Fascinasians

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Jae Jin is not your typical musician. A Baltimore resident for almost 11 years now, he recently transitioned from healthcare management into a civic and social organization doing work in the inner city focusing on providing human services and social work for individuals with barriers. After graduating from Johns Hopkins with a degree in public health, Jae decided to forego an MD/MBA program and instead dove into social work and community engagement. On the side, he sings and plays guitar and piano, a talent that got him a credited primary role on one episode of Netflix’s House of Cards. You can check him out at http://jaejinmusic.com, for any booking requests contact jaejinmusic@gmail.com
 
Can you talk a little about what’s led you towards this path? Can you give us a little background? What do you do besides music? 
I’m perfectly content not being a doctor/lawyer or making big bucks. I’ve tried working long hours for a higher pay. And instead of doing that, I decided that I would do what makes me happiest and to also pursue my passions in writing and music. I suppose it’s every Asian mom’s worst nightmare to decided to forego an MD/MBA program and instead take a low paying job in social work. It also doesn’t really make me a “good catch” on paper with the ladies but hey, I like to think that I’m pretty much dating music instead…

How did you fall in love with singing and music?
I fell in love with music the moment I was capable of hearing, and it’s been an onward process where I’m still falling in love every day and will do so till the day I die. As an artist/musician, I’m not only a creator but also a consumer. I consume the world I live in and through the people I am surrounded by. I do this because it’s a perspective thing. I don’t look at music as a means to make big bucks, or to be famous or something. This means long hours oftentimes spent in solitude working at getting better at writing, at playing instruments, and just studying all sorts of music. You need to be willing to meet people where they are at and connect with all types. It means connecting with the barista at my coffee shop or even through the stories I hear about the brokenness that exists in my City through the work I do. It wrecks me every day but in its proper perspective, you gain insight and an appreciation for people and the world. It’s about hope. 
 
Who could you list as your major influences?
Musically, my influences span across a wide array of genres and time. If you want to make great music, you need to be able to do that. Back in the day I would only listen to specific genres and artists that I liked, but you realize you need to find the silver lining in every single form of music whether you like it or not. That’s the beauty of art. Aside from music, my faith has everything to do with why I choose to give up the world and its empty promises. It’s the things that you cannot buy or hold in your hands that truly give you peace and joy. 
 
You’ve been making music for years. What makes this year so special?
I wouldn’t say I’ve been making music for years. I’d say I’ve been attempting to sing songs and play notes. Over the past year, I’ve had some things happen in my life that have gotten me to the point where I’m boldly going to take steps to share my original music for the first time and to do a lot more with music. These days I’ve been practicing so many hours on piano and guitar, and will literally write songs upon songs and throw away pretty much 99% of it. I know I need to put the work in to get to a point where, once inspiration hits, I’ll be able to create something beautiful. I’m also keeping an open mind and continuing to connect with all sorts of people. That’s pretty much how all of my opportunities have come about. Through people. 
 
 What does your family think of your venture and focus on music?
The one thing I am certain of is that my parents love me. Because of that, I believe parents are very risk-averse. They kind of know that I love music but I keep what I do with music from them. It really does kill me to not be able to share all that I’m doing with music because I love them, but they just don’t understand and it’s a bit foreign to them to be able to do something like music for a living. They also know that the music industry has its negative sides. And that concern is perfectly fair. The way I see it, I’m going to continue to work hard, stay passionate, and be happy in my day to day life. And in the end, I know my parents love me and are happy if I’m happy. And yeah… I’m happy!
 
What’s the hardest thing about working in music? And the best thing?
Well easily the hardest thing is that if you are actually committing to grinding hard and cultivating something related to music, it’s going to take many, many hours. It means your music and art isn’t simply a hobby or a pastime, but a lifestyle and a business. You need to work at it hard each and every day beyond a simple 9-5 mold because you understand that true success arrives in years (and possibly more) rather than in months or weeks.  The other challenge is the superficiality of doing something like music. I’m glad that I’m a lot older and I’m deciding to make something of this, because I’m not going to be sidetracked by the attention or small steps. I’m not really interested in living a party lifestyle or popping bottles in the clubs. I would much rather meet a milestone, and then start working toward the next thing. Of course this doesn’t mean I’m not having any fun. I am a people person and need to be around people. It’s just I’d rather find more chill avenues to connect with people over good libations. Again, to each his own. 
 
