Join Jon Moritsugu’s Numbskull Revolution

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After seeing Instagram photos of Jon Moritsugu and his wife, lead actress, and muse Amy Davis scouting locations for Numbskull Revolution in Texas, I went straight to the movie’s indiegogo page to support it. It’s always surreal to hang out with my friends wherever they are, but Marfa actually looks like one of their super-saturated, art-damaged, low-budget, and high-art movie sets. I had to find out more about the movie, and maybe inspire a couple of you out there to get behind it too.

How did you wind up in Marfa?
Marfa… is a sorta mythical little town in West Texas that is stuffed full of “high modern art”—you know, the art we all have made fun of at some point of our lives. Amy and I first visited a few years ago and have been back three times. You love Marfa or hate it. No middle ground. Lotsa peace, not too many choices (food, stores, etc.) but a beautiful place to just chill, sit, and walk around. And you can check out lotsa artwork like Donald Judd’s giant concrete boxes, Flavin’s fluorescent light bulbs, etc. It ties in with the new movie, Numbskull Revolution, because the flick is gonna be about this rarified, strange world of this type of art.

Can you expand on the movie’s general theme?
I wanna deconstruct and satirize the art scene. Amy is playing two characters: an ultra-uptight mega art star and her sleazy and flaky twin sister. It’s gonna be a battle between super ego and id, set in a place that will make Blade Runner seem bland. The movie will be a full-on blitzkrieg of color, glitter, narrative twists, and tragic moments combined with sheer ha-ha funniness and blood-curdling action. This will be my eighth feature and most technically challenging one… We’re shooting a bunch of the scenes in a green-screen studio and will create a movie with an utterly mind-blowing aesthetic.

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A lot of your biggest fans are probably part of the art scene you’ll be skewering. Is there a balance of drawing from experience without pissing off supporters?
Yeah, you’ve got to absolutely find that balance. At the same time I’m skewering artists and their scene; I want to delve into the mystery and strangeness of “making art.” After all, I am a creator, too. I transform ideas into movies… and it is awesome, mind-blowing… and also pretentious and an utterly weird way to live a life.

Who are some people you’ll be collaborating with? Any familiar faces?
My wife of 20+ years, super-muse, and leading lady Amy Davis will play the twins. Also appearing will be James Duval (who has appeared in two of my movies and was Frank the Bunny in Donnie Darko). Production design (sets and props) will be handled by Jennifer Gentile, who created the look of my movies Mod Fuck Explosion, Terminal USA, and Fame Whore. And the whole thing will be shot by director of photography extraordinaire, Anne Misawa. Jacques Paisner of Santa Fe is producing it. We’ve got some awesome people at the core of this project and I can’t wait to get started.

Another collaborator of this project is for real art star Tracey Snelling, who is creating all the backdrops and scenics for the movie. Characters will be shot in a green screen studio and popped into these environments.

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Your soundtracks are crucial to your movies. Do you have songs in place to propel the movie? Bands in mind?
I have some vague ideas right now, but nothing specific. But I do know that Numbskull Revolution’s soundtrack is gonna be a bricolage of raw rock-n-roll, space rock, synthesizer drones, and some modern classical (I’m totally digging Alan Hovhaness).

Wait a minute, aren’t you supposed to be working on a book?
Yes! I signed a deal with Kaya Press for a book on my life in film, all the ups and downs, and the juicy details. This will be out in later 2018 and as much as it’ll contain words, it’s also gonna be a full-color, full-on art book. I’m working on this right now and I am sure I will have some great new material from the production of Numbskull Revolution.

