San Francisco musician Goh Nakamura (playing himself) is barely scraping by playing live gigs and teaching guitar. So when a filmmaker friend asks him to teach guitar lessons to TV star Danny Turner (Chadd Stoops) for his upcoming movie role, Goh jumps at the chance. [Synopsis courtesy of SXSW]
[indieWIRE invited directors with films in the SXSW Narrative, Documentary and Emerging Visions sections to submit responses in their own words about their films. These profiles are being published through the beginning of the 2011 SXSW Film Conference and Festival. To prompt the discussion, indieWIRE asked the filmmakers about what inspired their films, the challenges they faced and other general questions. They were also free to add additional comments related to their projects.]
Director: Dave Boyle
Producer: Michael Lerman, Duane Andersen, Gary Chou
Cast: Goh Nakamura, Chadd Stoops, Lynn Chen, Mary Cavett, Joy Osmanski, Parry Shen, Calpernia Addams, Dan “Damage” Bjornson, Di Quon, Joe Polhemus
Screenwriter: Dave Boyle, Joel Clark, Goh Nakamura
Cinematographer: Bill Otto
Editor: Dave Boyle, Michael Lerman, Duane Andersen
Sound: Carlos Sanches
Music: Goh Nakamura
Responses courtesy of “Surrogate Valentine” director Dave Boyle.
I’ve wanted to become a film director ever since I saw “Dick Tracy” in 1990. After seeing that film as an 8-year-old, I wanted to grow up to be just like Warren Beatty.
While making my last film “White on Rice,” I hired a musician friend to teach one of the actors how to play guitar for his role as an indie rocker. Much to my delight, the two of them became good buddies. I thought their unusual friendship and contrasting personalities would make for a very funny and touching story.
I met lead actor Goh Nakamura while at a film festival shortly thereafter. We share a similar outlook on life, and we both discovered that we had shared similar experiences traveling around the country–him as a musician, me as a filmmaker. Even though he’d never acted before, I knew he had terrific screen presence. We decided to work on my musician-actor idea together.
Goh collaborated with Joel Clark (my usual co-writer) and myself on the script. We wanted to make something personal and from the heart, but we also didn’t want it to feel like 90 minutes of listening to us talk to an analyst.
Shooting on the fly…
Overall, I tried to take a no-frills approach to everything and just let the story tell itself. Although it’s by far the lowest budget I’ve ever worked with, it never felt like I was lacking anything I needed.
It was a lot of fun to just cruise around with everyone and say “Hey, let’s shoot right there!” Then everyone would hop out, we’d shoot the scene, jump back in the car and get outta there. Since the script took place in a bunch of different cities (San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, and Seattle, with a stop off in Jackson County, Oregon) there was only so much preparation that we could do. In the end, I think it benefited the movie.
My D.P. Bill Otto and I have worked together on three features now, so we have a pretty good shorthand in communicating with each other. Doing without our usual toys (dolly track, real movie lights, etc.) we had a lot of fun just trying to make the best of the locations we found ourselves using.
This was Goh’s first time acting, so I tried to surround him with more experienced actors, like Chadd Stoops as his TV-star buddy and Lynn Chen (“Saving Face”) as his pseudo-ladyfriend–both of whom were wonderful and totally understood our run-and-gun style of filmmaking. Goh proved to be a total natural.
Stepping up to the plate…
On the practical side ran into the usual problems that every low-budget film faces. That stuff just goes with the territory. On the creative side, I tried to put more of myself into the film than I usually would, rather than hiding too much behind my cartoony sense of humor. The challenges on this mostly came from trying to grow as a filmmaker.
One day we were shooting in front of a house in San Francisco. I thought we had permission to shoot at the house, but it turns out I was at the wrong one! Midway through a take, a concerned looking gentleman stepped outside and sternly asked what we were doing on his property.
As I tried to figure out what had happened, and struggled to explain what was going on, someone else came out of the house and said “Hey Dave!” It was director Ted Sikora of “Hero Tomorrow,” whom I had met three years prior at the 2007 Cleveland International Film Festival. Turns out he was in San Fran visiting an old family friend, and we just happened to be trespassing on said family friend’s property.
Ted managed to save the day. We finished shooting our scenes after he vouched for me. Biggest coincidence ever. Yet another reminder of how great it is when filmmakers help each other out.
I’m directing a mystery film in Japan called “Komorebi” which will hopefully start late this year. The project was part of the Tokyo Film Festival’s Project Gathering in 2010, and Joel and I are polishing the script right now.
BUT…before I get to all that, Goh and I have decided to collaborate on another film together this August. It will be another film about his “Surrogate Valentine” character (also named “Goh”).