 Recently, you had a cameo in the Emmy award winning Netflix show House of Cards. How did that happen?
Like everything in life, when you surround yourself with good people and continue to work hard, sometimes luck finds you. I know that the show was holding auditions but I really wasn’t interested in that. I actually ended up having an actor buddy of mine out in LA (who has been pushing me to do music for many years) set up a private meeting where I got to sing for the producers. The next thing you know, a few weeks after that I’m heading to the shoot in a credited, primary role. The experience was an amazingly wonderful one. I got to meet some amazing individuals, some of whom were so nice to me. The day the Season 2 was released, I had show creator and writer Beau Willimon reach out to me to thank me. I got a chance to meet and talk to him and he’s seriously got an amazing story. Go check the link for some background on the guy. And he’s humble enough to take the time to reach out to someone like me. I’m really grateful to him, Kevin Spacey, and the casting directors for their roles in getting me on the episode. I’m really thankful to have had such an awesome opportunity to have a tiny part of a great show. 
 
What’s next for you, career-wise and music-wise? What can we expect in 2014?
2014 is going to be a great year! Just last weekend, I had a show in DC where I performed all of my own originals for the very first time ever. Personally it was a big step and this year, I’m starting to get booked for many more opportunities and shows so I’m hoping this is just the very beginning. I don’t really want to let too much out of the bag, but there are some pretty great things currently in talks and I’m really just enjoying the journey. 
 
Is there any advice you’d give to someone pursuing music or considering careers?
Your twenties are an important time to struggle to find yourself. It has taken me nearly all of my twenties to figure out how to be real with myself, to not worry about what anyone else is doing, to not worry about expectations others have of you, and most importantly to be happy and do rewarding work. The formula I’ve come to find is that the more you live outwardly and for others, the happier you are. And if anyone wants to talk about it or ask me anything, please feel free to link up with me on Facebook or Twitter! I interact with everyone, so it won’t be a blind follow.

Jae Jin is not your typical musician. A Baltimore resident for almost 11 years now, he recently transitioned from healthcare management into a civic and social organization doing work in the inner city focusing on providing human services and social work for individuals with barriers. After graduating from Johns Hopkins with a degree in public health, Jae decided to forego an MD/MBA program and instead dove into social work and community engagement. On the side, he sings and plays guitar and piano, a talent that got him a credited primary role on one episode of Netflix’s House of Cards. You can check him out at http://jaejinmusic.com, for any booking requests contact jaejinmusic@gmail.com

 

Can you talk a little about what’s led you towards this path? Can you give us a little background? What do you do besides music? 

I’m perfectly content not being a doctor/lawyer or making big bucks. I’ve tried working long hours for a higher pay. And instead of doing that, I decided that I would do what makes me happiest and to also pursue my passions in writing and music. I suppose it’s every Asian mom’s worst nightmare to decided to forego an MD/MBA program and instead take a low paying job in social work. It also doesn’t really make me a “good catch” on paper with the ladies but hey, I like to think that I’m pretty much dating music instead…

How did you fall in love with singing and music?

I fell in love with music the moment I was capable of hearing, and it’s been an onward process where I’m still falling in love every day and will do so till the day I die. As an artist/musician, I’m not only a creator but also a consumer. I consume the world I live in and through the people I am surrounded by. I do this because it’s a perspective thing. I don’t look at music as a means to make big bucks, or to be famous or something. This means long hours oftentimes spent in solitude working at getting better at writing, at playing instruments, and just studying all sorts of music. You need to be willing to meet people where they are at and connect with all types. It means connecting with the barista at my coffee shop or even through the stories I hear about the brokenness that exists in my City through the work I do. It wrecks me every day but in its proper perspective, you gain insight and an appreciation for people and the world. It’s about hope.