With the book in the works and career-spanning film retrospectives under your belt, has revisiting your body of work been like an out-of-body experience? Therapy? Has it affected your inspiration and outlook?
Yeah, it’s been totally out-of-body but its been really cool, too. As a filmmaker, it’s really easy to lose track of where you’ve been and just focus on the road ahead, upcoming projects, plans, etc. The retrospective and book have let me slow down a bit and check out what I’ve done. I would suggest this for anyone. Take some time to examine your life and everything you’ve accomplished. It can be overwhelming but also really mind-blowing ’cause not only can you see patterns of behavior and success or failure but it will really give you an appreciation of how time flies by, as well as how intense and crazy life is. It’s allowed me to focus on this new project but to also give myself a break and chill, take a nap, etc.

I’m sure teaching filmmaking has been an out-of-body experience, too. How has teaching the art affected your doing it?
First of all, I love the kids! If I am doing the right amount of teaching and doing it the right way, I leave the school at the end of the day feeling more uplifted and stoked. As much as I try to inspire students, they give me an energy back that is totally kick-ass and helps me to move ahead with my projects. It’s a complete win-win situation. I have met some amazing people through teaching and I have learned so much from the people around me in the school.

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How is the crowdsourcing going? Is this democratization of the art patronage tradition just a necessary evil/addition to your job or something kind of fun and interesting?
Indiegogo is rocking! But we do need all of your help out there. I’m a lover of crowdsourcing and think its such a brilliant way of raising dough as well as spreading the word about a project. It’s an important and fun thing to do that really helps me to focus on the movie and feel its impending realness.

Stalk Jon at jonmoritsugu.com. Support Numbskull Revolution at indiegogo.com and get cool stuff like DVDs, art prints by Amy Davis, and more!

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Jon Moritsugu and Amy Davis on their return to Los Angeles: Anarchy in Asian America, March 24 at USC

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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!

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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.

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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!

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Stalk Jon and Amy at jonmoritsugu.com and amydavis.com and RSVP for both the talk and concert at visionsandvoices.usc.edu

TVOTR at Garvanza skatepark

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Music video shoots can be pretty lame. The same song played over and over again while the band lip syncs and the audience pretends to be stoked. But when TV on the Radio called out for extras to attend a local shoot on an afternoon that I happened to be free, I went for it. Yes, I love the band but Kyp Mallone was also an actor in Scumrock, one of my favorite movies by one of my favorite directors and people, Jon Moritsugu. How could I pass up this chance to gush about how much I loved him in that flick?

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Somehow I made the cut and brought a book with me in preparation for a lot of waiting around, but it turns out the shoot was not boring at all. It took place at Garvanza skatepark, was directed by Atiba Jefferson, and featured an A-list of rippers: Koston, Howard, Malto, Caples, Reynolds, Kennedy, Mountain, Holmes… (The latter going doubles, above). Nonstop shredding, like the best sesh ever. Which is pretty much the concept outlined by Atiba at The Berrics.

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Oh yeah, the music. No lip syncing by the band at all. Just jamming for hours in the hot sun through amps as if they were at a house party. I attended the Fonda show the week before, and this afternoon included all of it, plus the songs I wanted to hear but didn’t make the cut, and then some. I wish I could remember the interesting cover they pulled out and I wish there was a set list, but they just charged through pretty much everything they knew. It was awesome. At one heated moment, Atiba got a young woman to volunteer to stage dive from where the band was playing into the crowd in the bowl below but the group vetoed it. Singer Tunde Adebimpe said something like, “We’ve been to that show and it was a bad one…”

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As if that weren’t enough, there were also free slices from Pizzanista! At the catering tent, I did indeed strike up a conversation with Kyp Mallone, who seemed busy but politely humored my fanning out after I name-dropped Jon and his wife/conspirator Amy Davis. I also talked to Koston for the first time since interviewing him for Giant Robot issue 12 way back in 1998. He claims to remember that day, and this time we talked about being parents. That happens, right? And so do perfect days at the skatepark. I’m usually happy to leave without broken bones but this time I got much, much more.

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If the embedded video/link above doesn’t work, go to the Complex site. Tour dates, merch, and more band info is at tvontheradio.com. And of course there’s atibaphoto.com but his Instagram is much more fun.