tv Asian Pacific America with Robert Handa NBC June 16, 2019 5:30am-5:59am PDT
robert handa: hello and welcome to "asian pacific america." i'm robert handa, your host for our show here on nbc bay area and cozi tv. today, asian americans and pacific islanders in film, both in front and behind the camera. "asian pacific america" went on the road to talk with cultural pioneers and the stars and co-writers of "always be my maybe," now on netflix, ali wong and randall park, along with director nahnatchka khan. and we start our show with one of our favorite events. it's time for frameline 43, the san francisco international lgbtq-plus film festival that starts this week. now, founded in 1977, this film festival is the longest-running, largest, and considered by many to be the most widely recognized lgbtq-plus film exhibition event in the world. ofround 60,000,
certainly the biggest in the bay area. with me right now is daniel moretti, the director of distribution and educational programming for frameline and a prominent figure in global film projects. and we're also proud to have william j. zang, a filmmaker and publicist, here to talk about his latest project, "dress up like mrs. doubtfire." welcome to the show. william zang: good to be here. daniel moretti: thank you for having us. robert: you know, we've been big fans of the event for quite a long time, but for people who haven't been as familiar, give us a quick overview of the film festival. daniel: great, yeah. so frameline presents a san francisco international lgbtq-plus film festival. this year it takes place from june 20 to 30. we're in five different venues in san francisco, oakland, and berkeley, and this year we have a very diverse slate of films that we're bringing out. it's 174 different films, representing 38 countries, and of those films, 59 of them are us premieres so it's the first time that they're being screened in the us. so it really points to the unique content that frameline is bringing to the bay area.
robert: i know, it's unique and diversified so it's hard to say, like, the type of film you have. but what do you want moviegoers, film fans, to kind of expect when they go? daniel: yeah, so really, i would say we have a film for every genre, for every personality type. a couple of examples of films that celebrate asian american and asian storylines at the festival, just to give a spl we have a film called "song lang" which is from vietnam. it's a drama. it's set in 1980s saigon and it follows a debt collector that falls in love with a performer in an opera troupe. and then we also have a film from the us. it's actually an episodic. so it's a web series and follows a filipina american transgender woman and she--it's called "razor tongue," and she uses her razor tongue to call out misogyny and discrimination that she faces from men on a daily basis. robert: and it really is important to know that even though these are important issues, it's-- they're films. they're entertaining and they're informative in that way as films. daniel: exactly.
robert: speaking of which, talk about your film. give us a quick overview. william: so "dress up like mrs. doubtfire" is a short documentary film to look back on robin williams' 1993 film, "mrs. doubtfire," to talk about the legacy that it is very first family friendly film to feature robert: probably not maybe seen as important unless it's in retrospect, right?a ma e people kind of got from this? william: i just feel like the time has changed and it also changed people's reading about those films happened before, because last year was the 25th anniversary of "mrs. doubtfire." so people usually go to that shooting location on steiner street to make a pilgrimage to robin williams and the movie. so even after 25 years, people still have a lot of memories about that film. so i also want to talk about, like, the film, how does it change the hollywood stereotype of drag characters or gay characters in a movie? so it has a lot of meaning for me and also for the community.
robert: not to mention robin williams, a significant bay area figure. how about for you, what inspired you to kind of take that on as the topic? william: well, because i'm a big fan for robin williams for a really long time. i guess, probably, i watched that film when i was five, i guess, but at the time i never thought about, "oh, that is a drag, and that there's--and robin williams' character's brother's a gay couple," or kind of like, stuff like that. but since six years ago i came to here, i walked by the shooting location. i saw people take photos or, kind of like, post online, and so i went back to watch that film again and to see, "oh, since that is a drag. there's a gay here." so i just want to talk about legacy about that. robert: there's a pretty good example of diversity there, isn't it? daniel: yes, exactly.s ar. daniel: thank you so much. robert: all right. well, frameline 43 is on from june 20 to 30 at venues in san francisco, berkeley, and oakland. for more details go to nbcbayarea.com. up next, more about frameline 43 with the creative minds
we're back with more about frameline 43. joining us is searit huluf, the writer and director of the film, "gamer originally from l.a., she is now here in the bay area working for pixar studios and many other projects. and also with us, is tiajha nakahara, who is the producer of "gamers." born and raised in okinawa and also from l.a., pixar, and now post-production coordinator at the online course master class. welcome to the show. both: thank you. robert: give us a quick overview in terms of "gamers." searit huluf: yeah, so "gamers" is about, basically, a lesbian gamer who has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to try out for a pro league team but she gets cold feet and her girlfriend confronts her about it. robert: hm, who came up with that story? searit: i did. it was a combination of two ideas i was writing and i was pitching a bunch of them to tiajha and the first one was about basically, like, a sketch comedy that i wrote for a class
in sf and then i turned that which was about these guys who game, and then another story i had about a career couple who were basically questioning their relationship., tiajha kind of was just like, "you know, i think we should combine these two ideas 'cause there's something there." and we went with tentlhat an"" robert: that's what a producer does, right? searit: yeah. robert: then, of course, to me, i think gaming is a pretty big part of asian american and the culture, too. i mean, i see a lot of them very much into that. i don't know if it's innate or what. when you're deciding to produce something like this, what are the first things you've gotta do to get it off the ground? tiajha nakahara: ooh, to get it off the ground. i mean, the biggest thing is definitely a story which is why we took a long time. most of the pre-production was crafting the story and making sure that we are ready before we shoot and then gathering your crew, getting people who are interested, yeah. robert: it's an interesting story. very fascinating, but in terms of for moviegoers what do you hope that they kind of get when they see this? maybe the thing that you really want 'em to kind of reach?