 

Who could you list as your major influences?

Musically, my influences span across a wide array of genres and time. If you want to make great music, you need to be able to do that. Back in the day I would only listen to specific genres and artists that I liked, but you realize you need to find the silver lining in every single form of music whether you like it or not. That’s the beauty of art. Aside from music, my faith has everything to do with why I choose to give up the world and its empty promises. It’s the things that you cannot buy or hold in your hands that truly give you peace and joy.

 

You’ve been making music for years. What makes this year so special?

I wouldn’t say I’ve been making music for years. I’d say I’ve been attempting to sing songs and play notes. Over the past year, I’ve had some things happen in my life that have gotten me to the point where I’m boldly going to take steps to share my original music for the first time and to do a lot more with music. These days I’ve been practicing so many hours on piano and guitar, and will literally write songs upon songs and throw away pretty much 99% of it. I know I need to put the work in to get to a point where, once inspiration hits, I’ll be able to create something beautiful. I’m also keeping an open mind and continuing to connect with all sorts of people. That’s pretty much how all of my opportunities have come about. Through people.

 

 What does your family think of your venture and focus on music?

The one thing I am certain of is that my parents love me. Because of that, I believe parents are very risk-averse. They kind of know that I love music but I keep what I do with music from them. It really does kill me to not be able to share all that I’m doing with music because I love them, but they just don’t understand and it’s a bit foreign to them to be able to do something like music for a living. They also know that the music industry has its negative sides. And that concern is perfectly fair. The way I see it, I’m going to continue to work hard, stay passionate, and be happy in my day to day life. And in the end, I know my parents love me and are happy if I’m happy. And yeah… I’m happy!

 

What’s the hardest thing about working in music? And the best thing?

Well easily the hardest thing is that if you are actually committing to grinding hard and cultivating something related to music, it’s going to take many, many hours. It means your music and art isn’t simply a hobby or a pastime, but a lifestyle and a business. You need to work at it hard each and every day beyond a simple 9-5 mold because you understand that true success arrives in years (and possibly more) rather than in months or weeks.  The other challenge is the superficiality of doing something like music. I’m glad that I’m a lot older and I’m deciding to make something of this, because I’m not going to be sidetracked by the attention or small steps. I’m not really interested in living a party lifestyle or popping bottles in the clubs. I would much rather meet a milestone, and then start working toward the next thing. Of course this doesn’t mean I’m not having any fun. I am a people person and need to be around people. It’s just I’d rather find more chill avenues to connect with people over good libations. Again, to each his own.

 

 Recently, you had a cameo in the Emmy award winning Netflix show House of Cards. How did that happen?

Like everything in life, when you surround yourself with good people and continue to work hard, sometimes luck finds you. I know that the show was holding auditions but I really wasn’t interested in that. I actually ended up having an actor buddy of mine out in LA (who has been pushing me to do music for many years) set up a private meeting where I got to sing for the producers. The next thing you know, a few weeks after that I’m heading to the shoot in a credited, primary role. The experience was an amazingly wonderful one. I got to meet some amazing individuals, some of whom were so nice to me. The day the Season 2 was released, I had show creator and writer Beau Willimon reach out to me to thank me. I got a chance to meet and talk to him and he’s seriously got an amazing story. Go check the link for some background on the guy. And he’s humble enough to take the time to reach out to someone like me. I’m really grateful to him, Kevin Spacey, and the casting directors for their roles in getting me on the episode. I’m really thankful to have had such an awesome opportunity to have a tiny part of a great show.

 

What’s next for you, career-wise and music-wise? What can we expect in 2014?

2014 is going to be a great year! Just last weekend, I had a show in DC where I performed all of my own originals for the very first time ever. Personally it was a big step and this year, I’m starting to get booked for many more opportunities and shows so I’m hoping this is just the very beginning. I don’t really want to let too much out of the bag, but there are some pretty great things currently in talks and I’m really just enjoying the journey.

