05 Apr FILMMAKER FEATURE: GREG PAK OF ROBOT STORIES
SDAFF alumnus filmmaker and all around great guy Greg Pak is currently hopping on trains and airplanes, traveling across the nation city by city, one or two theaters at a time. Greg is doing this in companion with the independent release of his first feature, ROBOT STORIES, which comprises of four short films.
Through a grassroots approach, using word of mouth and personal appearances, ROBOT STORIES premiered in New York with the second highest gross for an indie film that weekend. The fantastically successful first weekend allowed ROBOT STORIES to stay for four weeks at Cinema Village in New York City.
‘We’ve just begun. There’s already a lot of things happening. It was one heck of a beginning. We started by getting good reviews in New York. That got people to get up and take notice, and that translated in the box office.’
There was a large cross over audience, and ROBOT STORIES took in over $11k during the first four-day period. To put it into context, making $5k for an indie film is already considered tremendous.
‘With ROBOT STORIES, we had Asian American audiences, the science fiction, and the traditional art house audiences going. I saw all three of these core audiences in New York. Without the grassroots support from the Asian American and the Sci-Fi community, we couldn’t have had this much success.’
ROBOT STORIES first appeared at film festivals, and it was through these festivals that Greg built the groundwork for a theatrical release. He collected email addresses while traveling around, screening
ROBOT STORIES, and he was able to send out word about the film’s release, essentially through a grassroots approach.
‘The goal [for Asian American films] is to do well and impress and break records, whether it is in a small scale with small distributors. ROBOT STORIES [for example] surprised people.’
Like most independent films, the more people attend and support ROBOT STORIES, the longer it will run in a particular theater. ROBOT STORIES is showing city by city throughout United States.
Check www.robotstories.net for when it will arrive in your area. The dates for San Diego have not been announced yet.
‘The feeling was very good. We had so much grassroots support, but yeah, we’re still fighting.’
Greg is a veteran of the film festival circuit; he won numerous awards and accolades for his short films, including the SDAFF 2000 Best Narrative Short Award for MOUSE. It was also at SDAFF where a part of ROBOT STORIES became possible.
‘I met Tamlyn [Tomita] the year before at the film festival in Los Angeles, but the first time we got to hang out was at SDAFF. That led to her being in the film, and for that reason, I am especially grateful.’
Greg’s next project, entitled RIO CHINO, is an Asian American western, and no, this feature film isn’t a spoof.
‘It is a straight up western. It’s got humor in it, but it is not a Jacky Chan movie, not slap stick. It has honest emotional truth, with adventure. There is nothing in the story that couldn’t have happened.’
The story features a Chinese American gunslinger who partners up with a Mexican woman; both are trying to survive in the frontier. Greg tells of historical accounts of love between Chinese men in the west and Mexican women.
‘I grew up in Texas, read a lot of science fiction and westerns. There is a picture of me at the age of four with a cowboy hat. Stories of cowboys were the sort of stories I grew up interested in.’
‘Then I found out about stories of Chinese men in the old west. The image of an Asian gunslinger came to mind.’
RIO CHINO will be historically accurate, and Greg’s dream is to get Tony Leung from IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE to play the part of the Asian American gunslinger.
‘That is my dream project for years, 10 year now, and with the success of ROBOT STORIES, I hope to make RIO CHINO.’
Greg is currently mustering support for RIO CHINO, and he says putting out ROBOT STORIES in the festival circuit helped him find people to support his new film. Greg’s written many different versions of RIO CHINO, and the version he has now requires three to four million to make. RIO CHINO is currently in pre-production, and Greg hopes to get a couple producers and partners anytime from a month or a year from now.
Greg is also well known for his short, comical films on Asian American sex and sexuality. During SDAFF 2003, he hosted our Porn Panel where we premiered MASTERS OF THE PILLOW, the first Asian American porn.
‘It was great talking about the challenging, volatile subject. It was scheduled very early in the morning, and folks stayed cool and discussed it constructively. I think it is the kind of thing where there is no clear conclusion. Everybody has different views.’
‘There were women who felt the porn should have been hotter. There’s an appetite out there for Asian American men in porn. The women said the porn was not satisfying. They want hotter men and hotter action.’
As surprising as it is to hear that there is a market for Asian American men in porn, does this mean Greg Pak supports Asian American porn?
‘My own personal feeling mixed. Actually making porn with Asian American men by simply replacing the [Asian American] women, I don’t know if it accomplishes anything.’
For the eager audience wanting to see a hot and spicy real porn directed by Greg Pak, don’t hold your breath; it may not be what you expect.
‘My goal from the beginning is to make good movies, movies that are emotionally compelling, with Asian Americans or a mixed cast.’
Vincent was a writer for the San Diego Asian Film Foundation (now known as Pacific Arts Movement).