searit: yeah, like, our biggest thing was that anything that has to do with gaming content, like, we just don't see any poc or, like, women of color on the screen, so one of the things was just, like, they are there. like, there's a lot of, like-- especially women gamers. there's a lot of girls gaming than guys, actually, right now but you don't really see that on screen or being reflected. so our biggest thing was just kind of this exposure was one of the things. but one of the main themes of the film was imposter syndrome and kind of how, like, you know, women typically, them themselves stop them from doing what they're passioning to do, which i really, like, relate to that with my main character, jaime. so we kind of wanted to show, like, what imposter syndrome could do to a woman and, like, how, you know, they also over-achieve them too and how they kind of like, "you know what? i'm scared to do this but i'm still gonna do it anyway." robert: yeah, yeah. i mean, representing a lot of other kind of industries, a lot of other careers, et cetera, right? searit: yeah, yeah. this was seen lgbtq community, too. like, there's a lot of gamers in that community as well. robert: yeah, i know, i have seen people when they portray women as gamers it's like a novelty or something. you know, where it's like this norm or this culture for men, or something like that.
why is that important, though, do you think? is it because for one thing i don't think people realize how many gamers there are. i mean, people think, "oh, games." they don't realize how many people do it, what kind of impact it has on people, huh? tiajha: definitely. yeah, that was the biggest thing. so we actually did a lot of research with people who play games, females specifically, and we wanna make sure we represented that and basically show that there are more than one type of gamer. and what does that look like? robert: when you add the element, though, of being a woman or even being lgbtq, what does that mean for the character? searit: for me, it's kind of just like i wanted to see myself on screen so, for me, it's just like-- like, one character is asian, one is black, and it was just like for tiajha and i to see ourselves onscreen is, like, one thing. but i'm also, like, a huge lgbtq ally and i have a lot of, like, lgbtq-plus friends so for me to, like, not only see myself onscreen but also see my friends onscreen as well. robert: yeah, isn't that the best way too, is, like, not to preach but to tell a story and then get people
to relate to it, huh? tiajha: exactly, yeah. the biggest thing for us is at the end of the film if people felt like they were able to relate to any part of the film, that's what we hope we can do. a gamer, poc, lgbtq, robert: all right, well, we want them to kind of seek your film out. thank you for being here. searit: thank you. robert: all right, well, stay with us. we now go behind the scenes and on camera with ali wong and randall park of the hit movie, "always be my maybe."
i had the pleasure of interviewing the creative forces behind "always be my maybe," now on netflix. randall park, ali wong, and director nahnatchka khan. from a special set at the san francisco fairmont hotel terrace, they were funny and enlightening. robert: well, thank you for doing this segment for, "asian pacific america."ow i i wanted to did. i loved it. it was great. first of all, i guess, you co-wrote it so give me an idea in terms of one of the thing
movies and documentaries that kind of show a slice of life of asian american things, culture and things like that. but what i liked about yours was that it was a kind of a storyof that didn't have to necessarily be asian americans but it was more fun and more interesting because of it, right? when you were putting it together, did you have that kind of thought in mind in terms of, like, conveying some of that at all or was it sort of something that--a story you wanted to do? randall park: it wasn't something that we sat down and talked about, like, "oh, we have to do this, you know, make this asian american project." it really just kind of came organically. we wanted to tell a great story and we wanted it to be funny and heartfelt. and i think that all of those other elements kind of just found their way into the script because it's a part of who we are. robert: yeah, and some of the people i've talked to about this movie, one of the things they do like is a strong asian american male, lead character, and we don't really see a lot. ali wong: a strong asian american sexy male.