 

Is there any advice you’d give to someone pursuing music or considering careers?

Your twenties are an important time to struggle to find yourself. It has taken me nearly all of my twenties to figure out how to be real with myself, to not worry about what anyone else is doing, to not worry about expectations others have of you, and most importantly to be happy and do rewarding work. The formula I’ve come to find is that the more you live outwardly and for others, the happier you are. And if anyone wants to talk about it or ask me anything, please feel free to link up with me on Facebook or Twitter! I interact with everyone, so it won’t be a blind follow.

THAO & THE GET DOWN STAY DOWN

“I wanted to try to actually be a real live person, rather than just singing songs about them.”

Having grown up in Falls Church, VA, Thao Nguyen first picked up a guitar at the age of 12 and began performing in a pop country duo in high school. She spent most of her 20s touring, supporting one critically acclaimed album after another. She’s worked with a laundry list of vaunted artists including Andrew Bird, Mirah, Laura Viers and producer Tucker Martine. She even toured the U.S. with the nationally syndicated NPR radio program “Radiolab.” But a little over a year ago, Thao stopped and settled finally in San Francisco. There she spent time establishing a life off the road. That included thinking about things besides music and participating in her community, most notably advocating for those incarcerated in the SF county jail and CA state prison system.

At the end of that transformative period, Thao collected her work and stepped into the studio with producer John Congleton (St. Vincent, Bill Callahan, Explosions in the Sky, The Walkmen). The result is We the Common, a major step forward from this already-beloved artist. The album is raw and rollicking, homemade and reckless, 12 songs capturing this utterly unique writer and performer like never before.

What was the first song you wrote for this new album?

“Holy Roller” was the first of this batch—I was trying to write for the banjo, and meanwhile I also was trying start conducting myself in a new way. So the song became my attempt to figure out how I would even begin such an endeavor. It almost had the feeling of a revival—hence the title. 

And did it work? Did you figure it all out?

Well, that sort of became the quest for the whole album. The next song I wrote was “Move,” which came very quickly, maybe mostly just so I could have the chance to scream “To be free!” again and again. I could hear that moment from the beginning—it’s my favorite part of the record.

The title track is listed as “for Valerie Bolden.” Who is she?

Valerie Bolden is a woman I met on my first visit to the Valley State Prison for women—I go there with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners. We sat down and immediately started talking and joking, almost like old friends. We kept it mostly light, but then she’d matter-of-factly talk about missing her daughters, about believing in God but not understanding what she was supposed to be doing in prison, about not wanting to die behind bars. But she’s sentenced to life without parole. After I left, I found I couldn’t stop thinking about her and the things she told me and the way she told them, and a lot of that ended up in “We the Common.”

Were those prison visits part of a new direction for you?

Definitely. My membership in CCWP and the work I’ve been doing in prisons and the San Francisco County Jail are the most deeply I’ve ever dedicated myself to a cause outside myself. I’d been working with great groups like 826 Valencia and ATC and Oxfam America, but not in such a profound and personal way, and not with an organization that I felt needed me as a community member, not as a musician. 

And this motivation toward citizenship, in a way—a commitment to my life away from music—that shows up a lot throughout the record. Especially in “We the Common” and “City”—I was trying to capture the incredible resiliency of the people I was meeting and working with. I wanted to let that ignite the songs, to try to collect energy from people around me and give it back to them. 

In the past your songwriting has often been very introspective—did this evolution also shape that side of you?

I think my songwriting has become less selfish, hopefully. I still write about myself and my life, but not in a way that just laments or broods. I spent most of my 20s on tour, so most of that formative time was spent hopping from place to place. Even though I wouldn’t trade those adventures, there are parts of me that didn’t have a chance to develop—things I didn’t quite realize I was missing. But in the past year I started feeling the desire to be an active part of my life, instead of just watching it pass by. I wanted to try to actually be a real live person, rather than just singing songs about them.

I feel I can sort of hear that transition in “Age of Ice.”

