In his latest film, “Kazu,” writer/director Jeff Fong explores the life of his title character, Kazu Nagahama, an Asian American comedic actor, who in the face of deteriorating health, has decided to follow his true dream of becoming a dramatic actor.
Fong is currently fundraising on Kickstarter with a goal of raising $10,000 to finance the production.
For more see the official website at: http://www.kazuthefilm.com
Fong recently answered a few quesions for nextooze.com:
Tell us about yourself. What inspired you to be a filmmaker?
As a kid, I understood that films were more than just entertainment. I saw that they could ignite emotions in the blink of an eye, I saw that they could teleport us out of reality, and I saw that they provided voices to the people who created the films I was watching… and when I was sitting in a very empty theater at the age of 16, sitting amongst my friends who never cared to listen to anything I had to say, I stared at the blank screen and realized at that moment, that this was what I would do for the rest of my life. I’d be a film writer and director, and I’d not only create a voice for myself, but also, while accomplishing my dreams, I’d have the privilege of helping to fulfill the goals of actors and other production crew by creating roles and positions for them in those films. But if you want a very simple answer to this question… movies inspired me to make movies.
Which films and/or filmmakers influenced your career?
Films: The Little Rascals because I felt like Alfalfa, Small Soldiers because I wanted the good guy toys to be my friends, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind because I related to Joel, Roman Holiday because I wanted Audrey Hepburn to be my girlfriend, Rushmore because Max would’ve been my idol in junior high.
Filmmakers: Peter Jackson because of the special features of his that I studied as a kid, the Coen Brothers because they showed me how to be dark and witty at the same time, Michel Gondry because he’s made some of my favorite films of all-time, Wes Anderson because I love his characters and the way they speak.
What motivated you to make Kazu: The Movie?
I created the story of KAZU after my friend Angela Henderson suggested we “do something” for Kazu after we heard he was sick and had to go home early during a house-warming party. I took what Angela said to heart, went home, and thought up the story of the film while sitting in bed for an hour. After the next few days, I realized that I had accidentally created a story that could potentially be a phenomenal film for Asian Americans everywhere, and a few days after that, I realized that I needed this film to be made, no matter what.
Tell us about the cast and crew.
The cast and crew of KAZU is made up of friends and friends of friends. This is immensely important, not to just make films with friends, but to make films with people you can trust, who you can be around for hours on end, and who are excellent at the job(s) they do. The hiring and casting process of your cast and crew can ultimately destroy your film if you bring on people who don’t fit with the rest of your team, and I make it a very important priority on my list of things to do to make sure each person is perfectly chosen to be with the rest of us.
What challenges do you face in bringing your project to the screen?
For any independent filmmaker, getting funding for your project is almost always the hardest part in making your film a reality. This film is not an exception. But the good thing about KAZU is that we don’t need nearly as much money as most other independent feature films, so hopefully, our goal will be achieved, and then the fun can begin.
What message do you want audiences to take away from watching Kazu’s story?
The message I want people to take from KAZU is that Asian Americans are horribly represented in American films, and that people need to create positive roles and stories for Asian Americans in order to change that. Young Asian American boys don’t have good role-models in cinema because all they have to choose from are martial artists, nerds, or immigrants. We also live in a time where equality is of the utmost importance for so many people, but there’s nothing being done to give equal opportunities to Asian Americans in American films, and so our film is a call to action for anyone who watches it, to let them know that they can make a story that’s fitting for Asian Americans, and roles that they can also perform in.
How can readers support your project?
Readers can support us by visiting our Kickstarter page at: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/732169447/kazu-the-feature-film
They can also check out our website: www.kazuthefilm.com, and they can also like us on facebook at www.facebook.com/kazuthefilm
What advice do you have for other aspiring filmmakers?
My advice to aspiring filmmakers is to not depend on what others say you should do (but you can take in what I have to say here). People will always have advice, opinions, or “ways” that they think you can “make it,” but in the end, it’s solely about who you are, how confident you are in yourself, and most importantly, if you truly believe this is what you should do. My life would be a disaster of incomplete nothingness if I never made films again, or something similar to a horribly depressed state of being… so that can be something to think about.