USC, Silicon Valley, Asian Australian Asian Diaspora discussed on Asian Enough
John M. to filmmaker behind the movie's crazy rich Asians step up to the streets and GI. Joe Retaliation among many others. He's a silicon valley native and a graduate of USC and his next film in the Heights is a big screen studio musical. Very excited about it. About characters who live in the predominantly Latin next neighborhood of Washington Heights New York City in its adapted of course from the Broadway. Play of the same name written by Lin Manuel Miranda and Kiara Allegri cuties so John. Thank you so much for joining us. I'm excited to hear your voice. I'm here with us. In Beautiful El Segundo kill foreign the little edit room Surrounded by all the stress of finishing a movie so from your actual edit room Friday night. Yeah I'm in the actual room that on the couch. The I basically sleep on in front of the big board where I could have all the scenes and reshuffle and reshuffle. Until you find the right movie I feel like home but also at probably smells here. Well we want to take you back. Just a little rewind to a little movie did called Crazy Rich Asians yes. It was a huge huge critical commercial in historic success for you and the author Kevin Quan. Who wrote the original novels that it's based on and You also brought in this great cast of Asian American and Asian British and Asian Australian Asian Diaspora like Constance Wu. Henry Golden who you discovered. Yes crazy crazy. I think. That's like a pretty solid gift to and even like icons legends like Michelle. Yahoo is fantastic. So we want to ask first of all looking back on that experience. What were the biggest ways that the whole crazy rich Asians of it all everything Affected you both personally and professionally. It is very hard to comprehend to be honest. I think it's the first time now that I've finished in the heights or almost in the heights that I could actually process when people come up to be on the streets in New York City. Not where I'm from and come up to me and talk to me about crazy rich. Asians that like still shocks me to this day. It feels like both Seoul long ago but at the same time it feels like yesterday and to see our actors who I remember being on set showing Aquafina her scenes on the rooftop of a hotel room and her being in tears because he'd never seen herself in a movie before to think that she won a Golden Globe for best actress. She's dominating the game right now Henry Golding who'd never been in a movie before consonants gem and I mean you can go on and on for everyone in our list of Catholic that to me. I'm honestly still processing it. I think about this the other day like my whole idea who who I am as a filmmaker and as an artist and what I can be has completely shifted because of that movie like in what ways know. I got into this business off a short that I did at USC so yeah. I basically won the lottery like I got in Steven Spielberg's it. I got connected to all these movies to direct. I didn't make my movie to five years later but it was studio movies. I didn't have to do music videos or commercials or do other jobs and so well. That's great I also didn't know who I was as a filmmaker and I knew the things I wanted to make and we had fun and of course things like step up and Bieber's never say never and those were all amazing experiences for me and I love making them but I also was growing up at the same time and I didn't have the sort of playgrounds place to sort of figure myself out or who. What kind of stories I wanted to tell at that level. I just had to stay swimming and I guess it wasn't until right before it sort of chose crazy rich as in the heights of the same year. Two Thousand Sixteen right after a real our JEM and the holograms and right. After now you see me to and it felt like I was growing up thirty six thirty seven years old at the time I was looking at my life and being what how contributing to this medium that I love. I need to find stuff that tells people who I am and which means I need to pick stories that are scary to me and that means something more than just a movie and so I looked at stuff and found crazy rich. Asians which is a very personal idea of American going to Asia for the first time and immigrant story of a Community of immigrants in their kids in in the heights taking that those steps and saying these two or for me and now cut to four years later looking at them and seeing the impact of one of them and hopefully the impact of the other is. It just showed me that. I have power to make things that I expect to be in the movie world. And that's a different way to approach a business that you are just trying to survive in. You did all of these other movies which I have watched. I'm a fan of u two ways in crazy rich. Asians and also watch like any single type of dance battling movie and so it's like my genre but yeah I saw step up to the streets. Step Up Three. D and so I was just wondering like was there a reason? You didn't tell Asian American stories before you know whether that be struck or personal or whatever I think back like college and high school and I told stories that were fun to me. I mean I. I fell in love with movies of the movies that I grew up with. So you only that. That's how I see a movie in. So what