The song came the easiest of anything I’ve ever written. The images of unfreezing and returning to live in the feeling world, with some nostalgia for how I’d been but knowing it wasn’t sustainable—it all came so clearly to me, both melody and lyrics simultaneously. That never ever happens for me. Never ever. I think I was tired of being so tough, or trying to be, or pretending to be.

How did the collaboration with Joanna Newsom happen?

We met on a songwriters retreat at Hedgebrook, which is a Virginia Woolf–style farm paradise where women writers get their own cabins and write all day and meet in the evening for dinner. Can you imagine what a gift that is? Joanna and I became fast friends, and I somehow convinced her to demo that song with me, and then she somehow agreed to record it for the record. If you ever get an opportunity for a solo Joanna Newsom harp show in a cabin in the woods, then you will know the incredible fortune I had. 

It sounds almost too perfect. That kind of time and space was unusual for you, right?

Right. For the two previous albums, I would finish tour and then get maybe a month before I was due in studio. But this time I had over a year to just live my life and absorb experiences and think about things and then write songs about them. And if I didn’t like those songs, I could change them or discard them or swear I was never going to write another damn song again—and then get over myself and continue writing.

The album was produced by John Congleton, who’s worked with a really diverse group including Bill Callahan, St. Vincent and Explosions in the Sky. Why did he feel like the right fit?

I really love the sounds John gets on his records, so distinct and striking and raw. He captured our energy and looseness and rhythm. On one of our first phone calls, John said he wanted to make a dangerous party record, a party where you get to the door and you don’t quite know what will happen—you just hear these beats coming though the walls. We also mentioned a lot of the same references for these songs.

Like what?

Mostly we talked about `90s East Coast hip hop—early Outkast, A Tribe Called Quest, Black Sheep. But at the same time I was also listening to Paul Simon, the Kinks, Neutral Milk Hotel, the Byrds. The album is somehow a mix of all that.

And now you’re finally heading back out on tour. Are you looking forward to that?

I am. Playing music for people is my favorite part of the job—and especially for this record, which is so much about being together and sharing that collective energy. I’m so grateful for the chance to be a part of that. It’s going to be a long tour, we hope, but fortunately I’ve used my time away to research hotel-room exercise regimens.  

For those of you who watch House of Cards and are wondering who the talented Asian American singer in episode 3 is….

IT’S JAE JIN!

Look out for an interview with him this week!

Feb 3

2014 Tuesday Night Cafe Featured Performer/Artist/Vendor Submission

Greetings! Thank you for your interest in joining us for the 16th season of Tuesday Night Cafe!

The 1st & 3rd Tuesday Night Cafe is a free public arts series rooted in the Asian American community and based in Downtown Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo. Our submission process allows us to get to know you and your work and helps us make the most of our limited performance, artist, and vendor slots. Please keep in mind that TNC is not an industry showcase or competition.

We strive to create a collaborative atmosphere of artists and community members connecting with and supporting one another. We are interested in artists with a wide range of performance experience (first timers too!) and are particularly interested in artists who are rooted in community building, presenting new original work, and connecting with the Tuesday Night Project community and artists. If you haven’t had the chance to check out a show, you can check us out on YouTube (search “Tuesday Night Cafe”).

Our submission period will be open from Monday, February 3rd until Friday, February 28th. We will review all submissions and contact you by March 14th if we are interested in booking you at this time. We schedule performers on a rolling basis throughout the season so that each Tuesday Night Cafe features a diverse line-up.

Whether or not you are selected, we hope that you will also join us as a member of the TNC audience! Please note that each show also features three 5-minute open mic spots in addition to our featured performers. Artists must be present at 7PM to sign up for the open mic; we encourage you to engage with us in these slots as well. (If more spots become available later in the season, we may re-open the submission process. We often pull from our list of open mic performers to round out our season.)

Check out http://www.tuesdaynightproject.org/ for a full listing of show dates. Thank you, and good luck!

