Tonight’s kickoff of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival featured a screening of Daniel Hsia’s Shanghai Calling. I thought the smart, stylish comedy produced by Janet Yang and starring Daniel Henney was a bold choice of an opener. Instead of dwelling on typical themes of Asian American cinema such as the diaspora or having to live up to the image of Bruce Lee, it presented Asians as being in a position of power in terms of commerce and culture. That one’s Asian connection is seen as empowering and beneficial in the modern world, rather than as one’s burdensome past, is exciting. It reflects the fest’s new international, extroverted direction, which is immediately likable and exciting.
Although I haven’t been active in the film festival circuit lately, I was happy to run into a lot of old friends right away. In the mens room, I intercepted the fest’s newly appointed artistic director Anderson Le. The veteran of the mighty Hawaiian International Film Festival loves movies to death, and has assembled an impressive balance of arty and commercial, serious and fun, Asian and American pieces. He has also expanded programming to Long Beach, and promises that next year will be even stronger.
The set of a popular TV Show Hawaii 5-0 is like the sets of all TV and film productions. At Universal Studios the 70s Jaws shark moves and looks like giant plastic toy. The buildings have believable facades but no interior. The magic is in the final product that’ll get magically projected onto your 60 inch HD LCD 3D television. It’ll look perfect. I’m prepared to see the charisma of the special police force: McGarrett, Danno, Chin-Ho, and Kono and not their human counterpart, Alex O’Loughlin, Scott Caan, Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park. It all changes in an instant.
I wait at a parking lot of the old Honolulu Advertiser Newspaper that now has rows of Star Waggons, white box trucks, tons of gear, cars, and a security gate that has a small sign telling folks who to contact if you want to be an extra. I wait for some time and then a few minutes later, Daniel Dae Kim walks up. The pleasant security gate keeper jokingly says, “maybe he’s here to pick you up.” She was right and also surprised. I was labelled as a social networking journalist. We walked straight to the Daniel’s Star Waggon where he sat and worked on his lines to portray Detective Chin-Ho. The next shots are going to be difficult. Unlike the normal, shoot a scene then ready up for the next, he was prepping for a five scenes in a one set up segment – something that hasn’t been done before. It’s a time saving effort and a perfect moment for me to witness.
In the Star Waggon, Daniel mutters some lines, first reading, then staring into space while moving his lips. Mostly inaudible. He apologizing for his needing to do this. The interior is standard, there’s some Hawaii 5-0 mini posters, a back room with costume changes hanging, food that’s not his, and nothing much else to show that it’s his particular trailer.
While practicing, a knock happens and we’re walking to the set which depicts the middle of their squad room. The scene is Daniel talking to Office Lori Westen played by blond, Lauren German about a suspects ID and they talk to each other while staring at the screens. I sit in the Daniel Dae Kim “directors chair” behind the actual director and script supervisor and am given a headset to hear their lines. The set runs like a machine. The script supervisor watches every word and makes sure the dialogue are recited correctly. She’ll also cue the actors with the first few words to get them going. She signals with a karate chop like move to the director that the lines were done correctly at the end of a scene. Shots are done with multiple angles, some close ups of the principals in the scene. The reverse site shots are the easiest since there’s no dialogue being recorded.
Daniel Dae Kim like oranges, and Grace Park likes the smell of orange peel. Fans, now you know what to get them.