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Guest Post: Jon Mortsugu: “Out With The Punk, Long Live The New Wave”

Guest Post: Jon Mortsugu: "Out With The Punk, Long Live The New Wave"

When I got started making movies in he late 80’s, I didn’t know if our films would ever be seen or find a home. I took great comfort in the fact that others were doing it too though. When I learned first of Gregg Araki and then Jon Mortsugu — and hence a west coast indie revolution — I knew what we were doing was bigger than us. Everyone’s approach and content was different, but damn it was bold. No one was spending much and we were starting to get it seen. The LA films we edgier and, well, louder. Mortsugu’s titles alone project his attitude well: SCUM ROCK, FAME WHORE, MOD FUCK EXPLOSION, & HIPPY PORN. Today he guest blogs on how the digital revolution has lead him to lower the punk rock flag.

I just scored the potentially BIGGEST distribution deal of my life where my movie, TERMINAL USA, will reach 18 million homes nationwide from NYC to Chicago to Chattanooga the ENTIRE month of July … and all of this courtesy of Comcast. Arigato gozaimasu, Comast!

So the details: TERMINAL USA, my yellow-power PBS-funded ode combining race politics with evil twin brothers (starring me, ‘natch), nazi skinheads, gallons of fake blood, and a latex-clad alien (played by my foxy wife, Amy Davis), all in the name of destroying the legacy of the “Asian model minority,” Long Duk Dong, and lifetime membership in the Math Club.

MORITSUGU plays with his bleeding and pulverized leg as DAVIS watches us.

If we flashback twenty-two years (when I was all of 24), I was way too pompous and dickish. However, I was cranking out 16mm feature flicks and totally GETTING STOKED AND FEELING THE HIGH cuz I was circulating a couple films prints of each movie, one city at a time, filling up 200-seat arthouse theaters and spreading the kunst. I considered this a success cuz at the end of a year, maybe 10.000-20,000 humans had checked out, hated, and loved the crazy eyeshit I had created.

MORITSUGU as MARVIN (the math nerd) in TERMINAL USA. AMY DAVIS (wife and partner in crime of 20+ years) as EIGHTBALL (alien) + MORITSUGU as KAZUMI (meth dealing twin bro).

Time has erased a lot of these theaters, and it has also erased the capacity for people to enjoy movies in ’em… it has also created a whole bitter class of filmmakers who are still holding to the old ways of distribution and exhibition. I know, I know, theatrical releases on the silver screen (w/ popcorn in lobby and sticky crap on your armrest) are, well face it, SEXY! Ipod downloads, movie night in front of the 19″ monitor, and youtube trailers are NOT SEXY. And c’mon, avant-garde crazy cult cinema like TERMINAL USA available ON-DEMAND thru COMCAST is just plain WILD. But I’ll take the new wave any day over trying to distribute a movie the old school punk way – one flyer on one telephone pole at a time, wheat paste dripping down my sleeve, one phone call to one person at a time to fill that 50-seat pizza parlor booked for one night between $1 happy hour slices and some kid’s birthday party. Oy vey.

SHARON OMI as MA and KEN NARASAKI as apocalypse-fetishist DAD.

Sentimentality and nostalgia rank high in this biz, and I’m a sucker for this too, but we have to drop this all like a bad habit . Movies themselves are still the same – a synthesis of writing and performance within the template of the most “plastic” artform ever invented. Let’s get real with this fact and be flexible with everything else. We must be like the bamboo… bending but not breaking, yielding but firm. To paraphrase oldschool theory dude Walter Benjamin, we can’t be pussies about new shit. Grab it and make it work for you, right? It was fun being punk for a little while…okay, 20 years, jeez… but where’s the hair gel, man? I’m new wave now. Now and forever.

— Jon Moritsugu

TERMINAL USA trailer:YouTube – Terminal, U.S.A. Preview Clip

PIG DEATH MACHINE trailer:YouTube – PDMhorrortrailer1


TERMINAL USA will be available on COMCAST thru the entire month of JULY ON-DEMAND as part of the “Cinema Asian America” series. More info+cites at: www.jonmoritsugu.com


JON MORITSUGU has been making movies since 1986. His films MOD FUCK EXPLOSION, SCUMROCK, FAME WHORE, MY DEGENERATION, HIPPY PORN, DER ELVIS and SLEAZY RIDER have played worldwide to critical and popular acclaim. For the latest movie, PIG DEATH MACHINE, he co-teamed with Amy Davis as a filmmaking partner. PIG DEATH MACHINE, currently in post-production, was shot by the notorious Todd Verow and is slated for completion in late 2011.

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