Jason Chu’s upcoming album MILLENIAL is set to drop February 7th. You may recognize him from his spoken word pieces on colorblindness or his work with Model Minority, but this album is where the real talent lies. I was lucky enough to snag a preview of his album, which I’ve reviewed here:
MILLENIAL not only touches on some difficult topics to discuss such as insecurity, self-harm, and mental health…it pulls you in head first and takes you along for the ride as Chu battles his demons.
"free", which is featured in the teaser video above, is also the album’s first song and immediatel y sets the stage for the most honest musical project of our day. Chu’s flow is smooth and fierce at once, most displayed in the second track "Oh Lord" and the sixth track "Shine With Me"
Chu talks porn addiction and objectification of women in "no angel", the fourth track, and breakups in "3AMLookingtYourPictures". His ability to transition from slow poetic tracks to the energetic and fast-paced songs is skillful and keeps you on your toes never knowing what’s coming next.
The album centers around "Red Lines" where Chu openly talks about his history with self-harm and cutting. As a former self-harmer myself, I really appreciated hearing and seeing similar experiences being talked about instead of hidden. Mental health is so often a taboo and silenced topic, and MILLENIAL is  an incredibly brave album where Jason Chu bares his soul to us. It’s meaningful, empathetic, and truly trouching.

Q&A With ‘Life on Four Strings’ Filmmaker Tadashi Nakamura | CAAM Home

Filmmaker Tadashi Nakamura working on the documentary, Jake Shimabukuro: Life of Four Strings. Photo by Aaron Yoshino.

We interview filmmaker Tadashi Nakamura, who recently won the Audience Award at the Gotham Independent Film Awards in New York for his documentary, Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings about the Hawaiian ukulele virtuoso. Here, Tad talks about the best moments from the awards, his dream project, advice to future independent filmmakers, and working with CAAM.

M: Can you tell me a little bit about what it was like being at the (Gotham Independent Film) Awards and winning the Audience Award? What were some of your favorite moments from the event?

Definitely the highlights were actually getting to talk to (filmmaker) Ryan Coogler and (actor) Michael B. Jordan. Just being such a fan of Fruitvale Station, the film, definitely the biggest highlight was meeting people from that team. Also being able to represent CAAM (the Center for Asian American Media) and PIC (Pacific Islanders in Communications) and just Asian American documentaries. Besides our film, Ramona Diaz’s documentary on Arnel Pineda (Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey) was also nominated. It was kind of cool to have two of the five of films nominated both be Asian American-directed documentaries. It felt good to represent the community in a space like that. After we did the red carpet, we just started going up to people and asking them if we could take pictures with them and just telling them that we were fans. What was even cooler was the Audience Award was the first award that was announced. So it was kind of like, we went and said hi to these people that we were fans of, and the first award I went up to get it, so I think they were like, ‘That’s the guy who just asked to take a picture with me.’ After the awards, all those same people that we kind of went up to as fans, they kind of came up to us more as colleagues.

Documentary filmmaker Tadashi Nakamura with fiance Cindy Sangalang at the Gotham Independent Film Awards, where Nakamura took home the Audience Award in November, 2013. Photo courtesy of Tadashi Nakamura.

Documentary filmmaker Tadashi Nakamura with fiance Cindy Sangalang at the Gotham Independent Film Awards, where Nakamura took home the Audience Award. November, 2013. Photo courtesy of Tadashi Nakamura.

M: In your acceptance speech, you end with “Rest in Power, Oscar Grant.” Can you tell us more about that?

T: I was always told and taught to utilize whatever platform you have to voice, to represent, our community. And I think for me, it was an honor to be in the same category as Fruitvale Station, which was the film on Oscar Grant’s life. I wanted to pay my respects to their film, and the legacy and life of Oscar Grant. But also wanted to show that Oscar Grant isn’t just a brown and black hero or martyr or issue, in terms of seeking justice for his death. It was a spur of the moment thing, but it was the fact that I had just been talking to the people who made Fruitvale Station, and also wanted to pay tribute to that.

M: Can you talk a little bit about what projects you are currently working on?

