Seven Questions with Ash, Director of "Bang"
Seven Questions with Ash, Director of "Bang"
by Brandon Judell
What is The Girl to do? She’s evicted by her landlord in the morning,
sexually harassed by an L.A. producer at noon, and sexually abused by a cop
right afterwards. Why not handcuff the nasty officer to a tree, don his
uniform and ride around on his motorcycle. That’s what The Girl does,
suddenly finding her life transformed: from victim to power house with a
few short revs of an engine.
This low budget feature, "Bang", that was written, directed, and co-edited by
the stylish Ash and just opened in the Big Apple Friday, has already
garnered a huge list of favorable quotes to grace its poster, and not one
is scribed by Paul Wunder types. It earned its raves the hard way.
Ash, a young Brit from London, shot "Bang" in 5 weeks “guerrilla-style” in
Los Angeles without obtaining any permits. The real cops weren’t that
The audacious director, whose legally blind without his contacts on by the
way, received a bachelor degree in Experimental Psychology at Sussex
University and staged a successful production of Harold Pinter’s The
Birthday Party for the drama society while there.
His first film, a documentary, was "Out Come The Freaks", a look at the life
of a child prostitute in the South of England. Ash was also a stand-in for
the Incredible Hunk and the owner of an L.A. nightclub called “Water the
Bush.” Then in 1992 he directed a futuristic AIDS short, "The Sex Police",
starring Richard Harris and Timothy Leary when his head was still attached
to his shoulders. Finally, "Bang".
The following interview took place last week while Ash was breezing through
indieWIRE: How come "Bang" has taken so long to hit New York City screens?
You seem to have a hefty load of good reviews already?
Ash: I guess for some reason they wanted to let the film kind of build and
sort of gather momentum city by city before it hit New York. I guess that’s
the story. After opening in Chicago and capturing the attention of Robert
Ebert, it seemed to propel things forward.
iW: Even with all your sterling reviews, will there be much advertising?
This seems to be a small film released by a small company (Panorama
Ash: Yeah, it’s unfortunate that it’s a money issue. We’ve just basically
been lucky enough to have really good reviews and get championed by various
different people and given the attention of various things like MTV or
various other different other TV outlets that seem to be championing it.
And so that’s sort of making up for . . . Right from the moment go, money
was always an issue. I guess for my first film, that’s the way it is kind
iW: Legend goes that you got the idea for this film by doing strip-a-grams.
Ash: That’s correct.
iW: Having met you, one can see that you are strip-a-gram material. You
don’t have to go back to that any more, do you though?
Ash: No, I don’t. It was something that I did to fund my first film. I
guess it provided insight in that it gave the inspiration for this
iW: So you often went around stripping as a cop?
Ash: I’d have to go into all kinds of different situations. Actually, all
kinds. And basically, just in your natural day to day kind of dealings on
the way to or from places, people reacted to me in various different ways.
Also cop uniforms bring out a certain part of your own personality which
one isn’t aware of. In the uniform, people look at you differently. You
start acting a bit differently yourself, and that’s a strange phenomena.
I remember finishing my night’s work, and I think I had had three different
bachelorette parties to go to. I finished, and I had about 5 or 6 hundred
dollars worth of money in my pocket from the night’s work, and I saw a very
tough, all black night club in London. I thought, What the hell! I’m in the
uniform. I’d just been out. I’ve finished my work. I’m going to go into
this night club.
And I went up to the door, and they asked what I was doing there. I said I
just come to dance. They looked at me really strangely. They didn’t make me
pay anything. They said, “Just go down and do whatever you’re going to do.”
They were very suspicious of me. I went down to the dance floor. It was all
black down there. As soon as I went onto the dance floor, the dance floor
stopped, and everyone sort of moved out. So I’’ left there dancing alone. A
white guy in a cop’s uniform.
I’m there dancing. Everyone’s staring at me. The place is thick with a sort
of a marijuana smoke. Suddenly, I’m trying to act nonchalant and groove to
the beat, and I heard a needle being ripped off the stereo.
This guy approached me. He’s got a shaved head, and he’s got a tin can with
the African National Congress sticker on it. So he comes up to me, and he
goes, “You’re going to make a donation to the African National Congress?” I
had a huge wad of money in my pocket. I just took out a fifty, and I put it
in the tin, and he just said to me, “Look! I’ve never met a cop like you
before. You come into our club. You dance on the dance floor. You donate a
huge amount of money to the African National Congress. You’re the coolest
cop I’ve ever seen.”
He snapped his fingers and went, “Music!” And the music went back on, and
he started dancing with me. The whole place started dancing. It was a
strange sequence of events that was really the uniform sort of dictating
how the events would go. It brings out different sides of you, and you
realize that if you act a certain way, people have such strong stereotypes
of how they believe the police should act.
iW: You’re now living in Los Angeles. So many Americans are moving to
England, Spain, etc. to spur on their art. How come you’ve taken on a
Ash: To me, America is a really interesting country. I guess you’re always
attracted by what’s different to you. America always had a fascination for
me. It’s the dominant world power. Because it’s a real young country in
terms of how long the dominant culture has been living here. I guess
because of that, things happen very quickly here. Things change very
quickly. So it’s interesting to a filmmaker I think.
iW: You also have an Asian-American actress, Darling Narita, in the lead
which doesn’t happen that often in American films. Was that just because
she was a good actress or did you consciously make that decision?
Ash: I wanted her to be a minority female actress. Whether she was Asian
American or African-American or Latin-American would have been okay. I just
wanted to put a uniform of power onto a minority actress because I thought
that was more interesting than a white actress which there are obviously so
many of them. But at the same time, I didn’t want it to become like a major
issue of “Oh, it’s because she’s Asian that she got the role or anything.”
It was just that I wanted a minority female to play the role.
iW: Now that this film has garnered such good reviews, have you got an
agent who’s pushing you on projects, or is it still a tough fight uphill?
Ash: No, since the film has gone into reviews, people have started taking a
real serious interest in me. The big companies have started to take a big
interest in my new film which is called Snuffed. People seem to be talking
to me about four and five million dollars as opposed to $20,000 which is a
bit like going from your French kiss to dot dot dot.
[Brandon Judell is the lead film critic for Critics Inc. on America Online
and a contributing editor to Detour Magazine. His new book is “The Gay Quote Book” (Dutton). He has also written for The Village Voice, The Advocate, and
Rodale’s Guide to Weight Loss.]