Koji Steven Sakai wrote the screenplay for the film Chink and The People I’ve Slept With. He also writes for the website 8Asians.com; here is a link to his twitter account:
Q: What made you interested in filmmaking?
A: I have always loved telling stories. When I was a kid, I used to make up stories. Okay, they were lies. But I had so much fun telling the lies I created. I remember a teacher was once so impressed by my stories she told me that I should become a writer. It was the first time it occurred to me that I could do something with my ability to weave stories—fact or fiction. And from there it made sense that I went into filmmaking because I grew up loving and appreciating movies. It’s the medium that speaks to me most.
Q: What is “Chink” about?
A: “Chink” is about an Asian American serial killer who hates himself and all other Asians. He idolizes people like Ted Bundy and dreams of one day becoming the “greatest” serial killer. But it is really a story about an incredibly lost and sad man who is searching for love and acceptance and going about all the wrong way.
Q: What inspired you to write it?
A: I heart serial killers. That sounds bad. I’ve always been fascinated by serial killers. The fact that these people are out there, scares me, but also gives me hope for humanity. I know that sounds crazy, but I think that serial killers show what humans are capable of doing. And the fact that most of us don’t go around murdering people is a sign of our abilities to be better than our lowest selves.
Q: Why do you think audiences find serial killers so fascinating?
A: No one wants to watch a movie or read a book about “normal” people. We are all familiar with normal people. That’s the people we see every single day around us all the time. People want to see the outliers. The super smart. The funny. The sexy. The awkward. And of course the serial killer.
Q: What is your strangest on set story?
A: My strangest on set story comes from The People I’ve Slept With. We were shooting on the street in Little Tokyo here in Downtown Los Angeles. The lead actress, Karin Anna Cheung, was doing a scene. A bunch of tourists were watching us film. During one of the breaks, they asked me if Karin was Lucy Liu. I told them no. But they didn’t believe me. No matter what I said, they believed she was Lucy Liu. They even asked me if I could get her autograph for them!
Q: How did you get your first film financed?
A: Luck. Bribes. Karma. All of the above. Actually, my first film, Haunted Highway, was something that I was just brought on to write so I was not involved in the financing of the film. But since then I’ve had to pitch, beg, crowd fund, and write grants and business plans all in the hopes of raising money to shoot a film. I dream of someday winning the lottery and never having to ask anyone for money to make a movie ever again!
Q: How did you get distribution for “The People I’ve Slept With”?
A: Same answer. Luck. Bribes. And Karma. Just kidding. “The People I’ve Slept With” had a life of it’s own. From the very beginning that film was blessed. People wanted to be involved with it. And distribution was the same.
Q: What are some of the topics you’ve written about for 8Asians.com?
A: My writing on 8Asians is what makes me smile, laugh, and cry the most. And probably make the most people angry at me. I try to write controversial things I would want to click on if I were to see it on my Facebook feed. Things like: “Are Asians the Smartest Race?” or “Do Asians Have the Smallest Penis?” But I also want to write about how silly people’s conceptions of race in general and Asians/Asian Americans in particular. If you read most of my articles, the basic point is that Asians are not special. No one group is better/worse/prettier/uglier/etc than any other. But my favorite thing I ever wrote was an article series I did about my grandfather. I’ve been doing research about my grandfather and found a whole history of what happened to my family during World War II and their incarceration in the Japanese American internment camps.
Q: Do you think there are ample opportunities for Asian actors in Hollywood?
A: No, but I do think it’s getting better. I once spoke to a bunch of Asian American teenagers once. In my research for the talk, I did some research on the Asian/Asian American idols I had growing up. It was pathetic. One was fictional (a GI Joe character) and the other was a porn star. Now, there are a lot more Asians/Asian Americans visible in films, television, books, plays, etc. Are things perfect? Of course not. But I see hope. Maybe I’m naive, I hope not. 🙂
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m always working on a million things. There are a few films that are looking like they will go into production in the last half of this year. Fingers crossed. You never know. Other than that, I’ve spent most the first part of the year working on my debut novel, Romeo & Juliet Vs. Zombies, which will be released by F.W. Fife, the science fiction imprint of the Zharme Publishing Press.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)