T: Currently working on two big projects. One is, working with CAAM again, it’s on a film that’s being produced by Visual Communications in association with the Center for Asian American Media. It’s going to be a retrospective of the last 50 years of independent Asian American cinema. It’s a big scope, a lot of films and information and history to cover within an hour piece. But I’m really excited about it, there’s nothing out there like it of its kind. It’s a film I wish existed what I was an Asian American studies student. It will be great because I will be able to work with CAAM and Visual Communications, but also really go through the history of Asian American cinema that has inspired me and other filmmakers. I also just started production on another documentary in Hawaii. This one is with Oiwi TV, which is one of the production companies that worked on the Jake film in Hawaii. We’re doing a documentary on two graffiti artists named Prime and Estria. They’re doing a series of murals on all the islands in Hawaii. For each mural, they’ll be working with local Hawaiian youth in the area. What they’re going to be doing is incorporating Hawaiian chants and meles and kind of creation stories as the content for the murals. So they’re going to be utilizing public art, aerosol art, as a bridge between youth and traditional Hawaiian culture.

M: That sounds really cool. I’m wondering about your parents’ influence on you. (Robert Nakamura and Karen Ishizuka, both filmmakers). Did they influence you to choose this field, and how did they influence what you choose for your topics for your films?

T: They’ve been a huge influence and inspiration. Now it’s a direct one. Before, it was kind of indirect. As much as I was surrounded by Asian American, or specifically, Japanese American documentary filmmaking, growing up, I never thought I would be doing this. It wasn’t until I was an Asian American studies student at UCLA that through student activism that I got involved with documentary as a tool to build community or support campaigns that we were organizing around. So my entry into filmmaking was community-based, was student organizing-based. That still stands for me now that I was grounded from my parents, on measures of success for your films aren’t awards or getting picked up by a distribution company, but it’s how useful that film could be to the community that it can serve. The community—community meaning, the specific Japanese American community in L.A. or the broader Asian American community in the country—I feel like I have been very supported as a filmmaker. Validation from the community is as good as it gets for me.

M: Do you see yourself continuing to make films focusing on the Asian American community? What are some of your dream projects, either relating to Asian America issues or communities or individuals, or outside of that?

T: I think almost all the projects I’d love to do are based within the Asian American or Pacific Islander community. My thing too, is, before, and I still kind of feel this way—well the main reason why all my films at this point have been on the Japanese American community is that I don’t necessarily feel quite comfortable doing a film on another community, or I feel that there’s someone from that community that could probably tell the story better. So this project with Estria and Prime in Hawaii is kind of the first film that I’m doing outside of the Japanese American community, but the only reason I feel comfortable doing it is because I’m doing it with other Native Hawaiian filmmakers that I feel could provide that perspective. But in terms of dream projects, I’m a big fan of sports documentaries. As an undergrad at UCLA, I was part of a tutoring program at Carson High School, in Carson, California, which has a long history, and big population, of the Samoan American community. So my dream kind of film would be to do a documentary on the Carson High School football team and follow them for a season and through that, document the Samoan American community, and specifically for the young men in that community, the intersection between football, street violence and church.

M I have one more question. What’s your advice to people who want to get into independent filmmaking?

T: I would definitely say, to really make films that you’re passionate about. Not necessarily make films that you feel will have a large audience or that will sell well. I think the best stories are told by people who really believe in them. Because realistically, in a community documentary realm, or even in a documentary realm in general even on a mainstream level, there’s not that much money to be made off of these films. You’re not going to get rich of it, you’re not going to get famous off of it. So might as well do something that’s fulfilling for yourself or fulfilling for the people that you’re documenting. Also too, filmmaking is one of those things that you never get better until you just kind of jump in and start making films. As much as funding is a big obstacle, I think a lot of people probably put too much dependence on securing funds before they start making the film. I would suggest just go ahead and just try to do it out of pocket. In terms of skill building and craft building, you’ll learn more by that than anything else.

M: Did you want to add anything else before we close the interview?

