Actor/writer Jason Yee shares a fight scene from “The Girl From the Naked Eye,” one that pays tribute to one of his favorite scenes in “Old Boy.” The film stars Yee as a man hell bent on finding the killer of a high-class escort he was entrusted to care for. Yee, a martial arts expert, did all of his own stunts and helped choreograph the fight scenes. “The Girl From the Naked Eye” opens at select AMC theaters this Friday, June 15.
When I first saw the hallway fight scene in the Korean film, “Old Boy,” I was intrigued by the simplicity of the single master shot and the fight choreography. But what really struck me was the raw emotion that came out in that scene. We wanted to do a scene like that, but with complicated fight choreography that can only be done by highly trained professionals — yet still keep it grounded in reality. We didn’t want to make my character, Jake, a martial arts superhero who walks through dozens of opponents and doesn’t even get hit or tired. We wanted the audience to see our hero Jake as a real human who feels pain, gets tired and takes a beating.
Looking back, having shot most of “The Girl from the Naked Eye” in 2007, I think I made some dumb choices as an actor. One big mistake I made was to take a method acting approach to get into character to play Jake, the driver who works at the Naked Eye strip club. In the weeks before shooting I stayed up late nights depriving myself of rest. I didn’t train very hard and I drank a lot of alcohol. This made prepping for the action scenes really tough physically and mentally. I looked and felt drained through out the main production, which in some cases may have helped a little but, often worked against me, especially with the stress of production.
In hindsight, it was insanity for us to try to make an action movie shot on 35mm negative film for $1 million. Right from the start, the stress of preproduction built tensions between all the keys players. When we started shooting, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Shooting 12-hour nights for three weeks straight compounded the stress, infighting started left and right between everyone. We went overtime everyday and we paid dearly for the production mistakes.
Going into an overly ambitious production is like going to war. You better make sure you trust your comrades because that’s the only way you’ll make it through. Unfortunately, nobody trusted each other and fires broke out everywhere. But we kept forging forward. After the first three weeks of battle, we limped out of shooting and went into the edit room to see what we had. After several months, we realized we only had 70% of a movie. My producing partner, Henry Mu and I, figured it was time to go back to the drawing board, get more funds and figure out how to shoot the remaining 30%. We shot again a year later for a week, edited what we had and yet the movie still never felt quite right. We eventually collaborated with Ron Yuan, who then became a producer. Fast forward, more edits, rewrites and another day of shooting the action scene at Simon’s Brothel. Fast forward again, several months and we finally had a movie!
Now in 2012, it is almost impossible for an indie movie to get a theatrical release up against all the big studio movies. I’m so grateful for the limited theatrical release and the positive feedback from fans and critics; it finally somehow makes the all battles fought to make this movie seem worth it. Because, making “The Girl from the Naked Eye” was truly like going into war. Boundaries were pushed and crossed, friendships were tested, some friendships were lost. Other made on set will last a lifetime.