had to ask (beg) them to be in my movie. One of these people, James Haley, was the husband of one of the actresses, Michele L’Amourt. He thought he was just coming along for the ride, but soon found himself donning a puppet and speaking in a goofy voice.

I said it before, but again, I have to stress that there was so much of a contribution by all of the actors and crew that they really made my job easy. More than a few times I had so much fun watching them that I had to stifle myself from laughing so as not to mess up the sound. Every person in the movie was a true talent, and a true professional. I’ve acted in movies where people show up late, or don’t show up at all, and the whole scene sometimes has to be scrapped. That did not happen once, and in fact, everyone was always early. There were no big egos or nasty attitudes, and there was not a single minute when anyone was upset or angry. I would love to work with each and every person again.

Would you do anything differently on your next project?
An easy answer would be to say that I’d pay everyone up front, and not have to rely on crossed fingers to give them a bit of the money they deserve. But of course budgets are always a concern, and usually a reason why movies are not made in the first place. The next movie I am doing is a drama, a short entitled “Indifference.” It has somewhat expensive locations and a few special effects and will take some more planning. I am not acting in it, as the story didn’t end up having a character remotely resembling me. I think I may actually hold a casting call and auditions this time. I have a few people who I’ve worked with before in mind for some parts, but there are three or four whom I still need to find, including the male and female leads.

For “Bok Choy,” I put up a casting notice on a few acting websites, and picked most of the actors based on their headshots. In total, I received 263 headshots (I know because I wrote an email to every single person thanking them for taking the time to send me their info). Honestly, there were so many actors who were so experienced and well trained; I wished I had more roles. There was just something about each person I picked that let me know they were right for the parts. The weirdest thing was that they all not only met, but far exceeded my expectations. Call it instinct, dumb luck, or just the fact that there are tons of talented people out there, I’m just happy it happened that way. A few of the actors I had previously worked with on other movies, and knew they would be perfect for their roles.

We didn’t even have rehearsals. Many of the actors I met on the first day I shot with them. One funny story involves the soap opera scene. I was trying to find a vintage looking nurse’s uniform (the nurse was played by Judy Hannah), and was having no luck. For two months during production, I went to thrift shops and called around, but it just didn’t seem like it was going to happen. Two days before shooting, Gary found a uniform from a lady who had been a nurse thirty years ago. It looked perfect, but seeing as how I’d never met Judy, the odds of it fitting her were pretty slim. We brought it down anyway, and when Judy tried it on it was like Cinderella with the glass slippers. The entire uniform fit her like a glove; even the shoes were the perfect size! I don’t think we could have gotten a better fit if we had the outfit custom made. We were joking about how she must have been born to play Nurse Havershank, and this was proof of her true calling. I think a ton of planning, versatility when the plans fall through, and a shake or two of luck are necessary for the next and all future projects.
Get the rest of the interview in part four of BOK CHOY ON A BUDGET>>>

Posted on January 7, 2003 in Interviews by

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