T: Yeah. This film is a CAAM production, co-produced by Pacific Islanders in Communications. I just always want to thank CAAM and Don Young, the producer of the film. They really took a chance hiring me to direct and edit the film. Before this film, I hadn’t done an hour-long piece, or especially a broadcast quality piece. Not only the Gotham Awards, but just things like premiering at the Castro (Theatre) and going to PBS headquarters in D.C., there’s been so many experiences that I’ve grown from as a filmmaker and I think it’s all because they gave me a shot. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Love song for the ages. I’m swooning over this one~

"Life & Debt" -Blue Scholars

I like, making you so happy!
Yo, life and debt, light a cigarette smoke the stress
Take a deep breath baby, let’s rearrange the mess we’ve inherited
Alienated from what is rightfully yours and mine, land
Is life, money is time paid for labor
Working eight to five, sometimes six seven eight
We come home and barely know the neighbors
Bills are usually late
Interest accumulates at a usury rate
Collection agency waits from
Pay check to next one, budget like a noose
Working while we sing the proletariat blues
On 501-C3 community plantations
Non profit sector propped up to kill the movement
For the changes in production relations
But woman you’re my comrade, ride and die, revolution-making mother earth
Standing with me in the grocery line
While I’m paying with a jar of pennies, nickels, and dimes

And I love how you don’t like art without a message
I love it how you call some fellas on they fetish
Third world sister, never sacrificing substance for style
But stylish with a golden type smile
I love it how you organize with other strong sisters
Love it how you talk about tearing down the system
Like a soldier, my dialectical reflection
"Yes" is the answer to your question

Life and debt, write another check to the landlord
No time to dwell on all the things we can’t afford
Got a baby in the womb, a soldier for the future that we’re fighting for
Concrete conditions that I’m writin for
The payback, it’s way past due
And they say that the masses ain’t ready but
We know that ain’t true
You and I both children of Filipino immigrants
From the same island, our ancestors smiling
Cuz we found one another in a strange land struggling
Moms tryin’ to tell us not to protest instead pray for peace
But that ain’t the nature of the beast
So lady grab the bullhorn and take it to the streets
Yellin power to the people, el pueblo unido jamas sera vencido
Til the wealth is spread equal
You 21st century Gabriela Silang
Fierce like Lorena with a rifle in her arms

And I love how you love the people as much as self
I love it how you want redistribution of the wealth
Third world sister, never sacrificing substance for style
But stylish with a golden type smile
I love it how you organize with other strong sisters
Love it how you talk about tearing down the system
Like a soldier, my dialectical reflection
"Yes" is the answer to your question
Life and debt
I like, making you so happy!
I like, making you so happy!
I like, making you so happy!
Cuz making you so happy makes me happy too!

(Source: Spotify)

Strength in NUMBERS: Asian American music project

Hit producer CHOPSmusic, with credits ranging from Talib Kweli to Nicki Minaj, has started an Asian American music project, which will be a compilation album called Strength In NUMBERS.

Chops, a former member of pioneer APA hip-hop group Mountain Brothers, is working with over 30 Asian American artists, known and up-and-coming on this album. The Kickstarter project to raise support funds is underway now (only two weeks left!) Check it out for more information on the artists and how you can support it at the attached link!



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Sep 1

And another because Seriously was one of my all-time favorite bands. If anyone in Asian America knows the former members, give them my love! I’m really feeling this song tonight. Rainy melancholy Saturdays are the best, aren’t they?

"Fireflies" - Seriously

Mama, I see you crying again
Baba, I see you screaming again
Why is that, everything’s so
All together
Nothing seems right
Nothing is as it is in those
Silver screens

Come save me from myself
Cause I lost the love and I want some
Come rescue me from my pain
So that this hardened heart can cry once again

A million fireflies surround me
And it’s in the safety that I feel
But blink comes my distractions
They keep me from what I need to see
What I need to see

Come save me from myself
Because I lost the love and I want some
Come rescue me from my pain
So that this hardened heart can cry once again

Come save me from myself
Because everything I do is so unkept (?)
Come rescue me from my pain
So that this hardened heart can cry once again