are some of those movies? I mean things like back to the future like airplane Batman like Indiana Jones to me. Those are the movies that I love going to and would play with my toys and create my own stories with. I took me to another place and so when you don't see Asian characters being the heroes or romantic leads or any of those things I think you don't think that's what a movie is in a weird way and so even in school. I was too scared to sort of tackle my own idea of identity because I didn't know the answers like I did one movie at school at. Usc called Gouello is a silly little musical about an Asian American kid going to high school and sort of dealing with that but I was so uncomfortable with what I was trying to say with it. I'd never showed anybody after like we did a screening and the whole school watched it. But after that I didn't submit it to festivals. I didn't do anything nobody understood. Why and looking back. I feel very embarrassed that I didn't and I think as partly because I always felt like I would be judged for that or be put in a category of. Oh he just does like Asian movies. Or He's the Asian guy of course. He doesn't Asian expectations that you're constantly afraid to step on or get trapped in and when you don't know that there are others like you out there who feel the same thing. It's very sort of stifle everything off that whole part of my brain Let's scare scary to like rip. Open your your own expose. Yeah what's inside and if you could ever like yourself as the subject of a story it's like it almost takes a work of imagination to like you know. See that who you are can. Yes object store. I mean I basically grew up in. I think that's part of both my power and my weakness is like. I grew up in an environment in the Silicon Valley in the eighties and the nineties. And so I know that perspective because I grew up in the perspective of like Oh are Asians the other when you're surrounded by it. You are indoctrinated it and so you know what they're thinking and I grew up in a Chinese restaurant as well. So the fears of what people think of you are completely intertwined in your brain and in your heart. I think the Internet changed so much because when I watched youtube video and for instance and dance like I saw how fast the perspective of what Asians are as dancers in the dance world. When I started Asians were known as amazing hip hop dancers. But when I went to those tournaments and these these these conferences whereas they're six thousand Asia American dancers and their amazing hip hop dancers. And that's where they Kaba. Modern was job. Jabotinsky was there. Were all these amazing answers. And the world didn't know about it and in the span of like four or five years everybody knew about it and suddenly it's like. Oh Asians condense. When did you start going to these dance and I went? Let's see my cousin was going to San Diego State. And so she'd be like you have to come see this because you like dance and this is incredible and so. I want to say it was like two thousand six two thousand five. The collaboration or which dance competition was this They Will Aberration Star. Collaboration collaboration but there's also other ones but data for the first time. And that's when I did step up to I was like when I was creating sabotage like crews because I've seen these crews And Job Lock is like the. All Star like they weren't there was no ABC. At the time there was no nobody knew them they had never been filmed before so we got them very very early. But witnessing the shift of people seeing agents dancers and stink. Oh there can be the best. When you see these Korean dancers in those Uniqlo ads or in missy Elliott videos like it changed and I could see how fast that oh it just takes an example. I love that you have always seemed to love dance and music and sort of gravitated towards those areas in your work. Obviously I remember. I went to the set of your web series. You're super can't series the St shooting like a showdown seen in the town true we had. They're kicking us out in fifteen minutes so he just shoot like our whole last episode at fifteen minutes. It was insane. I was I was there. It was pretty great. And you really between that project and the step up movies and the Adam Chu dance crew. Which I'm GonNa make you explain to turn around and the Internet back then but you really seem to to be able to lean into these interests of yours but at the same time create company of talent like Harry Shum Junior. Got So many greats spotlights through your works with him and so many other dancers got on my rematch. Cast Nets smarr. All that stuff was crazy. It was crazy times. How did that like what? What kind of role did that project? First of all. How do you describe it now? Looking back I mean we were early and Youtube. There's two thousand seven two thousand eight. Maybe I don't know maybe two thousand eight nine somewhere around there and basically we had done step up to and Miley Cyrus had watched the movie and so she called our fourteen year old star of that movie atoms. Vanni who played Moose in the movie and left a message. He didn't answer he she him as I loved you in that movie congrats and didn't leave a number and so she's like fifteen or sixteen and he's fourteen. He calls me like. Oh my Gosh.