robert: yes, sexy male. you're allowed to say that, so. randall: you can say it, too. you've a very sexy asian american male. randall: thank you. nahnatchka khan: don't worry about your job. robert: that's right, yes. you know, you obviously have roots in the bay area. is it--how much rewarding was it for you to bring this project here and to be able to tell the story through the bay area? ali: it was great and, you know, i do feel-- when i watch the movie again, i do see san francisco in a way that i feel like i have not seen in film before. you know, you never see the richmond district or the sunset district which is such a big part of my childhood and you just never see those houses that, to me, are so iconic and they bring me such a sense of home. and i think just for me, marcus's character really you know, we all know that guy or a guy who's kind of like that, who's--who feels like he has it all and he's-- he lives at home well into his 30s but he's good.
likeand he's able to have side and the life he wants. but he doesn't really wanna challenge himself too much to go and that can be really frustrating in a relationship. robert: and, again, kind of a universal thing that a lot of people can relate to. ali: right, yeah. robert: all three of you, though, you know, you've done a lot of groundbreaking for the asian american community. ali: this one can't get away from us. robert: 'cause role models are important. role models are important, too. nahnatchka, tell me something. does this feel like you're also doing a groundbreaking project? 'cause it feels like to me, like, even though, "fresh off the boat" kind of almost made kind of part of the cultural landscape andma permanent, you know what i mean? like, as part of it. do you feel like this is also kind of almost breaking
new ground again?chka well, i think that, you know, it's breaking new ground in that these guys have been so instrumental.goa pla, who's gonna play sasha, you know? they wrote this story, they came up with the story. they produced it. and to me, that's groundbreaking. like, not only in front of the camera but behind the camera, being involved in the creative process like that. so it was never a question of, like, should this be a asian american story? it was always gonna be that, you know? and the question is how do we make it entertaining? how do we make it universal? how do we make it feel like you understand and relate to these people in their journey and have it be satisfying? so i think, for me, the groundbreakingness comes from, you know, doing a good movie that you're proud of, that's entertaining, but also working with such talented people in so many aspects, you know, not just as actors but in all the ways. robert: yeah. of course, they said that you had to be the one to bring that vision to the front. where does that sensitivity come from? nahnatchka: i think it's just a matter of paying attention to what people are saying to you. you know, like, reading their script, understanding what they wanted from the story,
and looking at everyas you know, every detail matters. the rhythm of the scene matters. the way you come into it and get out of it, you know, what are the characters going through? and i think that because we know that about each other, and those are the things that i take very seriously, you know, i always will be a writer first so i will approach scenes from character and story and then be, like, "how do i tell this in a visual way that supports that?" robert: i did an interview with mindy kaling not that long ago and she was talking about how the-- these forums like netflix and hulu and all these other things, they've really opened up things for the asian american community. i remember my son mason, a long time ago, he used to only watch youtube and i was always curious on why that was. it was because there really wasn't like another forum or venue for asian american kind of products and things like that. netflix, does that offer a lot more opportunity or, at least, it seems like it does.
does it? randall: well, yeah, i think so. i think for us iauses ultimate, we wanted our movie to be made and we then wanted our movie to be seen. robert: yeah, i guess that's what i meant was, was it like, in the old days, would you have been able to make this movie, like a theatrical movie? ali: yeah, i don't-- i think it's a lot because also the timing was right in terms of, you know, randall has a lot of cachet from his--you look at his imdb page and you'll be scrolling for, like, your whole life, you know, and then nahnatchka had just, i mean, you know, she's very established too and so i think, like, all of that lining up more than people's attitudes towards asian americans was probably the bigger deal. but to get to that point where you can build that amount of cachet takes a long time, you know? we're not in our 20s. nahnatchka: but also netflix, i will say that, like, the whole process, they were onboard for exactly
the movie that we wanted to make. you know, there was never any pushback of, like, should it be this, should it be that? you know, we were all on the same page from the get-go and they really supported this story and this movie, which is great. robert: i'm curious as a director, you're making something that's gonna be shown theatrically and then on netflix. as a director, do you have to do much adjusting or--in termsn is? nahnatchka: i mean, it's, you know, not to get boring and technical, but, you know, we initially wanted to-- my dp, tim suhrstedt, and i wanted to shoot it sort of letterbox and then we had a whole plan and whatever and then we talked to the people at netflix and they were, like, "some people are gonna be consuming this on their tablets, on their phones," and they've found that they don't like to have the bars, the black bars or whatever. so we had to adjust our vision and the idea how we were gonna shoot it to maximize the screenspace because it's not, you know, a giant theatre exclusively. so, you know, things like that, just understanding
