On Friday, March 24, indie filmmakers Gregg Araki, Roddy Bogawa, Marcus Hu, and Jon Moritsugu will be gathering at USC to talk about the state of underground Asian American cinema and other stuff. The free event will be followed by an after-party/concert including performances by my friends SISU and Low on High, which is Jon and his wife/partner in crime Amy Davis.
How could I not ask my pals Jon and Amy, who are behind such must-see movies as Fame Whore, Scumrock, and Pig Death Machine as well as killer garage rock, some questions leading up to the date? This is a rare and cool (and did I mention free?) event that everyone should be amped about. I know I am.
MW: It’s been ages since you were L.A.! What do you look forward to doing when you’re in town all the way from Santa Fe? Are you going to stay at the same fleabag motel on Sunset?
JM: We’re stoked to be returning to the palm-littered and glitter-dusted City of Angels! Totally excited about being able to party at sea level, lotsa oxygen, hanging with old friends, oxygen, and chowing down on some really rad Asian vittles (pho, halo halo, mochi, etc.) and, oh yeah, did we mention oxygen?! (Santa Fe is at 7000+ feet.)
Alas, Sunset Blvd scuzziness of yore when we used to come down to La La Land to get sick-ass tattoos (Okay, only Amy) will have to ferment and bubble on without our presence. We miss bedbugs!
MW: When you go onstage with other filmmakers is it more like a summit meeting, Marvel Superhero Team-Up, or a UFC cage match?
JM: It’s more a fight between highfalutin, intellectual, artsy thugs in a back alley combined with an earthquake of good vibes. Lotsa love, laughs, and high-fives with a dab of ball bustin’ and smidgen of gentle roasting.
MW: Do you know the other panelists very well? At film festivals, do you go to P.F. Chang’s together?
JW: I totally know Gregg, Roddy, and Marcus really well. We all met in the late ’80s when the underground/indie scene was pretty much bein’ born out of the vagina of the film universe. As far as Asian goes, I have never been to a P.F. Chang’s but I have experienced Brandi Ho’s, Benihana, and Panda Express–all very fine examples of ultra-authentic and undiluted “real” Asian cuisine.
AD: It’s so not fair that Jon never takes me to P.F. Chang’s! I wanna live! I wanna experience the Chang Mania!
MW: I’m extra-amped about seeing LOW ON HIGH again. Can you tell me how your garage rock band compares to your cinematic partnership? Similar, complementary, or therapy?
AD: Oh, I guess I’m taking this one… Dude. Man. It’s totally marriage style. Like how in a marriage you may be the boss of certain aspects–perhaps the cleaning or bills or cooking? Well, in the celluloid wonderland Jonny gets to rule and lord over me. Muse that I am, I allow it for his male ego, et. al. (Ladies, you know the games we play, wink wink.) Although I do have quite a huge impact and will cry on set if he doesn’t let me have some input, but with the rockin’… Babies, that is all me! Me. Me. Me. I’m the rockstar and Jon is just like stage candy that bleeds and vomits out some yummy solos when I cue him. I am The Boss. Amy Springsteen, yo. Jon is just something pretty to ogle at on cue. He’s so fine. Right, honey?
JM: Yes, dear.
MW: Are you bringing merch? Can I bring money to buy the LOW ON HIGH 7″ single and a Pig Death Machine DVD at the show?
JM: We are bringing the entire merch booth: DVDs, CDs, vinyl, zines, T-shirts, buttons, the works! Fun fun fun. Glow in the dark, blood-splattered, and covered in sweet, lickable, underground pathos. Goofy pathos!
MW: Amy, do you get and wear free fancy clothes from your high fashion illustration gigs? Or are you just naturally fabulous?
AD: OMG. Yes, Martin. I do! Right now, I’m in an OFF WHITE tee and Chanel skirt with a Christian Cowan jacket and those sick sequin glitter YSL boots from AW 2017! You know the one Rhianna is rocking all over Paris? Plus oodles of $1,500 skin cream and $4,000 one-of-a-kind Creed perfume they made especially pour moi and they call it Beyond Amy: The Creamy Years.
Not! I get nada, baby! It’s all a labor of amore and I do love it so! I will still get some baby kine swag here and there but, nope, not the sick-ass cha-chinga swag. But being innocent, I never doubt that one day I’ll be spoiled rotten!
MW: I seem to recall that your old hometown of San Francisco might have been famous for Day-Glo posters and psychedelic hallucinogens but Santa Fe turned out to be naturally rainbow-colored and trippy for you two. Is that accurate? Does it affect your art and filmmaking?
JM: Sante Fe’s lack of oxygen makes everything trippy! Coyotes, deserts, crushed sapphire, blue-blue-blue skies, and chile peppers so hot they’ll make ya so high and pass out–all that informs life here. Also, the filmmaking process. The immense space and big nature slow down your mind and help ya to connect to stuff more “relevant.”
That said, San Fran, too, had crazy fog and weirdo locations and, yes, the brighter-than-bright Day-Glo wonder that anything is possible. Amy and I were in our 20s and totally innocent. Now that we are way older, we try to regain that innocence and it’s harder than you’d think. Jaded angst of youth is a pretty sweet and creamy flavor. If you have innocence and ambition and truth, you have it all.
MW: In addition to making movies do you watch a lot of them? What are you into now?
JM: Oh yeah, we love movies. Everything from classics like Hell’s Angels (Howard Hughes’ 1930 magnum opus) to sparkly new stuff. Recent fav’s: Neon Demon, Nocturnal Animals, 20th Century Women. Plus weirdo TV crap like The Affair. We get hooked on the basic stuff. Face it, we are shamelessly basic!
MW: Pig Death Machine came out while ago. What’s cooking? C’mon you can tell us…
JM: We are in pre-production for brand new feature #8! We’re shooting in New Mexico this summer, and it’s a riff on the fine art/high art scene. Amy will be playing a totally fucked-up artist. Lotsa glitter, shimmer, obnoxious tunes, and posin’ plus blood, gore, laughs, and yucks.
AD: I really hope the costumer can get me those glittery boots…Folks. let’s all dream it: YSL boots for Amy! Livin’ the dream, lovin’ the scene!
Stalk Jon and Amy at jonmoritsugu.com and amydavis.com and RSVP for both the talk and concert at visionsandvoices.usc.edu