where your movie's gonna play, yeah. robert: i mentioned role models and in a certain way, it's like charles barkley said: "whether you want to be or not, you end up being role models." my son is a theater arts performer as well in college, loyola marymount. he's here, actually, and you'll meet him later. ali: oh, nice. robert: but do you feel comfortable with the idea of being a role model? have you gotten used to the idea of, like, having to be a role model? ali: i try not to think about that very mu i don't know. it's so hard to write a good joke, i'm just trying to, like, write great jokes and be a good mom. so, and i think if you, like, think too much about being a role model, you might be a bad role model, you know? unless you think a lot about it, that's totally fine. randall: no, i haven't. ali: unless it's, like, it consumes you and you wake up and you go, like-- robert: like i said, i think part of it is that you end up being one whether you want to or not, and a lot of people i know are very encouraged by what they see, you know, the presence and just, again,
seeing faces that look like them means so much to them. ali: but the project has to be good, you know what i mean? so it's like, i think if you focus--you really have to focus on that and then i think the discussion about, you know, how we feel about representation maybe can come after the movie when there's been a reaction and people can tell us how they felt but right now it's like, all of our focus has been just making it something that people enjoy because if people don't enjoy it, they don't--we're not role models, you know? they're like-- randall: they'll be, like, "get away from us." robert: but it is nice to have that community support because they still have to be commercially successful, right? i mean, you know, even just being artistically acclaimed or even people saying, "oh, that's so great for diversity." if the project doesn't fly, it doesn't really help, right? randall: yeah, for sure. robert: were you--when you were writing the story, did you kind of think about, like, "oh, this is gonna be something that everybody can relate to"? could be? randall: no, we weren't thinking that. robert: what were you thinking?
ali: we weren't thinking about, like, we were looking at pictures of jenny's wig and we were, like, thinking about, you know, like which exterior houses we should shoot and who should we cast as brandon? it's like, there's so much going into making a movie that logistic and technical and so many little details, artistic choices you have to make, that it's like, i mean, you can't focus on that kind of cultural impact outcome too much. randall: but the cultural impact outcome, you know, it spawns from those little decisions, you know? like, the little details are things that a lot--i mean, the movie hasn't come out yet, but the people who have seen it, they--people respond to those little things, you know? nahnatchka: i would also say that you guys are role models because arversn of who yoe they should be, you know? it's like, i think people respond to that honesty and that, like, ali is just being ali, randall's being randall. and to me, like, that's what i respond
to when i watch their stuff, you know? i think it's great. robert: i think they get to make their artistic choice like to punch keanu or kiss daniel dae kim. it's tough choices sometimes, right? ali: ooh, yeah. randall: man, punched him right in that room, right there. nahnatchka: yeah, we shot that scene right over there. robert: are you happy with the way it came out? are you--you've had a chance, it's coming out, you know? i've seen it. i loved it. for you, did it all come out pretty much the way you wanted it to? ali: yeah, it came out even better. it's 'cause we--again, it's a collaboration. so there's always gonna be and with that, which is so great, there's always gonna be some element of surprise. as involved as all of us were, i mean, that she was gonna do, like, you know, in terms of, like, making certain scenes slow motion or, yeah. randl: i knew it was gonna be funny with natch at the helm and--fn or how it was gonna be good in the final version. and, i dunno, it's just like putting your faith in--or us
putting our faith in each other, and especially in natch sitting in that editing room, you know, day after day after day. robert: i think you should be very proud of what you did and not only is it, i think, something that is really good for the community in terms as a cultural achievement, but it's very entertaining. randall: ah, thank you. ali: thank you. robert: thank you very much. robert: well, a very interesting, enjoyable conversation. coming up some final thoughts for today's show.
as you heard, breaking barriers comes about not only from community awareness but also commercial success. so we encourage everyone to support these types of projects, whether watching "always be my maybe" on netflix or attending some or all of the events at frameline 43. and you can get more information about those events at nbcbayarea.com and we're also on social media, twitter, and facebook and you can follow me on twitter @rhandanbc. and that's it for our show today,
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this has been an honor of a lifetime. indication this was an act of terrorist. >> shameful. >> we the north are now we are the champions. ♪ good morning, welcome to "sunday today" on this father's day on june 15th, i am willie geist. it was four years ago today donald trump took that famous escalator ride at trump tour to launch his 2016 presidential campaign. president trump is preparing the official kickoff of his